Des Moines Area Community College Carroll Campus Provost Joel Lundstrom joined four of the school’s nursing students for the Concord Coalition event. Pictured are (from left) DMACC students Lenita Nannenga, 26, of Lohrville, Kylee Tessman, 19, of Audubon County, Lundstrom, Dakota Bauer, 19, of Mt. Carmel, and Makenna Simons, 18, of Carroll.
Des Moines Area Community College Carroll Campus Provost Joel Lundstrom joined four of the school’s nursing students for the Concord Coalition event. Pictured are (from left) DMACC students Lenita Nannenga, 26, of Lohrville, Kylee Tessman, 19, of Audubon County, Lundstrom, Dakota Bauer, 19, of Mt. Carmel, and Makenna Simons, 18, of Carroll.

November 6, 2018

For one night, a group of Carroll-area residents and students teamed up to problem-solve.

In just a few hours in a night meant to allow regular people to have their say in where the government spends its money and what is cut from the budget, they were able to make the cuts and changes that members of U.S. Congress make every year.

Des Moines Area Community College in Carroll hosted Carroll’s first-ever Concord Coalition event Oct. 30. Concord Coalition, a nonpartisan powerhouse Washington organization on fiscal matters, has hosted similar events dozens of times across the country.

The goal of the night: To help cut help cut the government’s $21 trillion of national debt.

David Oman, a senior strategic consultant for the Concord Coalition from West Des Moines, led the event and began the night speaking about his long-time friend Douglas Burns, co-owner of Herald Publishing Company. When it comes to equipping young journalists in Iowa, Burns has always been one of the best, Oman said.

“Sometimes when you live in a community, you take the talent you have for granted, and when it comes to journalism talent at a time in this country when society and the profession itself — I started in journalism — is under attack, I think the best anecdote is holding out examples of good journalism and good journalists,” he said.

About 30 people attended the event to hear Oman speak about the national debt before they were split into groups and given workbooks to help them find common ground on topics such as Medicaid, national defense, taxes and more. Together, they had to decide what spending could be cut and what needs to stay.

“In the last year, our country has added about $1 trillion to the debt,” Oman said. “No one knows when the trendline will change, if it will change, how it will change. That’s a little about what we are going to do tonight. Talk about some steps, some hard steps the country may have to take to fix this issue.”

In the end, attendees of all ages had about two hours to find common ground while making huge spending cuts. Oman said it is usually the younger generations who are able to cut the most.

At Carroll’s event, some participants focused on maintaining military spending, cutting only nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines and health care for military members, veterans and their families, and cutting arts and humanities instead. A table of DMACC students offered an opposing view, keeping health care services and services for the elderly and ill intact, maintaining arts spending and emphasizing a fair alcohol tax because of its connection to the Iowa farm industry, and instead making larger cuts to defense spending while maintaining portions of the budget that go directly to troops’ payment and individuals’ needs in the military.

The exercise highlighted the fact that certain aspects of the budget that prompt a lot of conversation, such as fine arts funding, actually are such a small part of the whole that their cost is negligible when compared to funding for larger pieces, such as defense.

The table of students was able to cut the national debt down the most — by far, Oman said.

Referencing similar events recently held in Iowa with high-school and college students, he said, “It was heartening to see. I told them they got more done in 90 minutes than Congress did in the past year, at least on this front.”

He said the exercise serves as a good practice to understand the process members of Congress go through while trying to cut spending. It’s challenging, he said, but he emphasized the importance of finding ways to make cuts.

Some day we are going to pay the piper, and/or some day what you expect from government won’t be there, and that’s not a day of reckoning that you want to look forward to,” Oman said.