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WASHINGTON — The Concord
Coalition today released “Key
Questions Voters Should Ask Candidates About the Budget, Social Security and
,” (Requires

Adobe Acrobat Reader
) a brochure proposing questions that citizens and

WASHINGTON — The Concord
Coalition today released “Key
Questions Voters Should Ask Candidates About the Budget, Social Security and
,” (Requires

Adobe Acrobat Reader
) a brochure proposing questions that citizens and
the media should ask candidates for federal office.  Each question features
background information to provide context on these critical issues.

“In 2004, Presidential candidates will face
the bleakest fiscal outlook since 1992.  In this deteriorating fiscal
environment, it is crucial that voters and the media put candidates to the test
to determine if they are offering real solutions or empty rhetoric.  The Concord
Coalition’s ‘Key
‘ brochure can be used as a tool to ensure that candidates
address some of the toughest issues they will face if they are elected,” said
Executive Director Robert Bixby.


Key Questions
Voters Should Ask Candidates About the Budget, Social Security and Medicare


Do you believe that large
sustained budget deficits pose a threat to our nation’s economic future?


deficits don’t matter then there is no reason for politicians and the public to
worry about them. After all, most people would like to have lower taxes and
higher government spending–at least on the programs they think are most
important. That’s why politicians often sound like Santa Claus as they toss
gift-wrapped tax cuts and free lunch spending goodies from their bag of campaign
rhetoric. That’s also why politicians are tempted to downplay the importance of
deficits, particularly in election years. But, it’s a dangerous game. Like being
drawn into an addiction, deficits are easy to acquire and hard to get rid of. 
The reason to be concerned about deficits is that over the long run they really
do matter.


Do you believe that Congress
and the President should agree on a new multi-year plan to balance the budget,
and if so, should that plan exclude the Social Security surplus?


Deficits are back for as far as the eye can see. This alone, is a very serious
development. Of more concern, however, is that politicians in Washington are not
even working on a plan to bring the deficit under control. Instead, they have
indiscriminately cut taxes, increased spending, allowed budget enforcement rules
to expire and ignored the long-term dangers of large chronic deficits. Without
the discipline imposed by a firm fiscal policy goal, deficits are likely to go
higher and last longer than they would otherwise.


What specific spending cuts
would you propose to help balance the budget?


calls for spending restraint are simply a rhetorical means through which
politicians duck making the truly hard choices necessary to restore fiscal
order.   Very few political leaders ask for sacrifice now. Our leaders need to
again make hard choices that will allow us to confront challenges without
passing all the costs to future generations.


The tax cuts passed since
2001 are set to expire at different times over the next seven years.  Do you
believe they should be extended permanently, or should all or some of them be
allowed to lapse?


the prospect of large sustained deficits looming over the future, the boomers
scheduled to begin receiving entitlement benefits in just five years, and the
upper level of future spending on national security still very uncertain,
candidates should say whether it makes sense to consider allowing some of the
tax cuts to expire as one budget option.


Do you believe that tax cuts
alone will stimulate economic growth sufficient to grow our way out of currently
projected deficits?


cuts certainly have their place in fiscal policy, but they are not a free lunch.
At the end of the day, revenues should cover outlays.  Politicians should face
up to the fact that with a future of endless deficits, you have to cut spending
before you cut taxes.


Do you support the “Do
Nothing Plan” for Social Security? If so, why? If not, what steps would you take
to close the program’s long-term funding gap?


that a candidate promised to introduce legislation called “The Social Security
Do Nothing Plan.” Under this bill, promised retirement benefits would be cut by
16 percent for today’s 30-year-olds, by 29 percent for today’s 20-year-olds and
by 35 percent for today’s newborns. Alternatively, payroll taxes would suddenly
go up by 34 percent in 2042. With either choice, we would still need to borrow
trillions of dollars to pay benefits. How many candidates would campaign for
office with such a plan? Probably none, and yet  the most popular reform plan in
Washington is still the “Do Nothing Plan.”


Medicare is in worse shape than Social Security. Costs
are projected to more than double over the next decade, before most of the baby
boom generation qualifies for benefits. These costs make the program
unsustainable. How do you propose to make Medicare affordable?


care costs in this country are rapidly growing and the total cost of Medicare is
rising along with them.  When combined with Social Security, the two programs
are projected to eat up nearly half of all total federal income tax dollars by
the time today’s newborns turn forty.   It is time for politicians to stop
ignoring this impending fiscal crisis and to start explaining what they will do
to fix it.


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