Big 4 gobblers adding trillions to national debt

Washington Post columnist David Broder raised alarm flags in his article Monday on page four. The national debt will rise by a staggering $9.3 trillion over the next 10 years, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office calculates, if current patterns continue.
President Obama, he observes, has taken no concrete steps to cut spending or increase income. To the contrary, his budget calls for huge new programs.
Broder offers no remedy, but does report that some in Congress are considering legislation to renew the pay-as-you-go budget discipline that helped produce surpluses under President Bill Clinton.
Obama is concentrating on jump-starting the economy to get the country out of the recession and on fundamental restructuring of the health care industry to reduce the burden on U.S. businesses created by tying health care costs to payrolls.
He argues that tackling those two enormous challenges together is essential because they are so intertwined.
He has not taken the next step: outlining specific steps to deficit reduction, a goal that must be reached to assure an acceptable future for today’s upcoming generation and those that follow.
As Broder writes, “ ... the debt will continue to grow about $1 trillion a year because of a structural deficit between the spending rate, averaging 23 percent of the gross domestic product, and the federal revenues at 19 percent.”
That gap must be closed or the interest burden will become unsustainable.
Reducing spending significantly isn’t going to happen in the near future because of the big four: Social Security, Medi-care, Medicaid and the continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Health care reform won’t reduce costs fast enough to meet the large increases of those eligible for Medicare. Medicaid continues to be the fastest growing segment of state budgets. Social Security expenditures will rise as the ranks of the retired swell.
As the war in Iraq rachets down, more will be spent in Afghanistan.
Reforms in all four of these budget-busters should start now.
Social Security can be made sound for decades to come by imposing the tax on incomes up to $250,000 a year; raising the eligibility age to 70 over the next five years; and means-testing benefits after a retiree has received benefits equal to the total paid into the system by a retiree and his employers over his working years.
Keeping Medicare and Medicaid from growing at twice the rate of the GNP requires overall restructuring of the health care industry. In the interim, the only apparent way to cope is to raise taxes — or continue to pay the bill with borrowed money as the nation has been doing these past eight years.
Our troops and civilian advisers must stay in Afghanistan until there is a reasonable assurance that the country will not again become a sanctuary for and producer of terrorists dedicated to the death and destruction of Westerners. Taxes should be increased to pay the cost of that insurance policy and every effort should be made to enlist more substantial aid from the other Western nations at risk of terrorist attacks.

BOTTOM LINE: We will continue to go deeper in debt until we decide to tax ourselves enough to cover the spending we are determined to do.

Emerson Lynn jr.