The nonpartisan, $40 million-nonprofit was founded by Democrat Erskine Bowles and Republican Alan Simpson, the co-chairs of the White House-appointed fiscal commission. Funded by CEOs, foundations and individual donors, the group is aiming to build a coalition of business and other interest groups to push policymakers to responsibly tackle the nation's long-term debt and deficit problems.
"Our thinking was that as the campaign came to a close we need to 'own the pivot,'" MacGuineas told reporters in a conference call on Thursday. "It's clear that all of national attention is going to be focused on fiscal cliff right now; that is an incredibly important moment. It's an economic threat, but it's also a political opportunity and we want to ensure that the campaign is helping to really push leaders to come together to solve the problem."
MacGuineas said that the campaign had kicked off the first phase of its advertising blitz with print ads in Washington the day after the elections, with plans to sell online and outdoor ads posted on bus stops and on billboards soon in 11 other states where the group has state charters and has plans to quickly double that reach.
She said the group is not asking lawmakers to adopt a specific approach but is offering a range of ideas and at least wants to see a framework and process for heading off the cliff that can be viewed by the markets as credible during the lame duck.
"There is nothing that sharpens the mind like a fiscal cliff and one of the messages that we have been discussing... is that so many parts of the budget are in jeopardy because of the squeeze that we have been having from growing health care costs and the aging of society, and that we need to figure out how we are going to deal with those challenges in order to protect a lot of parts of the budget that people care about," she said. "There has been sort of bipartisan denial about how important this is for a long time, and now I think it is critical for us to come up with the right conclusions to get everybody to the table."
The ads feature the words "national debt" in bold capitalized red letters, sandwiched between words like "economy," "healthcare," "education," "defense," "security," "employment" and "infrastructure." The broken up words are headlined above a tagline that says, "Unless we fix the debt, it'll get in the way of the things that matter most."
The Fix the Debt campaign said it has nearly 300,000 signatures on a petition asking lawmakers to act now on a solution that addresses all parts of the budget.
The group made a splash recently with a front page story in the Wall Street Journal talking about a group of 80 chief executives associated with the campaign who want to see a comprehensive debt reduction plan, and has since grown to include more than 100 CEOs and business leaders.
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