WASHINGTON -- The Concord Coalition today praised Congressional leaders and the President for reaching agreement on the details of a plan to balance the budget by 2002, but urged that no time be lost in moving on to the more difficult challenge of preparing Medicare and Social Security for the baby boomers' retirement.
"Our real budget challenge is not about 2002, but 2022 and 2032," said Concord Co-Chair Warren Rudman. "The budget agreement will buy some time, but Congress and the President must not squander this opportunity by declaring victory over the short-term deficit and ignoring the fiscal tidal wave heading toward us when the baby boomers start retiring. The sooner we get to that problem, the better."
"This is not the budget Concord would have written," said Executive Director Martha Phillips. "In fact it is clearly no one's first choice, but that's what happens in the real world of legislative compromise. If the leaders who made this agreement use it as a springboard to address the long-term issues, it will make up for their failure to include items such as means-testing the Medicare Part B premium, and raising the eligibility age."
The Concord leaders expressed support for the bipartisan commission called for in the agreement to address long-term Medicare issues, but cautioned that Medicare is not the only program affected by America's changing demographics and called upon Congress and the White House to expand the commission's scope to include Social Security.
"Medicare and Social Security should not be viewed in isolation," said Phillips. "Any serious look at our long-term budget issues must encompass both programs. A commission must not be used as an excuse for delay, denial, or diversion, but only as a catalyst for action."