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What Matters Most for America - Part 4 of 5: Infrastructure, Fiscal Discipline, and the Aging Population

The infrastructure of the country is deteriorating.  We have enjoyed the benefits of an interstate highway and air transportation system that are barely more than 50 years old.  Our sewer and water systems are older.  These things are the underpinnings of modern commerce and living.  They are decaying.  Just as we can enjoy a new house without making repairs for years, we have enjoyed the benefits of these new modes of transportation.  Unless we reinvest in updating and upgrading them, we will be living with a century-old infrastructure that will break down leaving us gridlocked and uncompetitive.  Maintenance isn’t glamorous, just necessary.  We need to reinvest in the shared assets that make America run.   Most of these are managed by government.

The imbalance of spending versus tax revenue and the resulting growth in deficits and total debt for the United States is a festering long-term problem.  Fiscal collapse is an intangible issue.  Unlike easily seen potholes in a deteriorating highway, fiscal rot only is visible on an accounting ledger.  Governments can get away with spending beyond their means longer than individuals, but not forever.  As spending for social programs (Social Security, Medicare, Affordable Care Act) increases with an increasing older population and the additional of new beneficiaries, the pressure to continue deficit spending will continue. 

We are funding the present by borrowing from the future.  The big problem with that future is the number of people available to pay the bill relative to those getting benefits is going in the wrong direction.  It is a very tough decision to make, but to provide at least a minimal safety net for the most vulnerable, government spending must be curtailed.  There are hard fiscal priorities that we must determine and live by.  Financial responsibility has to become our government’s top priority, otherwise all its other programs cannot be sustained.  The government may not go out of business, but it may inflate its way out of trouble by paying old debts with cheaper, inflated dollars.  It saves itself at the expense of its citizens by using inflation as a hidden form of taxation.   It’s time to “Just Say No” to about 30% of today’s spending and to say “Yes” to about a 10% increase in taxation in order to balance our budget and reduce our debt.  We have been fiscally lazy and paying the price only gets more costly with each passing day.

The aging population is a problem that we have seen coming for a long time.  It was once a long-range problem that is now becoming a current problem.  As the baby boomers enter their golden years, the costs for Social Security and Medicare will rise.  Demands on the health care system will increase when the number of medical professionals may actually shrink.  Alzheimer’s patients requiring constant care will increase.  And, because many seniors have not managed their finances sufficiently to prepare for retirement, demands for increases to Social Security are likely to arise.  There may come a time when America wishes its old people would just die because they cost too much to keep alive. 

We need to develop today more economical ways for seniors to live and to get inexpensive health care.  We need to prepare for a society where, instead of the kids moving back in with the parents, the parents are moving back in with the kids.  We need to determine how health care dollars will be allocated so that we spend less on end-of-life treatments in order to fund care for active lives.  A healthy workforce is more essential to the nation than healthy retirees.  In the future, we will come face-to-face with an inter generational conflict for health care services and benefits.  It will force us to look at euthanasia as an option for those beyond medical help.  Such a debate will rival that of abortion and take many years to resolve.  The time to begin that discussion is now.

This post first appeared on A Centered View Of Our Times, please read the originial post: here

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What Matters Most for America - Part 4 of 5: Infrastructure, Fiscal Discipline, and the Aging Population


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