The most recent CBO Report exposes the political irrationality of the American electorate. Their projections show federal debt as a share of GDP will hit 109% in 2021 and 190% in 2035.
Considering the grim financial realities, public opinion becomes somewhat baffling. Consider this CBS poll where 53% of Americans generally view Medicare as requiring fundamental changes, but, in the very next question, 58% view continuation of the status quo as the best future set up for Medicare.
Given the clear contradiction in those public opinion results, along with the hyperbole used to attack Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R – WI) ultimately modest legislative proposal, it is hard to be optimistic about the political chances for serious entitlement reform.
In light of the poll results, it is obvious why politicians from both parties are eager to punt the issue to the next election cycle. Those who vaguely understand that America has a serious deficit problem still can’t ascertain the immediacy of its threat. While the standard line of warning over the debt problem has ineffectively pointed to the financial future of our children and future generations, 2021 is only ten years away. The US faces a Greek-level crisis within 10 or 20 years. This time frame is much more immediate than commonly recognized.
Political rhetoric and pandering threatens to dominate the deficit debate for the foreseeable future. The inevitable tax increases versus spending cuts dispute will pervade the discussion on Capitol Hill over any debt ceiling increase. In evaluating the debate, the public should consider the CBO’s future revenues and outlays projections which show our government suffers from a spending problem and not from a lack of revenue.
When an expressive interest in entitlement preservation dominates public opinion, it’s practically impossible to address the realistic alternatives at hand. In a decade we won’t have the luxury of choice.