Our Budget, Our Economy: An AmericaSpeaks National Town Meeting
3,500 Americans came together across 57 sites around the country to discuss the nation’s long-term fiscal challenges on June 26, 2010 as part of Our Budget, Our Economy: An AmericaSpeaks National Town Meeting. Participants worked in small groups with skilled facilitators to learn about the issues, weigh trade offs, and express their preferences. Face-to-face meetings at each of the sites took place simultaneously and were linked together by satellite and webcast to create a true National Town Meeting. At 19 of the sites, participants used electronic voting keypads and groupware computers to identify their shared priorities over the course of the day-long meeting. They were joined by participants at 38 volunteer-organized Community Conversations across the country.
Participants came from every walk of life and reflected the rich diversity of the nation with some important exceptions. Similar to voting profiles, participants tended to be somewhat older, wealthier and less Latino than the general population of the country. Participants reflected a broad range of ideological viewpoints on economic and fiscal issues with slightly more describing themselves as liberal or somewhat liberal than those who described their views as conservative or somewhat conservative.
What Did Participants Have to Say?
Participants identified preferred options for reducing spending and increasing revenue that could reduce the deficit in 2025 by $1.2 trillion. Preferred spending options included reductions in defense spending, non-defense spending, and health care spending, but at different levels for each. Preferred revenue options included raising the cap on payroll taxes, raising income taxes on the most wealthy, establishing a carbon tax and the establishment of a securities-transaction tax.
The National Town Meeting demonstrated that participants from different socio-economic and ideological backgrounds could come together and deal with a complex and controversial issue such as our federal budget deficits and identify a workable solution. Preliminary results from surveys and interviews conducted before and after the town meeting, indicate that participants from across the ideological perspective tended to moderate their views on this issue as a result of the deliberation. The results from the National Town Meeting are being presented to dozens of Congressional offices, the President’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, and the Bi-Partisan Policy Center’s Debt Reduction Task Force.
Learn more at www.usabudgetdiscussion.org and download the most recent results at http://usabudgetdiscussion.org/national-town-meeting-results/.