`Fix the Debt' campaign gaining steam

South Metro Chamber taking lead in grassroots movement

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Labeling it a top priority, the South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce continues to lead the charge locally to promote the “Fix the Debt” campaign.

“I believe this is the most important issue facing the United States right now,” says Rick Whipple, a Littleton CPA and chairman-elect of the chamber.

Together with chamber president and CEO John Brackney, Whipple has taken a leading role in urging a bipartisan, grassroots effort to resolve what he describes as “the nation's ongoing debt crisis.”

“The full faith and credit of the United States is at risk, likewise our form of government and way of life,” says Whipple. “I find it outrageous that the strongest economy on the earth cannot solve this crisis. This is key to our long-term growth and funding our social programs, infrastructure, education, military, foreign policy — you name it. The longer we wait for debt reform, the more likely our future will be determined by our creditors.”

Whipple has been actively involved in the Colorado chapter of the Fix the Debt campaign since late 2012 and says it remains one of the chamber's “highest priorities.”

In July, Whipple traveled to Washington with Brackney to lobby members of Colorado's congressional delegation on the importance of addressing the debt crisis.

In mid-September, Whipple went to the nation's capital again, this time with a contingent of high-powered business leaders, including Dave Cote, the chairman and CEO of Honeywell.

“Our mission was to show a united front of small business owners and large business,” Whipple says. “Dave Cote talked about how the growth of Honeywell has been constrained by the government's failures to pass a budget.”

“Large companies like Honeywell are accumulating cash because they see the government debt as a risk to their own stability,” Whipple explains. “These companies have to protect against the next bubble or recession, so they are not taking the risks that they would normally take to expand their businesses. And when these big companies sit on their cash, it constrains the entire economy,” stifling job creation, reinvestment, the growth of small business and the collection of additional taxes.

When meeting with politicians in Washington, Whipple said most “took a party-line position. It was evident there is a deep cultural divide between our legislators.” He said the group found stronger support when they met with representatives from the White House.

Whipple believes voters “must support candidates who are willing to deal with big issues. The men who wrote the Declaration of Independence put their lives and families at risk. Our congressional leaders must show the same courage,” he says.

Chamber CEO Brackney continues to be one of the most visible and vocal leaders of the Fix the Debt movement in Colorado.

“Decisions in Washington affect businesses outside the beltway,” Brackney wrote in a recent opinion piece published in the Denver Post. “Congress and the president must act now … to create greater market certainty” and “put our country back on a track of fiscal sanity.”

Across the state, support for the campaign appears to be growing. Former Colorado Gov. Dick Lamm has recently started to speak out on the debt issue and Congressman Mike Coffman and Sen. Michael Bennet also have expressed their support of the movement. And many candidates running for local offices have trumpeted their support for the Fix the Debt campaign.

“Forty large corporations have donated generously, a million dollars each, to the Fix the Debt campaign,” which now has chapters in all 50 states, says Whipple.

So far, more than 350,000 people across the country have signed the campaign's “Petition to Fix the Debt.”

Whipple says Congress should “stop looking at these little stopgap measures to fund the government” — referred to in Washington as continuing resolutions. “It's management by crisis and we have to get away from that,” says Whipple. “We are lurching from one crisis to another.”

Tax and entitlement reform, Whipple believes, “needs to come from both sides of the aisle. There are so many obstructionists in our government. We need to stop voting these people in.”

For his part, Brackney plans to spend every Monday for the next few months visiting communities all around the state to talk to commissioners, mayors and other local leaders.

Whipple will be meeting with Colorado Congressman Ed Perlmutter this week. “We're also doing lots of social media stuff,” he says. “We're just going to continue beating the bushes and help people learn about the issues.”

“If our deficit keeps going in the direction it is going,” Whipple says, “it will have dire consequences for our entire way of life.”