President Bush has made matters worse -- by pushing yet another entitlement, a prescription drug program that spends more than it takes in. With the 2008 presidential election looming, Washington won't touch entitlement reform until 2010 -- if then.
It doesn't help that Washington politicians know that older people -- the folks most likely to get more money from Social Security than they paid into the system -- vote. Which means Washington may not try to implement reforms to avoid federal bankruptcy until it is so late that any fix will be exceedingly painful. And extremely necessary, as the Congressional Budget Office estimates that entitlement spending and interest payments will consume 100 percent of federal revenues in 2020.
I know this column will elicit e-mails from readers who believe that Washington can fix the budget by cutting fraud, waste and abuse. That's simply not true. Washington has over-promised so much that big program cuts -- and while it pains me to admit it, perhaps big tax increases -- will be necessary to avoid a federal fiscal meltdown.
The Concord Coalition argues that Washington needs "a fiscal wake-up call." But as long as the Un-Greatest Generation produces politicians who get elected to higher office by spending more than the government takes in, that call will never happen. Buckley says he wrote the book as "a father of an 18 year old and a 14 year old who are going to spend a large chunk of their working lives paying off the debt incurred by my generation and the ones that went before."
And, "What happened to the concept of bequeathing our children a better world?" The answer: That was for the last generation. Not us.