There has been a lot of conversation recently about sustainability. This has become a buzzword for “hip and cool” and sensitivity to the environment and care for resources for future generations. Certainly, creating sustainable resources such as water, air, energy and farmland is commendable. One would have to be wasteful to consider other options.
But what about government fiscal sustainability? Case in point: For 60 years, policymakers in Washington, D.C. have discovered more ways to spend other people’s money than is sustainable. You see, Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, and other social programs have stressed the ability of taxpayers to support them. Many among us have been sounding this alarm for some time, but entitled voters tend to keep electing their benefactors. It is a blatant form of bribery — with politicians bribing voters.
When President Bush attempted to make some changes in the actuarial structure of Social Security, opponents accused him of hating old people, not keeping promises made to taxpayers, trying to rip the retirement out from under the elderly, etc.
This issue has now gained traction among the voters because Social Security is in the red. With tens of thousands of Baby Boomers now lining up at the receiving end every year, this program is not sustainable unless radically altered.
The same is true with Medicare. With these same Baby Boomers reaching age 65, the stress on that system will outstrip its ability to support the receivers in just a few short years. With the additional budget busting of the new Health Insurance Bill reducing Medicare payments for an expanding recipient base by $500 billion (that’s half a trillion dollars) over the next 10 years, the program will collapse in on itself. It, too, is unsustainable.
Our porous borders have created a longer line for government largesse, demand for education, incarceration (20 percent of inmates in the U.S. are illegal immigrants), housing, food stamps, WIC and Head Start, among others, and has created a stress on the system that cannot be sustained. The rich do not have enough money to pay for all this, much less some confiscatory percentage of their incomes.
Our foreseeable future is bleak indeed. Writer Mark Steyn recently remarked that those who are expecting the future earners to pay for all this must come to the realization that there is no more future left. We have already spent it! The standard of living we have built in this country will collapse under the weight of all the giveaways.
Who is to blame? Anybody who voted for a policymaker who voted for unbalanced budgets or for any of the following: Medicare and Medicaid, government programs that support irresponsible lifestyles, the Medicare Prescription Drug program, budgets loaded with earmarks, health care reform, increasing the debt ceiling, etc.
It is certainly not the fault of my children and grandchildren. And yet they and their generations will bear the brunt of this irresponsibility without ever casting a single vote for some self-serving, bribe-taking, corrupt politician who plunged future generations into debt in order to buy votes and re-election with pork projects and political payoffs to special interest groups and generous donors.
It seems ethical that the people who made this mess repair it, and soon. But the current Washington crowd has demonstrated a lack of will and ability to create a sustainable Republic. They act like toddlers, unable to accept limits, always wanting more.
The voters under the age of 30 need to rise up and tell their parents and grandparents that they do not intend to be handed the bill for America’s irresponsible spending, borrowing, and legislating.
So, encourage legislative sustainability for the Republic this November — clean out the U.S. Capitol and replace these “children” with adults who know how to make difficult decisions and move the Republic in a direction of fiscal soundness and personal accountability.
The Republic — our Republic — is sustainable only at the hands of the voters.
Jeff Hartline of Mt. Juliet is a former medical practice management consultant currently running full-time for Congress in Tennessee's 5th congressional district.