Alice Rivlin: Reducing the Federal Debt Requires the Courage to Cut Spending and Increase Taxes

The former budget chief says federal debt is largely attributable to costs of an aging population.

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Alice Rivlin, who is happy to call herself a "budget scold," warns that the rising federal debt is going to be "a real tsunami if we don't get ahead of it." But putting the federal budget back in balance without stalling a still-fragile economy is a huge challenge. We can start, Rivlin says, by trimming outmoded federal programs and increasing revenue over the long term by raising the retirement age for Social Security and means-testing Medicare benefits. "We can't get out of this problem without doing both spending cuts, especially slowing the growth of entitlement, and tax increases."

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Former Budget Chief Alice Rivlin

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Rivlin, a Harvard-trained economist and Brookings Institution senior fellow, is the founding director of the Congressional Budget Office and a former director of the White House Office of Management and Budget.

The U.S. News podcast series, Leadership for the Next Decade, explores the ideas, innovations, and solutions that will inspire America in the future. Moderated by U.S. News Editor Brian Kelly, the podcasts feature exclusive interviews with leaders across the spectrum, from education, business, art, science, and medicine to government, public service, and philanthropy.