Daub represented Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District in the House of Representatives from 1981-1989 and served as mayor of Omaha from 1995-2001. Hemphill is a senior at Hastings College and a member of the millennial organization The Can Kicks Back.
Our $17 trillion-and-growing national debt is devastating the country’s ability to provide for our next generation. If our leaders fail to address our fiscal dysfunction, future generations face an uncertain economic outlook, with the potential of higher taxes, higher unemployment and a lower standard of living.
To ensure our country’s fiscal soundness, our leaders need to adopt a balanced approach to reduce our federal deficit, one that takes into account the relative burdens borne by each generation. Such an approach would address the fundamental problems of existing fiscal policies that have done little to control our debt and deficit.
Any plan large enough to put our debt on a downward path as a share of the economy must include $2.4 trillion in additional deficit reduction over the next 10 years. This objective would be accomplished through a two-pronged approach: overhauling our tax system and reforming our entitlement programs.
Our leaders must understand the true size and future impact of our fiscal imbalance and how policy changes will both harm and benefit various generations. The next generation faces the possibility of inheriting an economy that is in worse shape than the one given to its parents if our leaders fail to comprehend the urgency of this issue.
The country’s ability to pay for its existing promises, as well as investments in the future, is in jeopardy because of our ballooning debt. Washington’s recent deficit-reduction strategies (e.g., the across-the-board “sequestration spending cuts”) have been rushed and reckless.
Policies that fail to make reforms to entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security — the real drivers of the debt — are ineffective in achieving long-term deficit reduction. Instead, dramatic cuts to funding of non-defense discretionary sectors such as education, infrastructure and research have been especially hard hit by cuts, even though they contribute minimally to the debt.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the United States can expect to spend $5.4 trillion on interest payments on the national debt over the next decade and $847 billion in 2023 alone. No matter if you are a Democrat or a Republican, these numbers are alarming.
Proposing a plan that is generationally equitable is an unfamiliar approach for Washington, as politicians are loath to call for shared sacrifice from middle-aged Americans who tend to vote in higher numbers. Congress must alter its path immediately and can do so by passing a proposal championed by The Can Kicks Back organization that would restore generational accounting analysis in order to ensure policy changes don’t adversely affect one age cohort more than others.
Now is not the time to kick the consequences to the next generation but, instead, to share the sacrifice among all Americans.
The longer our leaders delay, the more dramatic and disruptive changes will be. Both parties must be willing to compromise and to put their political differences aside, as the status quo is simply untenable. Our leaders in Washington must find common ground and solve this problem; they cannot pass it on to future generations.
The two of us are making it our mission to ensure future generations will have a country that is fiscally stable.
We are hopeful our leaders in Washington, including Nebraska Sens. Deb Fischer and Mike Johanns, will show leadership on this issue.