This challenge is going to be difficult on all of us. But we simply have to get started -- and stop kicking the can down the road.
The partisan politicians do not have the credibility to address the critical national prosperity and security issue. They have made too many promises to special interests and donors. They are addicted to the toxic mess of cable news pundits and Internet trolls telling us what to think with half-truths and misinformation.
So let's start in 2021 on budget balancing reform by telling the truth.
Social Security & Medicare
We have a solemn responsibility as generations of American citizens to ensure the future of Social Security and Medicare for Seniors over the long term. That is non-negotiable. But it is easy to say that (which is why ALL partisan politicians have a "Seniors" section on their website where they say that...but don't talk about actually doing that and balancing the budget over time.)
The pie chart on the right tells you all you need to know about balancing the budget. Look at where most of the spending occurs.
So we are are also going to have to achieve the future of Social Security and Medicare for Seniors (i.e. every retiree must be guaranteed their promised benefits in perpetuity). But the other half of this reality is that we are going to have to figure out how to do this (with steadily increasing numbers of retirees entering the system in the next 20 years) while spending less on this process than we do now.
Impossible? Well that is what the partisans have said (behind closed doors of course so as not to upset voters). I disagree. Innovation is the key here and open-mindedness. A combination of different administrative practices, piecemeal privatization options for at least part of a citizen's benefit package, and, yes, more efficient revenue streams for the Trust Fund all have to be on the table. Let's just be honest about that and get started.
More Investments in Opportunity, Less Spending on "Social Stop-gaps"
The hotheads in Congress and the Internet trolls are lying to you when they say that "welfare and 'entitlements' spending is out of control." It's just not true. Since the spending reform work done by both parties in the 1990s, these programs have been trimmed to the bone. Look at the tiny sliver of federal budget spending (at right) devoted to these types of programs. Fraud and abuse in these programs is at historic lows.
While it is clear that federal social spending such as Food Stamps, SNAP, WIC, housing subsidies and others are now at critical minimums in comparison to the increasing need being expressed in communities for these programs -- like Social Security we are going to have to figure out how to maintain this minimum level of funding, while spending less on the process overall. It is not only "administrative efficiencies" that can help us do this (though this will be an important first step in 2021.) We are also going to have to be smarter about making better federal investments in community growth programs that make it less likely we will need increased "stopgap social spending" like this going forward. We need to innovate with strategic investments that are specifically targeted toward promoting greater community resilience and broad prosperity (especially in rural and small city communities like those in the 4th District) if we are to decrease social stopgap funding demand over time.
And the Beat Goes On...
And, as I have also outlined on this page, we also must make several other important investments in the 2020s if we are to continue thriving as a nation. But I choose my words wisely. Going forward the Federal government must focus on accountable strategic investments that can grow community resilience, capability and prosperity -- as opposed to simply increasing the amount spent on stopgap funding from time to time.
We will need to spend wisely and trim excess across the board on all existing Federal programs.
All of this means we will experience cuts in the 2020s in all areas of current federal expenditure. What is more, if we are being honest, we are required to come up with smarter taxation strategy beginning early in 2021 to increase revenues.
This is the only serious option for moving ahead and protecting our future prosperity as a nation. If, like most partisan politicians, you cant swallow this reality then you are really not serious about fiscal responsibility.
Yes, this is hard stuff that defies simplistic, partisan perspectives and blowhard punditry that can be packed into a pithy Internet meme. It is also not an issue that motivates voters (that's why the partisans out there keep side-stepping the issue.)