Balanced budgets, debt, and Social Security

Like Most Americans you likely believe the federal government should live within its means and not spend more than it takes in.  You are uncomfortable with our government borrowing more than $1 trillion to meet its overspending just this fiscal year.  You want a balanced budget.  But do you really?  Do you want to pay significantly higher taxes?  If not, how about cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits, Medicaid, and our Armed Forces?

You see, those “Big Four” programs plus interest on the debt (which cannot be cut) equates to 80 percent of the entire federal budget.  If you eliminated the entire 20 percent that remains, you still don’t get to balance.  Just do it anyway you say.  Fine.  Then zero dollars for disease research, no national parks, no federal corrections, zero air traffic controllers, no Pell grants, and I’m just getting started.  There are many hundreds of federal programs and agencies, and every single one has a constituency.

“Our government is nothing more than an insurance company with an army.”  The quote has been attributed to a number of people in the early 20th century.  Who said it first matters less than the fact that it could not be truer.  Thus any discussion about balancing the budget without cutting the “Big Four” is disingenuous, a nice way of saying a big lie.

The kind of honesty this article addresses rarely wins praise.  Americans just don’t want to hear it.  It’s no wonder politicians never level with the American people like this.  There’s no reward.  Not a one would get elected dogcatcher.  Politicians of both parties and voters alike simply say things such as, “cut waste, fraud, and abuse” or “cut the pay of members of Congress.”  To that, I ask you this—if your household budget were completely out of whack and you had tremendous yearly debt, would you resolve it by turning off your two nightlights each night?

The sooner we all have the reckoning we so desperately need, the better the country will be.  The choices are rotten—raise $1 trillion in new tax revenue each year to meet what we are now spending or slash the popular “Big four” programs we all like by $1 trillion to keep our taxes where they are now.  A third option is a combination of the two.  Just adding new spending to the national credit card, which entails borrowing from many foreign countries and then paying added interest, cannot go on in perpetuity.

It sure would be nice if just one question were posed to the presidential candidates by someone in the media about the federal budget deficit and national debt.  And the questioner would have to get tough right away if the standard “we have to go line by line and root out programs that are not working” were the response.

Some of us are old enough to remember Independent candidate Ross Perot in 1992 when he bought 30 minutes in prime time to explain the federal budget deficit (then a mere $300 billion a year) to Americans using easy to understand pie graphs.  While it turns out he was the wrong messenger, he had the right idea and the right message.

The Association of Mature American Citizens (AMAC) understands that Social Security, as just one but perhaps the most important example, must be preserved and modernized.  The program is still stuck in a time when age 62 meant you had three years left to live, as life expectancy was age 65 when the law took effect.  It’s now 85.  Families are having fewer children than decades ago.  Any “head in the sand” approach by any organization or politician or voter simply means accepting everyone’s benefits being slashed over 20% across the board automatically when the trusts funds are depleted in just over a decade.

Thankfully, there is still time to implement AMAC’s Social Security Guarantee without raising taxes on workers, but the window may be closing to achieve that.  Learn more about the plan at



Jeff Szymanski works in political communications for AMAC, a senior benefits organization with 2.1 million members.  He is a frequent contributor here and of articles to draw attention to Social Security’s ailing financial health.

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