December 20, 2014

Financial Planning: Not Washington's Strong Suit

Washington’s money problems make it all the more important for individual Americans to plan responsibly for their own financial futures. At the same time, elected officials have no time to lose in confronting the fiscal challenges imposed by an aging population and climbing health costs.

Those points were driven home last week as experts on The Concord Coalition’s “Fiscal Solutions Tour” spoke to financial planners, college students, journalists, civic leaders and many others in four programs in the Atlanta area.

“Financial planning is not a strong suit in Washington,” Robert L. Bixby, Concord’s executive director, told a regional conference of the Financial Planning Association of Georgia. He noted that “trillion-dollar-plus deficits are the new norm.”

Bixby and three other experts also spoke at Kennesaw State University, the Atlanta Press Club and the Kiwanis Club of Atlanta.

Alice Rivlin, a senior fellow at Brookings, said her work on two commissions that issued realistic packages of fiscal recommendations left her optimistic that elected officials would eventually take constructive action. But she stressed the need for bipartisanship.

David M. Walker, president and CEO of the Comeback American Initiative, said elected officials need to focus on the largest challenges ahead: “Right now Washington is arguing over the bar tab on a cruise ship headed for an iceberg.”

Joseph Antos of the American Enterprise Institute discussed the need to set priorities for federal spending, particularly with health care. “One way or another,” he said, “we have to come to grips with the fact that you can’t have everything at all times.”