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Republican U.S. Congressional Primary candidate Weston Wamp addresses a crowd of supporters on Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014, at his campaign headquarters on Frazier Avenue in Chattanooga, Tenn., as he trails U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann in election returns. / Photo by Doug Strickland

As the federal deficit approaches a record $2.2 trillion in the current fiscal year, millennial business leaders are uniting in a new effort to find ways to limit the national debt and its potentially catastrophic long-term consequences.

The newly created Millennial Debt Commission is comprised of 16 young business leaders from across the country and is being headed by Weston Wamp, a 33-year-old, two-time Republican congressional candidate in Chattanooga and the son of former U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp.

"I believe that the national debt eventually is going to present itself as the greatest challenge that my generation faces and it is unprecedented for our country," Wamp said Friday. "I don't think most people understand the gravity of the risk we take every year that we don't address these long-term fiscal challenges."

Wamp said he founded the commission based upon his passionate concern over America's failure to balance its government budget even during robust economic times. He called the growing federal deficit "generational theft" that will burden today's children and young people forced to pay back today's borrowing, or at least the interest on the growing debt.

The Millennial Debt Commission is a non-profit, non-partisan group that will work to study and advocate for approaches to limit the growth of the U.S. debt. Wamp said such solutions will require both sides of the Congressional aisle to be willing to consider making changes to everything from Social Security and Medicare to military spending and taxes.

"For too long, our country has avoided having the difficult discussions needed to address our ever-growing national debt," said U.S. Representative Mike Gallagher, R-Wisconsin, an honorary congressional advisor to the commission. "This commission recognizes that the generations of tomorrow will pay for the irresponsible spending decisions of today, and I have no doubt this group of millennial leaders will utilize their unique backgrounds to help address the fiscal challenges our country faces. Problems don't age well, and I look forward to working with this group on ways we can get our fiscal house in order."

Gallagher is among seven members of Congress who will address the new commission at their inaugural meeting Tuesday. Former U.S. Sen. Bob Corker of Chattanooga and former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint will also speak at next week's event.

The initiative was endorsed by the late former Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, prior to his death is March and is being backed by two prominent millennial business owners in Chattanooga — BellHops co-founder Cam Doody and Legacybox co-founder Nick Macco — along with 14 other young business owners across the country as well as several foundations.

The debt commission is starting its efforts at a time of record budget deficits this spring caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which has both pushed up relief spending by Congress and depressed tax collections as the economy was shutdown or at least slowed.

Wamp said deficit spending is appropriate during emergency situations like what America now faces. But he said the red ink was flowing earlier this year even when the economy was strong, the stock market was at record highs and coronavirus had not yet spread to the United States.

Neither of the presumptive nominees this year for president — Republican Donald Trump or Democrat Joe Biden — are talking much about the deficit in this year's campaign. But Wamp said the Millennial Debt Commission hopes to work on long-term solutions to the growing deficit far beyond this year's campaign.

Wamp said Millennials who will be stuck paying the bills for today's debts should be more motivated to make the changes needed to bring spending more in line with government revenues.

"Long before a global pandemic caused a $4 trillion federal deficit, borrowing against future generations was the norm in Washington," Wamp said. "For two decades, the federal government has been poorly managed by both political parties – imperiling the long-term economic and national security of America."

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6340.

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