Republican and Democratic presidential hopefuls are racing from Iowa to California in an attempt to earn votes, crafting their messages and flourishes to appeal to primary voters, typically the most ardent members of their respective parties. I’d like to see the candidates devoting more energy to talking about issues that legitimately affect every American, like the federal budget, which is barreling toward a steep, unprecedented cliff.
Whoever becomes the 45th president of the United States will inherit a monumental problem demanding immediate action – the federal budget’s entitlement spending problem. Today, mandatory spending – which includes Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid programs plus interest payments on the federal debt, which is largely driven by spending on those three programs – accounts for nearly 70 percent of the budget. And this spending is projected to grow to 92 percent in 10 years, consuming almost the entire federal budget.
If we continue on this path, by 2025, the federal government will have only 8 percent of its total revenue to spend on everything else, including initiatives such as the military (the bulk of the funding for which falls under discretionary spending), scientific research, education programs and transportation repairs, not to mention paying 2.7 million federal employees.
This fiscal nightmare becomes increasingly alarming when you consider that it would cost an economy-crushing $40 trillion to make Social Security and Medicare solvent as they exist now for the next 75 years. That would bankrupt the country. None of the major entitlement programs for seniors are projected to be financially solvent 20 years from now.
The inescapable truth here is that without reform, the federal budget situation will soon require either crippling new taxes or painful benefit cuts in the programs, or both. We can avoid both of these scenarios, but only if we act now.
What I expect to see from POTUS 45 is true leadership, defined by a willingness to confront the real problems facing the country and acting decisively to address them.
I applaud the efforts of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has long been sounding the alarm about this very real threat to our country’s economy and to our safety net for seniors. There are steps that can be taken now to ensure our country’s fiscal stability.
We have nothing to fear from carefully crafted, phased-in adjustments to our entitlement programs. We can and must reform entitlements without baseline cuts and without breaking our commitment to seniors, people with disabilities and the poor.
We have no choice but to make these changes in the face of compelling financial and demographic realities.
There are forces in Washington content to maintain the status quo. But the status quo won’t protect our safety net programs – it guarantees their insolvency. The biggest threat to Medicare, Social Security, our individual prosperity and our country’s economic dominance is doing nothing. And that is unacceptable.