Washington needs more fiscal lookouts, policymakers who look beyond short-term budget windows, watch for signs of trouble and act to avoid impending dangers.
Over the coming year, The Concord Coalition will urge presidential and congressional candidates to discuss how their proposals would put the nation on a sustainable fiscal path.
For more information on The Lookout Campaign, click here.
Check out Key Questions about the nation's fiscal challenges to ask candidates on the campaign trail.
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The federal budget remains on an unsustainable path while politicians in both parties seem incapable or unwilling to do anything about it. They are not looking out for the best interests of future generations.
That must change. If we don’t do more to look out beyond the traditional 10-year budget window, today’s young people will face an array of harmful consequences, everything from a slower-growing economy to diminished national security.
The current budget process encourages short-term thinking by over-focusing on the next few years. As analysts from all sides generally agree, our truly unsustainable fiscal problems stem from commitments that extend far into the future.
Looking out only five or ten years may have been adequate when most federal spending was appropriated annually. It is insufficient now that most of the budget consists of interest costs and entitlement programs rising on autopilot.
Unfortunately, Congress and a succession of Presidents have piled one short-term fiscal crisis on top of another, leaving a series of small, brokered compromises. The major long-term challenges have been largely ignored.
The seven bipartisan findings of the Kerrey-Danforth Commission on Entitlement and Tax Reform provide a useful framework for analyzing the key fiscal issues confronting the 2016 candidates. Those findings:
#1. To ensure that today’s debt and spending commitments do not unfairly burden America’s children, the government must act now. A bipartisan coalition of Congress, led by the President, must resolve the long-term imbalance between the government’s entitlement promises and the funds it will have available to pay for them.
#2. To ensure the level of private investment necessary for long-term economic growth and prosperity, national savings must be raised substantially.
#3. To ensure that funds are available for essential and appropriate government programs, the nation cannot continue to allow entitlements to consume a rapidly increasing share of the federal budget.
#4. To be effective, any attempt to control long-term entitlement growth must take into account the projected increases in health care costs.
#5. To be effective, any attempt to control long-term entitlement growth must also take into account fundamental demographic changes.
#6. To respond to the Medicare trustees’ call to action and ensure Medicare’s long-term viability, spending and revenues available for the program must be brought into long-term balance.
#7. To respond to the Social Security trustees’ call to action and ensure the long-term viability of Social Security, spending and revenues available for the program must be brought into long-term balance. Any savings that result should be used to restore the long-term soundness of the Social Security Trust Fund.