CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf was speaking at The Atlantic’s 2014 Economy Summit in Washington and he had a message for the American people: Pain.
CNS News reported:
The United States faces “fundamental fiscal challenges” stemming from the growth in spending for Social Security and major health care programs,” CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf told a gathering in Washington on Tuesday.
The rising cost of those programs leaves Americans with “unpleasant” choices to make, but the sooner they’re made, the better, he said: “So we have a choice as a society to either scale back those programs relative to what is promised under current law; or to raise tax revenue above its historical average to pay for the expansion of those programs; or to cut back on all other spending even more sharply than we already are,” Elmendorf said.
“And we haven’t actually decided as a society…what we’re going to do. But some combination of those three choices will be needed.”
Elmendorf said there are various ways to proceed: “But they tend to be unpleasant in one way or another, and we have not, as a society, decided how much of that sort of unpleasantness to inflict on whom.”
I’ve been beating this drum for over four years now on this blog — I’ve called it the Jenga Economy — but Mr. Elmendorf is correct: “we have not, as a society, decided how much … unpleasantness to inflict on whom.”
The right answer is that you disperse the pain across as wide an area as possible because we are all Americans and we are all responsible for the debt tumor within. The problem is that we have “leaders” who lie to the American people about what is really happening under the surface, we have some that are just plain stupid, and we have others —like Sen. Claire McCaskill — who openly admit they have serious issues.
I do believe a $17 trillion debt is irresponsible. I do believe that. … It’s not like I am such a fiscal hawk that I don’t see that there are needs out there that we need to address. Supporting extending unemployment insurance, all of those things. … I don’t think we can keep our eye completely off that ball. So, some of the people who think, well, you know, deficits don’t matter, and debt doesn’t matter. We have cut our deficit by a lot, and that’s great, but I don’t think it’s responsible to go back to the old way, ’cause you know what the old way was? We said yes to everybody. You know, we want to be loved. That’s why we run for office. …
She wants to be loved? That’s why she runs? Again — she’s said yes to everybody because she wants to be loved.
Unbelievable. You can not make this stuff up.
Leaders do not say yes to everyone. Leaders know that they must make tough decisions and that they will not be loved by everyone. Leaders take it on the chin because they know that what they’re doing is in the long-term interest of those under their command.
It is safe to say that Sen. Claire McCaskill is not a leader. The vast majority of her friends in the Senate are not leaders, and neither are the vast majority of her counterparts in the House. But, like I said, we’re all in some way culpable for what is to come.
The constituents who elected politicians to whisper sweet nothings into their ears are responsible. The American citizen who seemingly prides himself for being an uninformed boob is responsible. Independents who only opt to rhetorically throw stones at both parties are responsible. And yes, yours truly is responsible…in many, many ways that I’d be happy to expand on in the comments section.
Are you prepared for the “unpleasantness” coming down the pike? I am.
Related: The Jenga Economy: Brought to you by the federal government