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We need to get serious about balancing the budget

By Scott Tibbs, November 10, 2010

The Republican leadership in the House is talking about deep cuts in discretionary spending, along with eliminating earmarks to get the federal budget under control. Reducing discretionary spending will make a dent. Eliminating earmarks, while it is popular politically, will do virtually nothing to get federal spending under control. If Republicans (and President Obama) are serious about getting the deficit under control, we are going to need to take a serious look at entitlement spending.

Over the long term, we need genuine statesmen making the case for reforming Social Security and making individuals more responsible for their own retirement. Social Security is running in the black and has been doing so for a long time, but we are approaching a tipping point where SS will not only start running a loss, but those losses will get bigger and bigger. Newly elected Congressman Todd Young was right when he said that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme.

For a number of reasons, we are going to need to keep the commitment we have made to those already in the system or those who will be entering the system shortly. For younger Americans, we have to explain that the present course is unsustainable and will need to be changed. Democrats will shamelessly demagogue the issue, but Republicans will need to show courage in making the case for reform.

We are also going to have to get Medicaid and Medicare spending under control by reforming both systems. Those are the next two biggest entitlement spending portions of the federal budget after Social Security. Unfortunately, reforming these was made more difficult thanks to George W. Bush and the Republican Congress giving us a brand new federal entitlement program. Because Bush sold out conservative principles, we have a bigger problem to fix than we would have had otherwise. This is a lesson Republicans must learn.

The strength of the Tea Party movement means that now is the perfect time to make the case for other government assistance programs, from food stamps to unemployment, to be devolved to the states. Republicans did a poor job of making the case for this in the 1990's and allowed Democrats to demagogue the issue. Republicans will need to educate the American people and begin to build support both in the general population before we begin making changes. We cannot devolve federal programs until Barack Obama is defeated anyway, but we can use the next two years to make the case for it.

We are on a path to fiscal destruction, and while Republicans have said some good things over the last couple years, it will not be enough. We see in Europe right now what our future will be if we continue on this course, and we cannot let that happen.