Building a Better Future
The first in a series of ten NLC co-sponsored meetings focusing on how the aging of the population will affect public policies took place in Norman Oklahoma on Saturday, January 24th, Building a Better Future: An Exercise in Hard Choices.
The sessions are intended to provide citizens with the opportunity to learn more about Social Security, Medicare, and the federal budget and to discuss these issues among themselves and with their elected officials and other experts.
The National League of Cities is one of 25 organizations participating in this high-profile project. The project is co-sponsored by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget and American Express Financial Advisors.
Approximately 240 people attended the day-long session in Norman, which was co-hosted by the University of Oklahoma (OU). NLC Past President Mark Schwartz planned to join OU President David Boren to kick-off the meeting, but, unfortunately, was delayed out of town and was unable to get back to Norman in time.
During the morning, participants heard speakers discuss how changes in the economy and the population over the coming decades will affect the federal budget. A second panel of speakers explored how federal programs, particularly Social Security and Medicare, might have to change to respond to the changing economic and demographic conditions.
In the afternoon, participants completed the Exercise in Hard Choices.
Twenty-five groups completed the exercise. The analysis of their decisions shows that participants:
* Prefer to keep the federal government at its current size (19 percent of GDP),
* Favor some form of individual accounts in a reformed Social Security or retirement income program,
* Would control the growth of Medicare costs either through a voucher (defined-contribution) approach or through rigorous incremental reforms (including raising the eligibility age to age 70), and
* Would cap the growth of Medicaid costs and reduce all other spending by about 10 percent.
Participants were asked to list in order of preference which taxes they would support increasing if necessary to keep the budget balanced. …