Our nation faces enormous fiscal challenges. As part of the deal that was recently struck to raise America’s debt ceiling, Congress established a new Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to narrow the total budget gap by $1.5 trillion over the next decade. This “Super Committee” must report its findings by Thanksgiving, and if a majority of its 12 members support its conclusions, both houses of Congress will consider the resulting legislation under expedited procedures by December 23, 2011.

Last month, Illinois PIRG joined forces with an unlikely ally, the National Taxpayers Union, to develop a list of 50 recommendations to reform our future spending, totaling over $1 trillion. These cuts target wasteful spending and inefficiencies that do not benefit the American people, including ending wasteful subsidies to special interests.

To see the full list of our recommendations, go here. To sign our open letter to the Super Committee, go here.

Without a doubt, if the Super Committee is considering cutting these subsidies, special interest groups like Big Agribusinesses will be sending an army of lobbyists, filling campaign coffers and doing everything they can to push their subsidies off of the chopping block.

The only chance that we have to stand up to these special interests is to ensure that the process around the Super Committee is transparent and open to the public. Right now only the first meeting, the final recommendations and the congressional vote are required to be public. All other meetings are happening behind closed doors. But a closed process really only benefits special interests, and leaves the public more vulnerable to cuts to programs that they rely on.

Check out this fun video that one of our coalition partners, The Sunlight Foundation, produced about this issue.

If watchdog groups or the public have any chance to call out bad cuts or praise good cuts or be part of the process at all, it will only be because the process is open.

But with only a month left to go, we are running out of time. I for one will be calling my representative today and asking him to ensure that the process around the Super Committee is transparent. You should too.

Don't know your representative's phone number? Go to http://www.house.gov to find it.