On January 1 of this year, the first Baby Boomers became eligible for early retirement Social Security benefits—the first drop in an inevitable demographic flood which, over the next 20 years, will bring 78 million Americans into benefit eligibility.
Just the thought of this keeps David Walker, our nation’s former Comptroller General awake at night.
Due to rising entitlement costs and the flood of pending retirees, Walker asserts that by 2040 America may only have enough money to pay for Social Security and Medicare—and nothing else. Traditionally, the Comptroller General (chief accountant) does not speak out about policy, but, given the severity of our fiscal climate, Walker felt compelled to do so. And so he has traveled the country on a “Fiscal Wake-Up Tour,” with the best minds of Washington’s leading conservative and liberal think tanks in tow, to sound the alarm.
Beyond the leadership of the Government Accountability Office, other organizations on the Tour include the Heritage Foundation, the Brookings Institution, the Committee for Economic Development, the Association for Government Accountants, American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, AARP, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, and multiple state treasurers and auditors.
No partisan, sneaky agenda here. Representatives from each of these diverse groups have come together for one reason: to educate the public about the nation’s fiscal crisis.
The tour was the brainchild of Walker while he was in charge of the GAO, but because the tour’s mission supersedes the agenda of one man or one group of people, Walker has continued as a part of the tour since leaving the GAO.
While the federal debt and entitlement spending rank somewhere near the bottom of any list of sexy political issues before Congress, they deserve our full attention.
The current deficit stands at more than $9 trillion. Meanwhile, according to the Heritage Foundation, the unfunded future obligations of the federal government now exceed $50 trillion. Heritage correlates this to a $170,000 financial burden for each American.
Recent government action, by a Republican administration no less, has merely compounded the problem. Perhaps the single most damaging action was President Bush’s decision to expand Medicare to include prescription drug benefits. According to Walker, America already faced a $15-20 trillion deficit at the time—and the prescription drug bill added an additional $8 trillion to the tab.
Unfortunately, Washington shows no signs of reigning in its reckless ways. Indeed, both Senators Obama and Clinton have proposed socialized medicine plans that would cost in upwards of $100 billion.
Doug Wilson is the the co-author, with Edwin Feulner, of Getting America Right: The True Conservative Values Our Nation Needs Today.
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