Friday, November 12, 2010

Deficit Commission

So, the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform has released (November 10, 2010) a Draft Proposal.

And many of us have reacted predictably: But you can't cut <insert my favorite here>!

I say: Bless the Commission! It's about time someone had some guts, before we go off the rails completely.

Of course none of us agrees with everything in the Draft, however absolutely everything should be subject to scrutiny and discussion. Absolutely everything, including and especially anyone's "absolute necessity".

Only then can we actually get down to the difficult - and essential - business of figuring out what, as a country and as a society, our priorities are.

For too long, we have lumped too many things into the category of "It goes without saying. We can't worry about how to pay for it; we simply must do it now!" Whether it's about <social program> or a war; insert your "absolute necessity" here.

The only thing that goes without saying (or should!) is that we do not have an infinite amount of money, time, energy, people or any other resource; we must choose carefully where to place any of them.

Let me pick one sacred cow: Social Security.

Personally, I believe it's critical. I believe we've made important promises (to ourselves!) and we must keep them.

This does not mean that it can't be a subject of discussion; it must be. This large a part of our budget - and our society - absolutely must be discussed, extremely seriously.

And let's be clear-eyed about it. For instance, it's unconscionable to move the goalposts; to change the retirement age for those of us who've already made plans based on the current ages.

However, it is equally unconscionable to make the retirement ages "carved in stone" for all time - the landscape is changing beneath us and we ignore it at our peril. As, for example, our life expectancy changes, we must adapt - perhaps periodically adjust the retirement ages, COLA-like, for each new generation, so they know what rules are, from the start.

And that's just one issue. We have a lot to do; let's - in good faith - get to work.