When it comes to the outrageous expansion of the federal debt, neither political party comes out unscathed. In January of 2001, the debt was $5.7 trillion. Now, after 8.4 years of a Bush-Obama spending spree, it stands at $11.4 trillion, with Congressional Budget Office estimates putting it at 82% of GDP by 2019 if the current course is sustained. The threat of fiscal calamity is now undeniable, revealing to every American, with stark clarity, the necessity to address the nation’s fiscal crisis.
Entitlement programs, such as Social Security and Medicare, are those social welfare programs provided to all, irrespective of the circumstances. They represent the single largest component of the budget, at more than 42%, and their 2007 costs alone totaled $1.2 trillion—more than double the defense budget. And as the baby boomer generation enters into the forefront of Social Security and Medicare, those programs will take an even larger bite out of the budget than they do now.
Entitlements have long been known as the “third rail of American politics,” for they could electrocute an individual’s candidacy when touched. But in order to stem the tide of the ever-increasing federal debt, serious action must begin by way of entitlement reform. We must fix the third rail to prevent fiscal calamity.
Social Security: Social Security is on the road to bankruptcy. Last year then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson declared the program “financially unsustainable” and in dire need of reform. And it needs it. Badly.
Modifying Social Security is both essential and complex. In sum, the program should first become means-tested, where individuals have to qualify for benefits. Next, Americans who meet certain criteria should be eligible to opt out and instead build up their own individual retirement accounts (IRAs), such as 401K’s. Given the current direction of Social Security, the chances of younger Americans, particularly those under the age of 45, having anything left and therefore wishing to continue to benefit from the program will be virtually nonexistent, enabling it to be phased out.
Medicare: Medicare provides medical services to America’s senior citizens regardless of income. In 2003, President Bush and Congress instituted additions which will swell costs by as much as $1.2 trillion in ten years, according to the Washington Post. These additions constitute what is known as the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit which, in short, provides a subsidy to the prescription drug costs of the nation’s seniors.
The layman’s solution to Medicare lies in slapping a grandfather clause on Part D, meaning that those who are currently not on the program will not receive expansionist Part D benefits; in making Medicare means-tested; and in allowing qualified individuals to opt out of the program if they so choose. After all, why should Bill Gates get his healthcare paid for by the government after he turns 65?
Whether or not a person qualifies for entitlement benefits should rely upon several factors, principally income level but perhaps also including yearly expenses, savings and the number of dependents. The switch to a means-tested structure should pertain solely to those who are currently under the age of 45 or 50; that way, those who are already anticipating on receiving Medicare and Social Security benefits soon or who paid into the system for years will get them. Greater reform in the healthcare industry must then occur for those under that age through free-market approaches, not a brand-new entitlement program, and IRAs must be greatly encouraged.
These are just a few starting points, but if the government takes serious action to implement the above proposals, we will at last be able to see a glimmer of hope for the debt—and for the next generation—without damaging the economy with tax increases or cutting benefits for those in need.
This is truly unbelievable. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and 14 fellow Democrats have introduced the Automobile Dealer Economic Rights Restoration Act of 2009. Now we not only have the government competing (through Chrysler and G.M. ) with other automobile companies. With this bill, we also have some congressmen who want the government to compete with itself by passing legislation to restore the dealers' rights, even as it runs the auto companies who terminated those same dealers! I wonder who's going to pay for that?
America's health care system certainly has its share of problems, of which most emanate from politicians' tinkering. They keep tempting the frustrated consumer with promises of better benefits at someone else's expense.
So the prospect of President Obama and Congress remaking American health care in their own image should scare the pants off anyone who looks not merely at the existing problems but at government's abysmal record as a problem-solver.
Since last November, Obama and Congress have operated in crisis mode. They hastily passed a stimulus bill that still hasn't stimulated - only to be subsequently embarrassed by provisions that no one, except select staffers and lobbyists, had actually read.
The President incessantly beats the drum for grandiose new programs in health care, "clean energy," and education, touting them as fundamental steps in a regimen of economic recovery and fiscal responsibility.
This, of course, is hogwash.
Even the Washington Post observed that "these pursuits have little to do with the economic crisis, and they are not the key to economic recovery."
Before overhauling what remains of a voluntary, market-based system of private-sector health care delivery, the President and Congress should focus instead on Medicare, the $462 billion-a-year boondoggle that is on course to devour the federal budget and ruin the U.S. economy.
President Obama argues that health care change is necessary because 46 million people don't have insurance. Setting aside the questionable validity of that statistic, compare it instead to the 45 million people currently enrolled in Medicare.
Today, Medicare consumes 13 percent of the federal budget and 3.2 percent of the national economy. (Medicare and SCHIP push total federal government health care spending to more than one-fifth of all federal outlays - more than spending on national defense.)
According to the annual Trustees' report, in 2008 the Medicare Trust Fund began paying out more in benefits than it was collecting in payroll taxes and interest. By 2017, the fund will be completely exhausted and staring at a $37.6 trillion - with a "T" - deficit over the next 75 years.
Of all the reckless, irresponsible promises made by Washington politicians and charged against our children and grandchildren's future, Medicare is the largest and most costly. In 20 years, its costs will surpass Social Security and are forecast to more than triple unless politicians muster the courage control spending or allow private competition to control costs.
The rush to "do something" to reform health care is doubly dangerous and counterproductive because the numbers used by the President don't add up - not remotely.
The President and his budget office vow that the as-yet-incomplete plan will be "deficit neutral." Why then has it been exempted from the new "pay as you go" spending rules? Congressional Budget Office estimates the cost of the Senate's Kennedy-Dodd health care bill at $1.6 trillion over 10 years. And that's just for the portions that have been unveiled.
Get this: despite the embarrassment of voting for a non-stimulative stimulus bill that they couldn't take time to read, Democrats are now amending a health care bill even before a complete version has been introduced - a process Sen. John McCain aptly labeled "a joke."
CBO's estimate does not include the cost for Obama's "public option," under which a government insurance program would compete with private plans. An independent analysis by the Lewin Group suggest that up to 119 million people currently insured by their employers could be shifted to a public plan.
So Obama claims he can create a new health care program nearly three times the size of Medicare and that he can do it for free? Compared to that, loaves and fishes are child's play.
Given that 67 percent of Americans still rate their own health care coverage as excellent or good and that the federal government's existing health care programs are budget-busters, President Obama should take some divine advice: "Physician, heal thyself."
Mark Hillman is a former state senator and state treasurer, now a Centennial Institute Fellow.
(Denver Post, June 21) “It is a small state, and yet there are those who love it.” Sen. Daniel Webster, arguing the Dartmouth case before the Supreme Court, actually said “college,” not “state.” But my paraphrase is apropos for Coloradans in a summer when the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor has everyone talking about senators and justices.
We do love this smallish state of ours, and jealousy for Colorado’s prerogatives of self-government is in order as we debate replacing David Souter. “Don’t tread on me,” the defiant flag of the founding era, has made a comeback at this year’s Tea Parties. Does Sotomayor get that? Not that I can tell, which means she’s wrong for the court.
Of the three federal branches, claimed Alexander Hamilton in the Federalist, “the judiciary will always be the least dangerous to the Constitution,” as it has neither “the sword or the purse.” Decades of judicial imperialism have left that prediction as devalued as Hamilton’s $10 bill.
More accurate was his rival Robert Yates, who wrote in the Anti-Federalist that history had never seen “a court of justice invested with such immense powers, and yet placed in a situation so little responsible.” He worried that the Supreme Court would “be able to extend the limits of the general government gradually” and at last “to melt down the states into one entire government for every purpose.”
Did Yates exaggerate? Not much. From FDR’s time to Obama’s, regardless of which party appointed them, the robed priesthood of the bench has overseen more and more of American governance gravitating from state capitals to Washington and from the elected branches to themselves.
Is there blame to go around? Yes; every part of our body politic has helped weaken liberty. We’re now getting the government we deserve. Does history hinge on Sotomayor’s confirmation or defeat? No; “wise Latina woman” or not, she’s just one judge. We the people must initiate the needed constitutional rebirth.
It’s dismaying, though, how oblivious most politicians are to the high court’s part in turning free citizens into docile “sheeple” (Pravda’s mocking word). Seeking some comprehension of the crisis, I asked Colorado’s senators, Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, what our smaller state with its commitment to participative self-government should constitutionally expect from the Supreme Court. The answers came back bland as sand.
“Coloradans want judges who are fair, impartial, and faithfully apply the law,” said Bennet, adding that he hopes for a sensitivity to “our special concerns in the West” about water rights, public lands, and the role of government. Udall told me the qualities he’s looking for include “moderation, an ability to listen and bridge ideological divides, and above all, a deep understanding of the constitution.” Unlike Bennet, who came out for Sotomayor after a brief meeting, Udall is uncommitted though leaning favorably.
The danger of senators rubber-stamping a president’s judicial nominees, predicted by Oliver Ellsworth at the 1787 convention, seems borne out by these two in relation to fellow Democrat Barack Obama. They need remediation from CU law professor Robert Nagel, author of “Unrestrained: Judicial Excess and the Mind of the American Lawyer.” Nagel says legal groupthink has made the whole country politically timid and “slavish in believing we need to be saved by the Supreme Court” from the messiness of democracy.
Former Colorado Supreme Court Justice Jean Dubofsky, another Democrat and the first woman on that bench, supports Sotomayor but said she too wishes for a high court with more “out in the world experience” and fewer Ivy-trained Easterners with appellate resumes like this nominee.
Very true, and by that yardstick I’d prefer Dubofsky herself, or Bennet or Udall, or Bill Ritter or Pat Schroeder, to Judge Sonia. Liberals all – but any of them would be less susceptible to the seductive superstition of Supremes as Saviors.
Washington Post business columnist Steven Pearlstein has been following the "climate change" bill that was cobbled together in Congress in recent weeks. This is the bill, written by left-wing Democrats Henry Waxman and Ed Markey, that would attempt to lower American carbon emissions by 83 percent in 40 years. I.e., it would raise energy prices, drive our remaining manufacturers offshore, destroy our future military capability and drive a stake through the heart of the American economy.
Pearlstein makes the following observations about the bill:
(1) It is "badly flawed" and a "monstrosity" that includes many concessions to special interests
(2) New government agencies would "dole out rebates and tax subsidies and pick winning and losing technologies"
(3) Newly created regulators would "set prices and allocate resources"
(4) "Its elaborate allocation of pollution allowances and offsets reads like a parody of industrial policy"
(5) "The opportunities for waste, fraud and regulatory screwup look enormous"
(6) Nevertheless, it "may be the best bill that the political system can produce"
(7) It is "preferable to doing nothing"
Isn't that just the way an honest liberal so often reacts, after looking at the hard facts? One would like to get inside their brains to study why they so often misfirelike this.
Now the climate will change or not, as it always has, due to gargantuan forces beyond our control. On its face, this stupid bill is like King Canute trying to stop the tide from coming in. However, "climate change" is just a deceptive pretext for this bill that enables leftists to do to the American economy and the American people what they have always wanted to do: Control us. Cut us down to size. Break us. Disarm us. Transform us from proud citizens to meek subjects. Make us like Europeans. Force us to submit first to collectivist economics and then to the authority of world government.
This is the actual goal; preventing climate change has nothing to do with it. This bill is written by our domestic enemies, and must be stopped.