Hitting the road to put our fiscal house in order

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Although many voters see the national debt as an esoteric policy issue, it hits home when you break it down in terms of how it affects people individually: namely, the impact on our economy and our jobs. And it gets even more personal when you think about the crippling IOU we are passing on to our children and grandchildren. The nation’s financial sinkhole is getting deeper by $10 million every minute, due largely to unfunded promises.

When I think about this number I am appalled, but when I think about passing the burden to my three grandchildren I am outraged.

Yet despite the rhetoric on the campaign trail, most candidates’ plans do not provide enough concrete details on how to fix the overarching problem, importantly our unfunded social insurance promises and outdated tax system.

Voters can drive change. We’ve seen that time and again during presidential elections. So I’m hitting the road next month. I’ll be traveling cross-country in a 46-foot campaign bus, introducing Americans to a new tool: The U.S. Financial Burden Barometer. The Burden Barometer is a new way to measure our nation’s financial burden, and our progress toward fixing it. It combines our publicly held debt with unfunded obligations for programs such as Social Security, Medicare and federal pensions and retiree health benefits. Importantly, the Burden Barometer can decrease by trillions of dollars, and Congress can get credit if it acts accordingly.

Along with the Burden Barometer, the tour will give voters the key questions they should ask candidates. The “Serious 7: Serious Questions for Serious Candidates” is a guide to help voters determine if candidates are providing substantive answers to our nation’s problems.

This tour is non-partisan, and non-ideological. It has a who’s who of supporters, including former Sens. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.), Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) and Bob Graham (D-Fla.), former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles, former OMB and CBO Director Alice Rivlin, former Fed chairmen Alan Greenspan and Paul Volcker, former presidential candidate H. Ross Perot Sr., and many more.

Together, we are urging voters to add their voices to ours in demanding a bipartisan deficit reduction and debt stabilization plan that includes all areas of the federal budget, while not increasing poverty levels or risking national security. The work needs to start right now, this minute — before Election Day, the installation of the new Congress, and Inauguration Day. We need to avoid the “fiscal cliff” that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has warned about, while setting the stage for a fiscal “grand bargain” in 2013.

The $10 Million a Minute Tour will help voters make informed choices on Election Day, to facilitate a grand bargain in 2013. If voters understand what’s at stake, members of Congress can vote secure in the knowledge they won’t lose their jobs for making tough choices to keep America great.

Former U.S. Comptroller General Walker is founder and CEO of the nonprofit, nonpartisan Comeback America Initiative. For more information on the $10 Million a Minute Tour, visit www.10MillionAMinute.org.