New Report on Citizen Deliberations on the Debt Now Available

Click here to download. According to Kettering Foundation's newest report, citizen deliberations across the nation suggest the seeds of consensus on how to tackle the debt, but deep cynicism about Washington makes many Americans question whether elected officials will act―and whether they can be trusted to act. After months of paralyzing partisan disagreement, the nation’s political system now is struggling to avert a fiscal calamity. President Obama and congressional leaders, spurred on by business leaders and a broad range of interest groups, speak of the need to find ways to act. But even amid these hopeful signs, Democrats and Republicans remain divided on nearly every aspect of the budget and spending. While pundits say that most Americans are unrealistic about the scope of the problem and unwilling to support needed changes,  Jean Johnson reports that deliberations by groups of citizens around the country suggest that, in fact, this is an issue where solutions exist and are within reach. These deliberative forums, hosted by local groups affiliated with the nonpartisan National Issues Forums Institute, reveal that many citizens are willing to wrestle with the problems of debt and that they understand that getting these problems under control will require broad acceptance of change and sacrifice. Most people seem to yearn for elected officials who will put long-term national interest ahead of near-term politics—leaders who are willing to hammer out a compromise. While the outcomes of the deliberations were not markedly dissimilar from the opinions reflected in polling data, the tone was strikingly different from that of the debate as it is typically reported. In many respects, the deliberations in these forums offer good news for leaders hoping to forge a consensus on this supremely divisive issue.