In the Common Interest
Commissioner Tommy Adkisson
October 7, 2004
Within the next thirty days our nation will elect its next President, indisputably the most powerful office not only in the country, but also in the world. Due to the blessings of both human and natural resources at the command of or influenced by the President, this person will go on to make a huge impact across the globe. That is what makes this quadrennial election so critical.
We have heard a lot about Iraq and terrorism and properly so. But what about the many other issues we must address? Are they to lay dormant as seeds cast upon hard ground?
I believe not. These issues await the year ‘round vigil of that great foundation office of our nation. The office of which I speak is unelected and often under appreciated but it determines the person or persons who emerge as the President as well as other elected officials. The office of which I speak is that of citizen!
The Clarion Call
Recently I had the opportunity to read "Running on Empty" by Republican Peter G. Peterson, a founding President of the Concord Coalition, a bipartisan organization dedicated to America's debt reduction. On the cover of the book was a promotional statement by Warren E. Buffett, financial guru, who stated, "Key economic decisions are being made with an eye to the next election rather than to the next generation".
"Running on Empty" bears reading because it covers an issue that Congress and the President believe to be too painful to reckon with. It may seem a little dry to some but it addresses the great foundation of economic health which is fundamental to our nation's ability to lead the free and not-so-free world!
Despite partisan differences on issues, our financial condition should be the continuing common ground to which we should direct our attention. All the talk about defense, homeland security, education and transportation among other priorities, will mean little if we are teetering on bankruptcy as a country. Former Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, Charles Schultze once characterized America's slow-growing fiscal crisis by saying, "The problem is not that the wolf is at the door. It's more like termites in the woodwork."
Specific symptoms of our budgetary ailment are most seriously reflected by some of the following facts:
- With the recent recession, the bursting of the stock market bubble, 9/11, prescription drug benefits, permanent tax cuts at the same time as the Iraqi War and homeland security, our $5.6 trillion budget surplus from four years ago has vanished and a projected $6 trillion deficit has taken its place.
- "If we wanted to balance the budget by 2014, on our current track we would either have to raise both individual and corporate income taxes by 38% or cut both Social Security and Medicare by 55%." (Based on figures supplied by David Walker, Comptroller General, General Accounting Office)
- Peterson tells us, "Any time a federal program like Social Security runs a surplus for the year, the U.S. Treasury spends the surplus immediately on other items. All the program gets back are IOU's from the Treasury for the money taken."
- The Treasury Department estimates the unfunded liability to the Social Security Trust Fund at $27 trillion as of January 1, 2003!
- "The longer the delay in enacting reforms, the greater the danger, and the more drastic the remedies will have to be." (U.S. Office of Management and Budget, President's Budget for Fiscal Year 2004)
The problem here is not lack of knowledge but lack of will power on the part of both the elected federal leadership and ultimately of the voters who elect them. This is an attempt to educate my fellow citizens, but especially the baby boomers so that before much more time passes, we can exercise the leadership necessary to take corrective action to avoid the "hard landing" that is waiting for us should we fail to deal with this problem now! Even if the future of Social Security and Medicare were not at stake, I am keenly aware of what the "trickle-down" effect of a cash-strapped or nearly bankrupt federal government would be on our County and other units of government.
May we all work to sustain the economic strength of our nation and the blessings of liberty for many generations to come!