KICK THE CAN.

Author:Mildenberg, David
Position:UPFRONT
 
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TO HECK WITH THE ANTI-DEBT NINNIES. BORROWING KEEPS THE WORLD GOING AROUND, RIGHT?

Between the time I write this and when you pick up our magazine, Congress will have progressed toward making the tax code simpler and devising ways to pay back our nation's $20 trillion debt.

Or maybe not.

More likely, the bill that congressional leaders want to pass by New Year's Eve will add $1.5 trillion or more to the debt over the next decade. That's the estimate of independent experts, whose judgment draws much division.

One side says deficit forecasts are exaggerated because tax reform will spark faster growth that boosts collections and slows government spending. Others say congressional leaders want a larger deficit to speed inevitable cuts in health care spending. The government now spends $1 trillion a year for Medicare and Medicaid, versus $600 million for defense and homeland security, says Mark McClellan, a Duke professor who once ran those federal entitlement programs.

Of course, trimming Grandma's promised medical benefits will ignite a spectacular debate, as it should. But if the money is gone, and medical care isn't free, choices are limited.

Obviously, a call for politicians to address entitlement spending is warranted. We wouldn't be so selfish as to leave the problem for our children and grandchildren, right?

Of course we would. Such pleas have rarely moved the needle. In the 1980s and '90s, former Charlotte Observer Publisher Rolfe Neill regularly penned brilliant Sunday editorials begging leaders to address mounting deficits. In 2010, a bipartisan commission led by Charlotte investment banker Erskine Bowles and former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson devised a plan to trim the federal debt over 30 years. It never made it to a vote in Congress.

The deficit soared under the Obama administration...

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