“People are arguing about spending bills and they do involve a lot of money and they are important, but the stealth spending spree ... often goes overlooked,” says Concord Coalition Executive Director Robert L. Bixby.
Bixby joined the latest “Facing the Future” to discuss “stealth spending” in the federal budget, which he described as consisting of mandatory spending programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid that run on autopilot.
Spending on such programs largely grows as a result of benefit formulas and demographics, rather than through the appropriations process. In addition, interest must be paid on the federal debt, and that cost is rising rapidly.
“While we are fighting tooth and nail about the appropriations bills,” he said, most of the budget “is going up on autopilot.”
“If you look at the increase that is projected from the last fiscal year to the current… about 75 percent of the spending increase is going to happen … without any debate or any votes being taken,” Bixby said. Concord’s National Political and Field Director Phil Smith also joined the show to discuss Concord’s grassroots education efforts with volunteers. Concord has developed a set of activities that helps citizens get involved and learn more about the fiscal challenges facing the nation.
Smith, other Concord staff members and volunteer leaders work across the country, conducting interactive budget exercises and organizing presentations with colleges, business groups, civic organizations and others.
“The exercise, called Principles & Priorities, is great for college campuses…It is basically a congressional role-playing exercise where people come in and they decide what the federal budget is going to be,” Smith said.
“Every single time I do (Principles & Priorities) it just blows me away how the citizens are so far ahead of their elected officials,” he said. “They always, always, come up with a better plan than any Congress or any president has come up with so far.”
“The American people, they get it and they are coming out of the woodwork,” Smith said. “The Concord Coalition is hearing from people across the country and they are very concerned that Washington is ignoring these problems.”
Chase Hagaman, Concord’s New England regional director, hosts “Facing the Future” each week on WKXL, NHTalkRadio.com (N.H.), which is also available via podcast. Join him and his guests as they discuss issues relating to national fiscal policy with budget experts, industry leaders, elected officials and candidates for public office. Past broadcasts are available here. You can now subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Google Play or through RSS.