NEW YORK, March 25 For journalists covering today's release of the report of the trustees of Social Security and Medicare assessing the fiscal health of the government's two biggest benefit programs (combined approximately one third of the federal budget), the authors of a popular book on the federal budget say asking the "right" questions is key. One key question: Are America's leaders so immersed in short term political positioning that we have lost the ability to chart our nation's long-term fiscal future?
The trustees' report is likely to give a new date by which the programs are likely to run into trouble, but Scott Bittle and Jean Johnson, authors of "Where Does the Money Go? Your Guided Tour to the Federal Budget Crisis" published by HarperCollins, say there are even bigger questions we should be focused on. In the book, the authors lay out six reality check points to keep in mind when thinking about how to address the larger federal budget crisis, including:
"Reality No. 1: There really is no time to lose...Postponing discussions about the problems facing Social Security and Medicare won't make them go away. No matter which kinds of solutions we choose, they will be easier financially and politically if we start now."
"Reality No. 2: We have a short-term problem and a long-term problem - we need to address them both. Nearly every year for nearly four decades, the U.S. government has spent more money than it takes in, and finding a way to balance the budget going forward is the central short-term issue. But it's not enough. We also have to face up to the longer-term problem of how to pay for Social Security and Medicare for the aging boomers. To our way of thinking, we simply have to get going on both of these problems - they're interrelated and intertwined."
The authors are available for comment on today's Trustees' report.
SOURCE Public Agenda