The Fiscal Wake-up Tour Comes to Tampa

05/31/07 Brandon Martin
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Intro: Yesterday the Concord Coalition in conjunction with the University of South Florida and Senator Mel Martinez hosted the Tampa stop of The Fiscal Wake-up Tour, a traveling panel discussion on the future effects of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid spending on the economy. The discussion featured the U.S. Controller General as well as public thinkers and figures of diverse perspectives. For WMNF Brandon Martin reports.

Story: The Fiscal Wake-up Tour is exactly what it sounds like: a wake-up call to Americans that current federal spending is increasing at an unsustainable rate and will lead to economic crisis if not controlled soon. The discussion focused on how Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid--the three big entitlement programs--would affect future federal spending and the economy. If the panelists present were not able to agree on how to fix the problem, they were able to agree that there is one. This is the scenario:

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Then you add to that the increasing precentage of Baby Boomer retirees in the following decades, causing a decrease in the workforce and a sharp increase in federal spending toward Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security benefits. And that federal spending for these entitlement programs is based on a formula within federal spending that guarantees paid benefits instead of being based on annual appropriations by Congress that would curb spending. All of this would need to be changed soon or else it becomes harder to make reforms and further puts our economy in danger.

Now, given the seemingly pessimistic message, Robert Bixby of the Concord Coalition said that it's not all about gloom and doom.

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The tour is out to educate Americans about the fiscal policy and maybe even move them into action--call their Representative, create more discussion.

Jason Furman of the Brookings Institution gave his 8-minute course on macroeconomics pertaining to how budget deficits affect the economy.

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Reducing our savings also causes the government to seek more foreign loans, which makes us more vulnerable to great increases in debt when the interest rate increases. U.S. Comptroller General David Walker gave an example of this.

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Alison Fraser of the Heritage Foundation used an interactive chart that illustrated how changes in interest rates, taxes and federal spending would affect the Gross Domestic Product, or in this case, the amount of total expenditure within a given year.

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Through the chart she showed that even if taxes were increased to all-time highs or many aspects of current spending were removed, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security would still be a large part of the spending landscape.

The panelists, Comptroller General Walker especially, offered some solutions.

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And the panelists agreed that Americans--especially later generations--need to save their money for their futures. David Walker emphasized that this issue is really about people--the people of the future.

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For WMNF, this is Brandon Martin.

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