Robert Samuelson has a column out about a major issue that none of the presidential candidates are talking about: that is, the aging of the the baby boomer population. The numbers are staggering:
The 2030 projections are daunting. To keep federal spending stable as a share of the economy would mean eliminating all defense spending and most other domestic programs (for research, homeland security, the environment, etc.). To balance the budget with existing programs at their present economic shares would require, depending on assumptions, tax increases of 30 percent to 50 percent -- or budget deficits could quadruple. A final possibility: Cut retirement benefits by increasing eligibility ages, being less generous to wealthier retirees or trimming all payments.
I have long considered the looming entitlement crisis the most important domestic issue, and have tried to make the case to big government neoconservatives that if we don't deal with this mess now, our ability to spend money on defense will suffer. There is even evidence that this has already happened.
Samuelson suggests as the beginning of a solution that some Warren Buffett-like figure sponsor a book in which 6 leading think tanks (three conservative and three liberal) offer their solutions, with the goal of prodding the presidential candidates into talking about it. Unfortunately, those of us who want action to resolve this crisis are competing against human nature, which is always focused on the short term. Once you talk about what is going to happen in 2030, you lose the audience.
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