After an election in which many voters expressed concern about federal spending, the nation's shaky fiscal future is about to get more attention.
Two bipartisan groups are issuing recommendations this month for reforming the budget process and for cutting spending and revamping the tax code.
A fiscal commission created by the president is to make its recommendations Dec. 1. And the nonpartisan Peter G. Peterson Foundation launched a $6 million "OweNo" advertising campaign Tuesday.
"The public is ahead of the political class on this issue," Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., said at the launch of the campaign.
Bayh published an opinion essay in The New York Times last week arguing that Democrats need to prove to moderate voters that the party can make tough choices on spending cuts.
But a path forward is unclear. In a poll taken two weeks before the election in southeastern Indiana, where Rep. Baron Hill was defeated by GOP challenger Todd Young, two-thirds of respondents said they were not willing to accept cuts to programs such as Social Security and Medicaid to lower the deficit. And 54 percent said they would not accept cuts to defense and homeland security.
Yet Young, like many Republicans, vowed never to vote for a tax increase.
Promises like that are a mistake, given how deep spending cuts will have to be if new taxes are off the table, said former Sen. Pete Domenici. The New Mexico Republican is co-chairman of a bipartisan task force that's releasing its plan next week to reduce and stabilize the debt.
"You can't solve the problem with taxes alone. You can't solve it with budget cuts alone," Domenici said.
Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., chairman of the Senate Budget Committee and a member of the president's fiscal commission, called Bayh's essay on fiscal discipline outstanding and said it "expressed the views of many of us."
"The reality that we confront is so compelling that one would hope that somehow we are able to find a way to come together," Conrad said. "But there are people on the left and on the right that are in total denial."
The Peterson Foundation's national ad campaign uses humor to encourage action.
"What have future generations ever done for us?" a fictional presidential candidate says in the ads. "Let's borrow like there's no tomorrow."