The Fiscal Wake-Up Tour came to Madison Wednesday to inform the inheritors of the nation�s growing budget deficit and economic problems of the need for change.
According to the four speakers touring the nation, the young people of today and future generations of America will inherit the financial troubles of the nation, and if something is not done to change the state of the economy, the country will experience a severe economic downturn.
The speakers of the tour include comptroller general of the United States David Walker; executive director of The Concord Coalition Robert Bixby; Brian Riedl, senior budget analyst in federal budgetary affairs for The Heritage Foundation; and Paul R. Cullinan, research director of The Brookings Group.
�Changing course requires the American people to be involved,� Bixby said. �That is where the Fiscal Wake-Up Tour comes in.�
The speakers said there are many changes that need to be made to control the costs that will skyrocket for future generations, the biggest issues being the Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid programs.
�This is the greatest economic challenge of our era, and the reason that we come to college campuses is because your generation is the one that will get this dumped in your laps,� Riedl said.
Walker said in an interview with The Badger Herald before the lecture that the United States is spending a lot more money than it is taking in. He said many government programs need to be altered before anything will get better.
�We�re building up debt and related interest costs,� Walker said. �And it is going to get a lot worse in the next few years if we don�t reform Social Security, if we don�t reform Medicare and Medicaid, if we don�t reform the tax system.�
With 77 million baby boomers retiring in the next few years, the cost of Social Security is going to go through the roof, Riedl said. The problems are long term, he said, and there is the possibility of major unprecedented economic problems if we don�t solve them. However, the solution will not be easy to find.
�If we were to raise taxes just to pay for the things that we promised our parents and grandparents, we would have to permanently raise taxes by $12,000 per household,� Riedl said.
He also said that if the solution were to be cutting other government programs, every other government program would have to be cut just to pay for the programs that support senior citizens. One hundred percent of the nation�s budget would have to go to these programs.
Cullinan said the government must think seriously about restructuring the age-related programs.
�We�re not saying get rid of them,� he said. �We are saying let�s put these programs into a review mechanism that makes us weigh the costs and benefits of providing this level of benefits in this form to these people versus other things that we might see as having equal or greater weight.�
Sixty-two percent of the nation�s budget is on autopilot, Walker said. This means the federal government spends whatever it needs. The money goes toward interest on the debt of the nation, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, civilian and military pensions and health care.
�The other 38 percent [of the budget] pays for everything that the Founding Fathers intended for the country,� Walker said. �These things are getting squeezed.�
The Founding Fathers intended for the national budget to cover programs such as national defense, homeland security, the judicial system, the postal service and the executive office of the president.