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Minds meet on fiscal responsibility

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Steve Chiotakis: Well, at the White House today, President Obama convenes a Fiscal Responsibility Summit. Something The New York Times calls a “wonk fest” featuring not only think tank reps and scholars, but members of Congress, too. The meeting’s expected to be heavy on prognosis and light on remedy.

Republican Congressman Dave Camp of Michigan will be there. He joins us now. Congressman, why are we talking about fiscal responsibility now?

Dave Camp: Well, I think given that last week’s stimulus bill doubled the federal deficit and we see our debt payments increase by nearly $400 billion just as a result of that one bill, I think it’s really important we have a discussion on our nation’s financial future. And I think we need to get our government on a firmer spending plan. And so I look forward to meeting with the president, I want to hear his views and ideas. And hopefully, we can take the first step toward beginning to reduce the debt.

Chiotakis: Yeah, Congressman, though, I gotta tell you, I look at some of the things on the agenda for today — Social Security, defense, tax reform, health care — what’s the most pressing issue, do you think? How do we talk about budget deficits and debt if we’ve got all these things, and a lot of people who don’t agree about it?

Camp: Well, you gotta crawl before you can walk, and I think having this summit with not only congressional leaders from House and Senate, but also I think they’re a group of advocates and think tank folks. So there’s going to be a diverse room there, doesn’t mean we’re all going to end up at the end of the afternoon in agreeing. But it is a beginning to highlight some of the important issues, and I’m looking forward to hearing President Obama’s remarks.

Chiotakis: Solving these problems, Congressman, will require some difficult choices obviously. At one point do you forget about partisan ideology and think about the long-term, about fixing what’s really wrong?

Camp: Well, I think this is an attempt to try and have a long-term discussion. It’s very difficult to do in a legislative arena, because you’re always dealing with next week’s vote. But I think if we don’t get started and begin to have these discussions — they’re clearly very difficult. Look at the attempt to try to reform Social Security just a few short years ago, and that’s the easy one. Medicare, health care costs, other programs — because of the retirement of the baby boomers, the social safety net is very much in jeopardy in the long-term and we need to make sure it’s sustainable.

Chiotakis: Congressman Dave Camp, Republican from Michigan, ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee. Thanks for being with us.

Camp: Thanks, Steve.

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