If action expresses priorities, as Mahatma Gandhi suggested, we should be alarmed by the inaction, gridlock and hyper-partisanship in Congress. We should be calling on current leaders and candidates to craft plans and to act on reforms that address issues facing our state and nation in a bipartisan manner.

New Hampshire voters are known for a high-level of engagement and election turnout, a reputation we reaffirmed during the recent primary. We are also known for our rigorous vetting of candidates on key issues, and there are plenty of issues candidates should be working to address.

On the campaign trail, several were mentioned, like health care, education, the economy, taxes, infrastructure, climate change, immigration, national security and more.

But most of those issues are quickly divided by ideological debates and party lines or stuck in a constant loop of rhetoric that fails to reach beyond the surface. What seems to be lacking is an in-depth, fact-focused discussion that results in true policy reform.

Any such discussion would quickly force us to consider the long-term sustainability of several key programs and areas of spending, as well as honestly assess our nation’s priorities and whether our current use of resources reflects those priorities.

Why? Under current policy, the federal budget is in disarray, and the issues for which we each care deeply about are tied to it, one way or another.

For instance, according to a recent Urban Institute report, the share of the budget dedicated to children is being squeezed out and is projected to shrink from 9.4 percent to 6.9 percent of the budget over the next 10 years, which reflects a potential lack of investment in upcoming generations.

And with all the recent talk in Congress about domestic investment and national defense, only about one-third of the entire budget is committed to those areas. Both areas are categorized as discretionary spending, which is what Congress controls during the annual budget process. Both are trending toward 50-year lows as a percentage of the economy.

Even though health care and retirement security are often “high priorities” for elected leaders, their inaction has caused the trustees of the Medicare and Social Security systems to come out strongly in favor of reform because each program is experiencing significant financial shortfalls.

Major demographic changes in our nation are impacting everything from workforce productivity to major areas of government spending. Even though those changes did not come as a surprise, Congress failed to plan for them.

The federal budget spends in excess of $4 trillion annually and underfunds key programs, which produces enormous budget deficits projected to exceed $1 trillion as soon as next year.

Because of the borrowing needed to bridge those deficits, we now spend more on interest each year than we do on discretionary spending for education, transportation and veterans combined. Within five years, we could be spending more on interest than our entire defense budget.

More than 80 percent of economists surveyed by the National Association for Business Economics believe current fiscal policy should be working to reduce federal deficits.

Even former policymakers Ben Bernanke, Henry Paulson and Timothy Geithner, who played central roles in dealing with the fiscal and economic fallout of the Great Recession, recently expressed concern over the current complacency toward growing budget deficits.

Looking at the big picture, just holding the publicly held national debt to its current level of 78 percent of the economy over the next 30 years, which is well above its 50-year average of 41 percent and its highest level since the World War II era, would take a concerted effort. It would require deficit reduction totaling almost 2 percent of the economy every year, roughly $400 billion in 2019.

Elected leaders and citizens are stuck with the reality that any reform will come with a cost, which is helping create an environment of inactivity in Congress as the nation’s “priorities” run on autopilot. But the current do-nothing approach with existing policy is not a solution.

History reveals both Republicans and Democrats are to blame for our current fiscal struggles, and it will take both to get us out. In fact, the last time our nation saw a budget surplus was at the hand of bipartisan legislation and leadership.

We should be calling upon our candidates and elected officials to craft actionable plans that responsibly tackle national issues, like budget deficits, health care cost growth and more. And we must mandate they achieve lasting reform with bipartisan support.

There are no silver bullets. One-sided punch lines from candidates will not help. Good old-fashioned accountability by New Hampshire voters is needed.

We must lead the charge and display our nation’s priorities by protecting current and future generations from the ramifications of failing to act.

Chase Hagaman is a community advisory member of the Seacoast Media Group’s editorial board, New England regional director of The Concord Coalition and host of the organization’s weekly radio show and podcast, Facing the Future.