Friday, December 5, 2008

Should Americans bail out the government?

Bob Bixby of the Concord Coalition comes through with a very good Washington Post op-ed on the demands Congress is placing on the Big Three automakers in exchange for a bail-out, and how citizens should place the same kinds of conditions on Congress itself as the government works its way through its staggering long-term budget obligations. Some highlights:

Pelosi and Reid declared that the American people "deserve to see a plan that is accountable to taxpayers and that is viable for the long-term," with "significant sacrifices and major changes to [the automakers'] way of doing business."

These sound conditions should be applied to the federal budget as well. Unfortunately, though, there is no special guardian of future generations to make such demands. That job belongs to our elected leaders. They, too, must demonstrate significant sacrifices and major changes to their way of doing business. After all, they share responsibility for the nation's future just as the Big Three executives share responsibility for the future of the auto industry.

The automakers are, at last count, asking for $34 billion in government aid, in exchange for which Congress is demanding concrete "proposals to address the payment of health care and pension obligations." But according to the 2008 Social Security and Medicare Trustees Reports, the government's long-term pension and health care shortfalls total $13.6 trillion for Social Security, $34.4 trillion for the trust fund portion of Medicare, and probably a similar amount for the general revenue funded portions.

In other words, the federal government has similar problems to the Big Three, only several thousand times larger. Should Americans demand that Congress put together a plan?

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