(Column authored by Chris Ingram, originally published November 9, 2004 by United Press International)
Now that the election has passed and the candidates for president and congressional candidates from both parties have avoided talking about most of the critical issues facing United States, perhaps Congress and the president will work to address several looming crises.
The most over-spun but under-addressed issue is of course Social Security. Often called the “third rail” of U.S. politics, no candidates — Republican or Democrat — prior to the 2000 election showed the spine, will, or fortitude to tackle this issue. The fact is, Social Security is close to going broke and there is absolutely no way to fix the system if you don’t do one or more of the things politicians are most reluctant to do. Those politically difficult solutions to fix the system include: raising the payroll tax, cutting benefits, raising the retirement age, or a combination of the three.
Another solution would be to raise the income threshold on which Social Security taxes are collected, but that option is rarely mentioned as few Americans know Social Security taxes are collected on about the first $80,000 of income.
For his part, President George W. Bush has pushed for a partial fix by advocating a portion of Social Security benefits go into personal retirement accounts. Yet what Bush has proposed will only offset the damage he did when he signed the Medicare Prescription Drug bill. According to government estimates, this boondoggle will cost at least $500 billion the first ten years. And if government estimates are wrong (as they often are) it will be double that amount before the first drug is dispensed. The burden Bush and the Congress have saddled on young Americans is overwhelming.
Speaking of costs, the national debt has grown to more than $7 trillion. Congress just shamelessly keeps raising the debt-ceiling and spending more and more of the earnings of future generations. Ten years ago, Republicans were traditionally viewed as “fiscally conservative” and imagining this kind of recklessness under GOP control was unimaginable. Then the GOP came to power and found out that spending liberally is the best way to get re-elected. It’s shameful what my party has done to the United States’ economic future. Let’s hope common-sense prevails and the party returns to its fiscally responsible roots.
Of course Republicans aren’t all bad. A Republican in the White House and the GOP controlling the Senate means we’ll get perhaps up to four Bush appointees to the Supreme Court. And with the Republicans still in control, we can expect further tax cuts for the American people which will stimulate economic growth — they just need to make sure that tax cuts parallel or exceed cuts in spending.
Don’t get me wrong, I couldn’t have been happier that the president won re-election and the GOP picked up House and Senate seats. Had John Kerry won, we’d have bigger problems in Iraq, and would never get further tax-relief, and lets not even think about the liberal judges he would appoint to the courts. As for Kerry’s solution for saving Social Security, all he could come up with in the campaign was to suggest appointing another government commission to consider the options. Thanks but no thanks John, I think we’ve talked about this issue enough.
Make no mistake it is good that the House, Senate and White House are held by Republicans. The United States just needs the GOP to get its act together and start being more fiscally responsible to future generations. Please President Bush, future generations are counting on your leadership.