Portsmouth and the University of New Hampshire were honored to host the Concord Coalition's Fiscal Solution Tour on Thursday.
The group's somber message about the need to get our nation's financial house in order stands in stark contrast to the idiot circus we are witnessing in this year's general election.
With Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid underfunded, annual federal spending far exceeding revenues and interest on national debt growing at a rate sure to undermine our nation's future financial stability, we are treated to a campaign in which a major party candidate for U.S. Senate in Delaware is running a commercial where she looks straight into the camera and declares: "I'm not a witch."
We only wish those seeking elective office were speaking about the issues brought to the fore by our Concord Coalition visitors on Thursday.
But they're not.
As Concord Coalition Executive Director Robert Bixby wrote in an op-ed to this paper last Sunday, "Political candidates this fall have spent a great deal of time talking about cutting waste and unnecessary programs that actually make up a small fraction of the federal budget. But the growing costs of three popular programs — Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — are central to the deficits projected for the next 10 years and beyond."
Bixby and his partners on the Fiscal Solutions Tour sound a little like teachers trying to restore order to a political dialogue that offers all the insights of a middle school food fight.
"The Fiscal Solutions Tour," organizers said, "is designed to help Americans think constructively about how to build a stronger economic future by meeting the challenges of unsustainable budget policies, spiraling debt, low savings rates, dangerous reliance on foreign lenders and the growing needs of an aging population."
On hand to define the problem and propose solutions were Bixby, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of The American Action Forum and former director of the Congressional Budget Office; William Novelli, a Georgetown University professor and former chief executive officer of AARP; Isabel Sawhill, a senior fellow of economic studies, Brookings Institution; and David M. Walker, president and CEO of The Peter G. Peterson Foundation and former U.S. comptroller general.
Here are some of the solutions proposed by David Walker of the Peterson Foundation. At the federal level:
- Achieve Social Security reform that makes the program solvent, sustainable, secure and more savings oriented. Measures would include raising the age you can collect on a phased-in basis.
- Reduce the rate of increase in health care costs.
- Ensure that all future health care reforms adequately consider coverage, cost quality and personal responsibility.
- Pursue comprehensive tax reform that makes the system more streamlined, understandable, equitable and competitive while also generating adequate revenues.
- Reduce defense spending.
- At the state and local level, reform pension and health systems to make them reasonable, affordable and sustainable; and rethink the role of state and local government.
"Many of these steps would require public sacrifice, making them easy targets for demagoguery," Bixby wrote in his op-ed piece. "So bipartisan cooperation — unfortunately in very short supply these days — will be essential. Without change, the fiscal problems will only become more difficult and painful to solve. The sooner we take action, the better."
We're flattered The Fiscal Solutions Tour decided to visit Portsmouth and we hope their message was heard far and wide. They appear to have real ideas about how to escape our temporary fiscal insanity.