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Opportunity 08: Advice and Questions for US 2008 Presidential Candidates

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The Brookings Institution describes its Opportunity 08 as a bi-partisan project aimed “to help 2008 presidential candidates and the public focus on critical issues facing the nation, presenting policy ideas on a wide array of domestic and foreign policy questions. The project is committed to providing both independent policy solutions and background material on issues of concern to voters.”

As part of this project, Opportunity 08 has published “America’s Economy: Headed for Crisis.” The report does not address developments that have led us to our current fiscal tribulations; instead, it focuses on what must be done to deal with the impending economic difficulties. The paper gives an overview of our growing challenges and proposes reforms that should be taken now to keep a trying situation from developing into a crisis. Every concerned voter should consider these recommendations; only then will politicians give them their due attention.

According to the paper, “One thing is clear: the status quo is not acceptable. The next President will inherit a fiscally lethal combination of changing demographics, rising health care costs, and falling national savings.”

Another way to look at the size of the problem is to total up the government’s explicit liabilities, such as the national debt, and its implicit obligations, such as future Social Security and Medicare payments. According to the Government Accountability Office, all such ‘fiscal exposures’ have a present value of $50 trillion — almost as much as today’s net worth of all household assets and far more than the commonly cited national debt, which is approaching $9 trillion.”

Fifty.

Trillion.

Dollars.

And politicians promise additional, enormous programs.

Perhaps the most telling statement of the report is the following: “No one can say when all this might end up in a crisis, nor what a crisis would look like. Indeed, there might be no crisis at all — just a long, slow erosion in our nation’s standard of living. In either case, it’s a dismal future, and doing nothing now to avoid it would be an act of fiscal and generational irresponsibility.”

You read that right. The best case scenario, to be achieved if we act responsibly and sacrifice now, is a dismal future. Failure to act now would prove far worse, possibly catastrophic.

Read the report. Become aware of the structural faults within the US economy as well as the authors’ proposed solutions. And remember, this was written by a bi-partisan group.

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