The federal deficit, it seems, is a lot like that old saying about the weather, everyone talks about it but no one does anything about it.
To put the challenge in focus, William Murphy, Ph.D., who teaches political science and economics at NEIT, put together a group of classes and brought in Jeff Thiebert from the Concord Coalition.
Founded in 1992, the Concord Coalition, based in Arlington, Va., is a non-partisan organization dedicated to advocating fiscal responsibility and fiscally sustainable budget policy.
Thiebert’s goal in his Thursday evening presentation at NEIT was to cultivate a better understanding of the scope of the problem and the challenges of dealing with a growing federal deficit and some of the necessary tradeoffs. He said a solution will require bipartisan support and there will be unhappy people on both sides.
With the gulf between political parties, Thiebert said it is more important than ever for educational presentations like those provided by the Concord Coalition. He believes we will have to lead from below and the public is going to have to start demanding the budget be dealt with. He said political leaders and the political machines are entrenched and the system looks ahead only in two-year increments. “Until the public demands it,” he said, “we’re not going to get there.”
To show the challenges in getting the budget under control, groups of students were given a list of principles and priorities along with a workbook detailing choices that exist when adding to or taking away from components of the federal budget. After an hour of wrestling with the challenge, opinions were divided on most of the choices.
In looking at the budget dilemma and the impact on his future, student Nick Haidemenos said it made him feel a little uncertain. In particular, he said, he wasn't sure how the country would deal with the huge number of older Americans moving into retirement age.
“Not only are the 78-million baby boomers coming,” said, “but they also had kids so there’s a lot more coming and we really need to think now and prepare ahead of time or else we are going to be in an even deeper hole."
Kathleen Warner is one of those baby boomers. At 60 years old she is back in school, going for her bachelors at NEIT so she can do better financially and work longer. As she looks at the economy and Social Security, she says it sort of scares her.
“We’re all told Social Security will last forever, but it takes so many people working to supply money for just one of us not working, so I’m a little pessimistic about it.”
Student Deborah Burbank is a little on the fence about just what she sees in her future. She does think she will have to work longer, save more and prepare for her financial future on her own.