Twenty years ago a bipartisan commission on entitlement and tax reform headed by Senators J. Robert Kerrey (D-Neb.) and John C. Danforth (R-Mo.) reached a strong consensus that “current trends are not sustainable.”
In a new guest column in The Washington Post, Danforth and Kerrey – a former co-chair of The Concord Coalition – reaffirm that troubling conclusion and observe that fiscal issues were largely ignored on the campaign trail this fall
“We still have a structural mismatch between entitlement promises and revenues,” they write. “Population aging and rising health care costs, the basic dynamics that we warned about 20 years ago, remain a threat to fiscal stability.”
They note that while there have been some positive short-term developments, “the passage of time, the failure to take more ambitious actions and the enactment of new obligations have combined to limit our choices and placed the government in a more difficult position to address the challenges than it was in 20 years ago.”
The federal debt is now much higher, and the large baby boom generation has begun to leave the work force, rapidly boosting enrollment in Social Security and Medicare.
“We’re placing a growing burden on future workers and investing less in the economy that will be called upon to support that burden,” Kerrey and Danforth warn. They call for major reforms that will alter the long-term trend lines. Their conclusion:
“We still believe such changes can happen. For the sake of a stronger economy for future generations, they must. But we can’t wait another 20 years.”