Ten democratic Senators recently issued an important call to action for Majority Leader Harry Reid to support efforts to get America’s long-term fiscal imbalance under control. One can only hope Senator Reid listens.
As the letter notes, America is already $12 trillion in debt and, in the next decade, will dig itself even deeper by adding $10 trillion in deficits.
In the coming months, Congress will be required to increase the debt limit so that America can continue to afford to pay its bills. But the true disaster starts in the coming decades. Baby boomers have already begun to retire and collect Social Security and, soon, Medicare, and in today’s terms the amount of money required to pay those benefits is equivalent to adding another $46 trillion to America’s debt.
Recognizing the need for urgent action, the Senators state:
“We believe Congress needs to adopt a special process to deal with our nation’s long-term fiscal imbalances. We do not believe that action on these important issues will occur under the regular order in Congress.”
Indeed, part of the reason action will not occur under the “regular order” is that Social Security and Medicare grow on auto pilot. The programs are not debated during the annual budget process, nor are their long-term costs reflected anywhere in the 2,000+ pages of the federal budget. As a left/right coalition of economists brought together by the Brookings-Heritage Fiscal Seminar has noted, this process must change to effectively manage the long-term fiscal situation.
One place to start—which many of the Senators signing the letter have already proposed—is to create a commission to examine the long-term budget problem and recommend action to address it.
Such efforts would not only give members of Congress cover to address these pressing issues, but they are also desperately needed for America to get its fiscal house in order.
Hopefully the words of Joe Lieberman (I – CT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Evan Bayh (D-IN), Mark Begich (D-AK), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Mark Udall (D-CO), and Mark Warner (D-VA) will not be ignored by Leader Reid.