Colorado ex-Gov. Lamm: Both parties to blame for debt

September 14, 2012

The Denver Post

Summing up a panel discussion Thursday focused on the biggest issues facing presidential candidates, former Colorado Gov. Dick Lamm drew laughter with a simple formulation.

“We have a Republican taxing policy and a Democratic spending policy,” Lamm said.

Lamenting the nation’s long-term habit of spending more money than it collects year after year — unlike states such as Colorado, which must balance budgets — Lamm seemed to speak for the panel of five experts, concluding:

“Folks, we have a major problem, and I don’t know how we solve it given the current dialectic.”

The Democratic former governor was joined by former Colorado Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry, a Republican now working as an energy consultant, and by University of Denver professors Michael Cortes, Susan Daggett and Sharon Lassar.

In the hour-long session, which comes weeks before the first presidential debate at DU on Oct. 3, Lassar set the tone for the discussion by warning that the nation’s political leaders face an enormous deficit-spending and debt problem.

Lassar, who directs DU’s Daniel College of Business accounting program, said if seconds were dollars it would take 32,000 years to reach $1 trillion — and the national debt presently tops $16 trillion.

Lassar told the audience assembled at The Denver Post, which co-hosted the discussion with DU, that the actual debt burden for promises made through politically popular programs such as Medicare and Social Security topped $100 trillion.

Cortes, an expert in the field of social work, countered that in times of economic distress, deficit spending can help smooth a troubled economy.
But panelists agreed that the looming debt problem would need attention in the near term.

The problem, Penry said, is that even dramatic increases in taxation wouldn’t yield the revenue needed, so that some form of spending cuts would have to be made.

The panel also took up immigration reform and energy policy’s impact on Colorado