Our growing national debt requires honest, substantive discussions about entitlement reform. The core drivers of the debt are entitlement spending, mainly Medicare and Social Security, and a more rapidly aging population. To dissect the complex issues and explore possible solutions in a spirit of civility, former Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell and former Senator Judd Gregg participated in a public forum in June 2013. Monitor editor John Yemma served as moderator while Monitor Washington correspondent Gail Chaddock laid out the framework of the entitlements debate.
Governor Rendell and Senator Gregg addressed the issues from their vantage point as co-chairmen of the Fix The Debt Campaign, a non-partisan coalition to put the nation on a better fiscal and economic path. The group shares a common belief that the growing national debt threatens future prosperity and requires a sustained bipartisan effort to come to grips with the key cost drivers.
A consensus was reached on a number of major points:
- We need to protect the vulnerable elements of society with a safety net, but reduce the rate of growth of entitlements.
- Abrupt program changes would be disruptive and counterproductive. Phasing in change over five or more years makes greater sense
- Limiting entitlement growth will require greater means testing for Medicare and Social Security recipients.
- Social Security is much easier to fix than Medicare because there are fewer moving parts. Social Security payments can be adjusted by gradually raising the qualifying retirement age and changing the consumer price index formula.
- Fundamental tax reform is definitely necessary to address fairness, as well as to generate significant additional revenue. Spending cuts should take precedence over revenue increases by a 2.5 to 1 ratio
- Health care reform is very complex issue with many moving parts, but the delivery system has to offer quality care without bureaucratic rationing. Seeking greater efficiency, less waste in government oversight and bending the health cost curve are important objectives
- The Affordable Care Act should be amended to encourage health care providers to pursue options in a competitive marketplace and give participants a bigger stake in the outcomes. In fixing health care, bottom-
up improvements work better than top-down, federally mandated changes. Shared savings will evolve if Washington allows more flexibility and experimentation at the local level.
- Elected officials must find a balanced way to improve old age security, deficit reduction, and economic growth
Former New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg and former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell covered key aspects of the topic, including the current realities, reform goals and discussed how we can achieve those goals.
Governor Ed Rendell urges us not to avoid action because we are seeing short term deficit reduction. We are facing critical debt issues 20 to 30 years out.
Senator Judd Gregg tells what would happen if we had a political “deal” on the debt and we got our fiscal house in order.
Senator Gregg explains how we need a comprehensive solution including reforms to entitlements and tax policy. Can we get this kind of agreement? Yes we can!
Senator Judd Gregg and Governor Ed Rendell find common ground on the issue of entitlement reform