Politics and Governance

U.S. Federal Budget is a Ticking Time Bomb

Imagine you have a monthly income of $4,000, your rent is $2,000 and the rest is spent on food, energy and education.  Seven years later, your rent and student loans now cost $3,700 a month…and your credit cards are all maxed out.

How do you make ends meet without getting evicted?

It would be difficult for an individual household to manage such a crisis… but what about a government? The federal government is borrowing 40 cents of every dollar it spends, and the Senate hasn’t passed a budget in three years.

And the tipping point for disaster is coming sooner than we think. Social Security and Medicare make up half of federal spending and in seven years 92 percent of federal revenue will be spent on SS, Medicare and interest on the debt. (

When these programs were created, it was understood that the government could not financially support seniors. This is why President Roosevelt made the age of eligibility for Social Security at 65, the average life expectancy at the time.

Today, however, the average life expectancy is 78 years, with many living long past that. With 10,000 Baby Boomers retiring each day and unemployment at 9 percent, we need to slash spending without pulling the plug on senior citizens.

But since most politicians prioritize their re-election over what is in the best interest of the people, they must pay homage to the beneficiaries of these bankrupt programs and continue to borrow money we don’t have to subsidize the basic needs of senior citizens. Those who do take a stand to support a balanced budget amendment could be sincere – or they could be practicing their political rhetoric.

U.S. Senator John Cornyn recently visited the LBJ School and spoke about danger of our national debt.  He has said in the past that we need to put a straitjacket on federal spending and recently advocated for a balanced budget amendment.  But Cornyn’s record doesn’t match his rhetoric, as he has consistently voted to increase federal spending, most notably when he voted for the hugely expensive Medicare prescription drug plan, the largest unfunded spending increase in our nation’s history.

Based upon his voting record, it is hard to know where he stands. Will he, or any politician, have the courage to reduce Social Security and Medicare payments to seniors to ensure the future solvency of those programs?

As young people and future policy makers, we must ask ourselves three hard questions:

Should the taxpayers financially support every senior citizen for 15 to 30 years after retirement, rather than investing in our schools, infrastructure and violence prevention programs?
What responsibility does the individual have to ensure that he or she has saved enough for retirement?
How much longer can we maintain Social Security and Medicare payments at current levels before America is forced to default?
The first step to solving this problem is discussing it. Burying our heads in the sand and pretending that there isn’t a Social Security and Medicare crisis is irresponsible and dangerous.

Second, we need stop wasting and start investing taxpayer dollars. Money spent on research, roads and education is an investment in our future; money spent imprisoning non-violent drug offenders and prosecuting people for marijuana possession is a waste.

And there are billions we can cut from defense without jeopardizing our national security. Defense spending has tripled since 1996 ( and America spends more than China, Russia, the entire EU and Israel combined.

Do we really need to spend $2,300 per citizen on defense when China is spending $91?

Lastly, we need to reform Social Security and Medicare. We can save billions of dollars by raising the retirement age and making Social Security and Medicare need-based programs, like welfare. And young people should have an opportunity to opt-out of these programs so they can start planning their own retirement and avoid being dependent on the government.

Nobody wants to see seniors starve or deny medical treatment to citizens, and we must ask ourselves: How much longer can we borrow from China today to keep seniors alive until tomorrow?

For a visualization of the federal spending and Obama’s proposed cuts, watch this:

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