I just listened to this over the last couple of days in my car and
thought some folks here might find it worth listening to. The folks
on the panel represent a remarkable collection of experts - not
all of whom agree, of course, and some of whom present some ideas
that I, personally, found rather distasteful. But all of it is
It's just a little dated in that they do discuss the then-impending
expiration of the 2001 tax cuts, but given that they've mostly just
kicked the can down the road by a couple of years, that's not much
of a loss.
National Debt: The Threat and Potential Solutions
David Walker, Former U.S. Comptroller General; Former Head,
U.S. Government Accountability Office
Robert L. Bixby, Executive Director, The Concord Coalition
Michael Boskin, Ph.D., Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution; Professor of
Economics, Stanford University; Chairman, President George H.W. Bush's
Council of Economic Advisors
Isabel Sawhill, Senior Fellow, The Brookings Institution
Tom Campbell, Visiting Professor of Economics and Law, Chapman
University; Former Director of Finance, State of Calfornia; Former
Member of the Joint Economic Committee, U.S. Congress - Moderator
We are inundated with facts and figures that support the argument that
the U.S. government is headed toward fiscal crisis, yet we rarely read
or hear a discussion of how such a crisis can be avoided. Experts with
years of front-line experience in the fiscal jungle of Washington share
their ideas on what steps should be taken now to place the nation on a
sustainable course of fiscal responsibility.
This program was recorded in front of a live audience at The
Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on September 23, 2010
I wish the panel had included more numbers to illustrate their
adjectives! Some of the verbiage in the link below actually detracts
from the facts presented: the top 5% pay 50% of taxes collected.
One of the problems we face as a voting population is that the facts -
even big, summary facts - are not widely known, or if known, then
apparently people would rather substitute their personal biases (a
dangerous condition), than observe the facts. Looking at various
numbers I make it that over 50% of Federal expenditures are in the
categories of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Safety Net.
Recently, I've asked various people what the biggest slice of the
budget is. Most have immediately replied "Military." In fact, Defense
and security are about 20%, and we are engaged in two land wars as
well a very heightened security. (One replied, "The national debt" - I
almost laughed in their face, but recognized that at least they were
Do you know where to get data on how much is paid into medicare/
medicaid as contrasted to how much is paid out? Social security is, I
believe, floating around break-even (until the boomers begin drawing
in larger numbers).
Wish I hadn't asked. Thank you for the link - it got me started
looking into the whole mess - and it is a mess. "Who pays for what"
involves various layers of people, public and private sectors,
determining just that, and from a brief overview it looks more
complicated than the tax code. Wikipedia also has data.
On Medicare and Medicaid --
elderly parent, users of Medicare and Medicaid do not suffer nearly
the torture as users of the federal system for collecting taxes.
(Medicare Part D, prescription drug coverage maybe excepted.) Of
course both could be better.