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The Time for Fiscal Truth is Now
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By ScottBittle on September 22nd, 2008
A new study shows that the public is capable of facing facts about the nation's fiscal problems – which is a good thing, because they're probably going to have to take a big bite of a reality sandwich in the coming week.
The Changing Expectations study, conducted by Viewpoint Learning as part of the Facing Up to the Nation's Finances initiative (which includes Public Agenda) covers a lot of territory, but this is probably the key paragraph:
The unique Facing Up partnership is focused on the long-term problems facing federal finances: the combination of an enormous national debt, changing demographics and out-of-control health care costs that will eventually eat up the federal budget unless something is done. But I don't know that anyone thought the short-term situation would deteriorate as badly as it has over the last couple of weeks. Consider these facts:
Just to put some of these numbers in perspective, $700 billion is roughly what the government spent on national defense and Medicaid combined in 2006, and more than double what we spent on Medicare.
Congress will want to act on the plan before it goes on recess this Friday. At this point it looks like there's bipartisan support for action but there's also going to be ferocious debate over the details of a bailout plan, as there should be. And where this much money is at stake, our leaders have to be candid with the public. This is not merely going to shape what happens in the financial markets over the next few months. This is going to shape the course of the next presidential administration and the country for years to come. Whoever the next president is, he's going to find his ability to get things done is limited by our financial problems.
What better moment for candor, both from our current leaders and our presidential candidates? The fact that the public is capable of coping with harsh financial facts should be comforting to our leaders. And the fact that the public considers trust to be a prerequisite for action means that honesty isn't just the best policy, it's the only policy that can work.
1 comment on this entry
»A new report finds the main problem in getting the public to deal with our fiscal problems isn't opposition to tax increases or spending cuts -- it's their lack of trust in the government to spend their money wisely.