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Finding Common Ground on Our Fiscal Future Diverse Group of 3,500 Americans Across 57 Sites Weigh In on Nation’s Fiscal Challenges
19 Town Meeting SitesAlbuquerque 3,500 PeopleAugustaCasper Across 57 SitesChicagoColumbiaDallasDes MoinesDetroitEast Palo AltoGrand ForksJacksonLouisvilleMissoulaOverland Park, KSPasadenaPhiladelphiaPortland, OR 38 Additional CommunityPortsmouth Conversations Across theRichmond Country including an Online Conversation in Second Life
Key Outcomes1. Two-thirds of our table groups developed packages that reduced the deficit by more than $1 trillion in 20252. Participants moderated their views over the course of the discussion3. Those who described themselves as “somewhat liberal”, “somewhat conservative” and “moderate” supported significant reforms from across the political spectrum4. While participants were highly dissatisfied with the tone and quality of today’s political discourse. They were highly satisfied with the tone and quality of the national discussion
Participants spent the day working in randomly assignedsmall groups with volunteer table facilitators.
Sites were linked by video, allowing participants to share ideas withothers across the nation during periodic national reports.
Individuals expressed preferences using keypads and tablegroups submitted ideas into laptop computers at each table
A “theme team” analyzed ideas coming in from across the country and reported back themes.
Participating in person or via video:Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND) Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-IA)Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA)Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX)Fmr Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA)Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) Rep. John Spratt (D-SC)Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) Dr. Alice Rivlin (Member of the National Fiscal Commission)
Who Participated Across the Nation?* Race • 16% African American (Census: 12%) • 3% Asian (Census: 4%) • 5% Latino (Census: 15%) Household Income • 17% Less than $25k (Census: 23%) • 20% Between $50k and $75k (Census 19%) • 26% More than $100k (Census: 21%) Views on Economic/Fiscal Issues • 26% Liberal, 18% Somewhat Liberal, 23% Moderate, 13% Somewhat Conservative, 20% Conservative * Demographics represent participants across 19 town meeting sites
National Advisory CommitteeExamples of Participating Liberal Groups• AARP, Center for American Progress, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Economic Policy Institute, National Academy of Social Insurance, National Committee to Preserve and Protect Social Security and MedicareExamples of Participating Conservative Groups• AEI, Business Roundtable, Heritage Foundation, Hudson Institute, National Taxpayers Union, Tax Foundation, US Chamber of CommerceExamples of Participating Budget Groups• Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, Concerned Youth of America, Concord Coalition, Economy.com
7 Hour Agenda• Discussion of values and economic recovery• 42 spending and revenue options presented• Challenges to cut deficit by $1.2 trillion in 2025• Tables spent several hours weighing options and developing packages• Participants were able to vote on their individual preferences
Reductions Made by Tables Reductions Reached by Tables # of Tables % of TablesMore than $1.2 trillion 163 47%More than $1.1 trillion 202 58%More than $1 trillion 226 65%More than $900 billion 249 71%More than $800 billion 265 76%More than $700 billion 292 83%More than $600 billion 314 90%Total Tables 350 100%
Top Messages to Leaders“Please find the political will to use this inputas if it were coming from a powerful lobbyinggroup – because we are!”“Abandon the failed politics of partisanship.”“You can’t demonize each other and expectus to trust you.”
Spending Preferences• 85% of participants expressed support for reducing defense spending by at least 5%, which included 51% of participants who expressed support for a 15% cut.• 68% of participants expressed support for reducing All Other Non-Defense spending by at least 5%.• 62% of participants expressed support for reducing health care spending by at least 5%.• No options for reducing Social Security benefits received a majority of support.• Rather, 60% of participants expressed support for raising the cap on payroll taxes to 90% and 50% supported raising payroll taxes by at least 1 percentage point.
Revenue Preferences• 54% of participants expressed support for raising income taxes on those earning more than $1 million by five percent and 52% of participants expressed support for raising personal tax rates for the top two income brackets by at least 10%.• 54% of participants expressed support for establishing a carbon tax and 50% of participants supported the establishment of a securities-transaction tax.• Participants were divided about options presented to reform the tax code. However, majorities can be seen when combined with votes to eliminate individual deductions and credits
Examples of Finding Common Ground on Polarized Reforms83% of those who are “somewhat conservative” and89% of those are “moderate” joined liberal participants insupporting cuts to defense spending as part of deficitreduction package62% of those who are “somewhat liberal” and 70% ofthose who are “moderate” joined conservativeparticipants in supporting reductions in non-defensediscretionary spending as part of deficit reduction package
EvaluationFindingsConducted by expertsfrom Harvard andUniversity of CaliforniaCompared pre and postsurveys of participantswith surveys of fourcontrol groups tounderstand quality andindividual impact ofnational discussion
Were Participants Representative? (focus on 6 largest sites)
Were Participants Representative?“Participants of the OBOE discussions were in most instances representative of the populations of the six cities where thesedeliberations occurred. The distribution of OBOE participants in terms of income, age, andethnicity/race is roughly comparable with a few exceptions ... The biggest contrast betweenOBOE participants and the general populations of these cities is in educational background.”
Participants Began the Day SlightlyMore Polarized Than General Public Raising Taxes on the WealthyStrongly Somewhat Neither Somewhat StronglyOppose Oppose Support Support
Shifting Positions After Deliberation Option to Reduce Military Spending Liberal Neutral Conservative
Shifting Positions After Deliberation Option to Reduce Entitlement Spending Liberal Neutral Conservative
Positive Evaluations of Experience• 85% felt more informed about challenges and options for cutting budget deficit• 97% believed all participants listened to one another respectfully and courteously• 93% felt other participants seemed to hear and understand their views• 93% said everyone had a real opportunity to speak and no one was shut out of the discussions• 92% said they would participate in an event like this again
“The most important thing I learned from this process is that ordinary citizens could tackle a complex issue, filter it civillythrough their own perspective, and come up with consensus. I literally did not think this was possible.” “We had a very diverse group that ranged from recent highschool grads to retired and from inner city Chicago to high end suburbs. I learned that while our perspectives may bedifferent our problems are the same … I also learned that we are all in this together.” “It was so refreshing to have civil discourse among people of different ages, persuasions, and backgrounds. Congress could learn a lot from our experience. The tone of ourdiscussions was polite, respectful, and everyone contributed.”
To download final report and evaluation: www.usabudgetdiscussion.org www.americaspeaks.org