When Congress and President Bush rushed to pass their popgun economic "stimulus" package, they increased the current year's deficit by more than 150 percent and charged another $152 billion to future generations.
The federal debt is more than $5 trillion — $48,359 per household. And that'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. That's not the total cost; it's the cost that cannot be covered by existing revenues.
The board of trustees of these two programs says the promises we've made to ourselves "are not sustainable under current financing arrangements." Social Security's existing surpluses will "turn into rapidly growing deficits as the baby boom generation retires."
"Medicare's financial status is even worse," 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 — more even than during World War II.
Our decisions today determine if we will saddle our children and grandchildren with an unrestrained government that drains the economy and makes the dollar virtually worthless.
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 country's most demanding tests. However, we face a moment of truth that is just as crucial to our nation's future.
It would be tragic if we who have been asked to do so little fail even this test.
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