The election is over. The Thanksgiving table’s been cleared. But, believe me, this is no time to nap.
Your government has worked itself into a national crisis. Call it a fiscal cliff. Call it a wall of fire. Or simply call it a train wreck.
Just know that it is coming on Jan. 1 if the president and Congress do not find some way to defuse a time-bomb that would again derail the economy.
“A recession would begin in the first half of 2013, reducing economic growth by about 0.5%,” predicts Forbes magazine. “Unemployment would increase. The jobless rate would rise to 9.1% by Dec. 2013.”
If that’s so, why are we here? The short answer is government gridlock. And it doesn’t end with this crisis. Congress is gridlocked on the next moves for Medicare. Immigration. Social Security. Even passage of a farm bill.
On Sunday, Observer reporter Tim Funk explained the root causes of this paralysis and, just as important, what can be done about it.
Now, you are invited to a public forum on Friday, Nov. 30, at UNC Charlotte. Come hear current and former members of Congress suggest ways the nation can move forward
For this special report, Tim talked to people who should know: retired Senate Majority leader Bob Dole and his wife, former Sen. Elizabeth Dole; Erskine Bowles, chief of staff under President Bill Clinton and co-chair of the Bowles-Simpson Commission on shrinking the federal deficit; members of Congress who now represent our region; congressional scholars; and journalists who cover Capitol Hill.
Nearly all agree that Congress is in a ditch.
“It’s the most dysfunctional in our lifetime,” says Norm Ornstein, author of “Congress Inside Out,” a column for the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call. “Maybe not quite as bad as during the Civil War, the War of 1812 or the 1890s. But these are not great periods to compare yourself to.”
These interviews also unearthed potential solutions to the problem. Some can help right away. Others will take time.
All of them ultimately will require the support of the American people. If you want to be part of that, I urge you to join us for the forum at 7 p.m. on Friday in the auditorium of UNCC’s uptown campus building at 320 E. 9th St.
Expected participants include at least three current members of Congress from our region: Rep. Patrick McHenry, Rep. Mel Watt, and Rep. Mick Mulvaney. They will be joined by two former members, Jim Martin and John Spratt, as well as Kimrey Rhinehart, a former top aide to Sen. Richard Burr.
The Observer is presenting the forum in partnership with PNC Bank, the event’s underwriter. The evening’s moderator will be WCNC-TV’s Sonja Gantt. UNC Charlotte is the forum’s host and venue sponsor.
Admission is free, but seating is limited. Here is the link to register in advance.
Moving America forward will not be easy. But it won’t be possible at all unless its people make clear that this is their No. 1 priority.