Mark Hillman – the rare person in political life (okay, not at the moment) whom I truly admire – writes in the clearest terms about the dose of bitter medicine America needs:
The federal debt is more than $5 trillion â€” $48,359 per household. And thatâ€™s just the tip of the iceberg. We owe another $5 trillion to federal employees and veterans for health care and retirement benefits.
However, the cost of retirement and health care programs for the general public really shafts our children and grandchildren. The unfunded cost of providing Social Security and Medicare benefits to everyone alive today is more than $45 trillion. Thatâ€™s not the total cost; itâ€™s the cost that cannot be covered by existing revenues.
The board of trustees of these two programs says the promises weâ€™ve made to ourselves â€œare not sustainable under current financing arrangements.â€ Social Securityâ€™s existing surpluses will â€œturn into rapidly growing deficits as the baby boom generation retires.â€
â€œMedicareâ€™s financial status is even worse,â€ the trustees warn. That should make any clear-thinking American recognize the sheer foolishness of creating a new health care entitlement for everyone.
Too many Americans, whipped into a frenzy by groups like AARP, prefer to sentence our children or grandchildren to stratospheric tax rates than to consider simply slowing the growth of future benefits. Without changes, government will grow from an historic cost of about 18 percent of GDP to 30 percent in just 22 years. In some 40 years, spending will consume 50 percent of GDP â€” more even than during World War II.
How many federal elected officials are taking action to address this mega-problem, much less even talking about it? But then Mark brings home the other bitter truth, that we too often get the political leaders we deserve. We can’t expect them to take action, if we won’t carry a bit of the burden ourselves:
If we hope to secure the blessings of liberty for our posterity, we must force our leaders to confront the future responsibly and aggressively. Most of us did not endure the Great Depression nor any of our countryâ€™s most demanding tests. However, we face a moment of truth that is just as crucial to our nationâ€™s future.
It would be tragic if we who have been asked to do so little fail even this test.
Not the cheeriest thought, but necessary. What can and will we do to persuade our officials to serve up the bitter medicine to save us from the real pain later on?