SG presidents question debt ceiling deal

Though public officials reached a deal on the debt ceiling Aug. 2, many student government presidents from across the country are unhappy with the deal.

Before the agreement was made, more than 120 student government presidents from 40 states, including AU Student Government President Tim McBride, signed a letter demanding Congress come up with a solution to raise the national debt ceiling and prevent the U.S. government from defaulting on its loans.

The letter, asking “Do We Have a Deal Yet,” says the student government presidents support the proposals of the Simpson-Bowles Commission and the Gang of Six, a group of senators containing three Republicans and three Democrats. There are no particular provisions of those recommendations the group supports, but it does urge congressmen to accept a “bipartisan framework,” according to Andy MacCracken, executive director of the D.C. Student Alliance and former SG president.

Now that a default has been avoided, the group is disappointed the deal includes the founding of a commission to continue to debate debt reduction that is tasked with finding more cuts by November.

“It’s very unfortunate that our leaders kicked the can down the road even farther,” MacCracken said.

Though the group has no “grandiose” ideas that their opinions will suddenly cause bipartisan cooperation on the Hill, a few of the students, including MacCracken, were granted a conference call with President Obama and members of his staff on July 26 and a meeting with staff in House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s office on Aug. 1 regarding the letter.

“That speaks volumes to the impact we’ve already started to have,” MacCracken said.

Student leaders will continue to advocate to members of the new commission to reduce the deficit.

They want politicians to focus “on what the ramifications are going to be for the next generation as opposed to what short-term benefits might be for the next election,” MacCracken said.

The student presidents’ main hope is to encourage students to get involved and take a stand on debt negotiations by calling their representatives or senators and getting their opinion heard, McBride said.

Some of those student government presidents held a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. July 21, garnering media attention from CNN, NPR, ABC, FOX, and the Huffington Post.

“We’re not telling our leaders what to do,” MacCracken said. “We’re just telling them to lead.”

The difference between this lobbying group and others is that they are not asking for favors, according to McBride, who signed the letter July 12. Instead, these student leaders are still looking for a deal that will not bankrupt the country that some of these students will one day lead.

“We have a unique message that needed to be heard,” McBride said.

As Obama echoed in the conference call, students have the most to lose from any failed debt reduction negotiations.

“Young people will shoulder the consequences of gridlock during a time that requires bold action,” the letter reads. “Your decisions will determine what kind of country we will inherit.”

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