Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Procrasti-Nation, Again

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Procrasti-Nation, Again

Article excerpt

Remember "It's the economy, stupid!" - the Clinton team's unofficial slogan for winning election in 1992? Well, the economy is doing just fine, thank you, as Alan Greenspan noted July 22. But now the president and Congress should get James Carville to scribble some new placards for their desks reading: "It's the demographics, stupid!"

Demographics as in too many baby boomers retiring on the payroll taxes of too few next-generationers.

Congress and the White House have gotten so swept up in program funding and tax cutting that they seem oblivious to the demographic whirlwind threatening both tax levels and federal programs early in the next century. Both sides flirted this week with fixes for Medicare. Everyone knows by now that it's on the brink of a ballooning budget deficit. Senate, House, and presidential negotiators passed around like a hot potato legislation to increase premiums for upper- and middle-income beneficiaries, raise the eligibility age from 65 to 67, and add a $5 co-payment for some home health care services. Then old fears of demagoguing surfaced. The fixes were abandoned. And the Medicare crisis was left to be taken up separately and later. This leaves America looking once more like procrasti-nation. We cheered (slightly) when President Clinton, Trent Lott, Newt Gingrich, and the congressional budget shapers unveiled their balanced-budget deal in May. That deal ended two years of bitter combat and put both parties on a path to budget balancing - even though it dodged the hard issues of Social Security and Medicare. Alas, the very factor that made that modest deal possible - big, deficit-shrinking tax revenues from the booming economy - led to the Democrats wanting to enlarge federal programs and the Republicans wanting to grant bigger tax cuts. For two years we have argued that the president and Congress should tackle the hard job of solving the pending demographic problems before cutting taxes and expanding or adding federal programs. …

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