No More Patience on the National Debt, Federal Budget Deficit

The wait, wait, then obfuscate, approach to politics has to go, especially when it comes to the debt.

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I’m tired of being patient. Yea, it may be a virtue; but it’s also threatening my future.

After receiving a good deal of criticism for his failure to deal with entitlement reform, President Obama took to the lectern Tuesday to joke about the impatience of Washington. “Part of the challenge here is that this town--let’s face it, you guys are pretty impatient,” Obama quipped. “If something doesn’t happen today, then the assumption is it’s just not going to happen. Right?” [Read more stories about the deficit and national debt.]


Sadly, it’s become much more than an assumption. As New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie explained in a speech yesterday at the American Enterprise Institute:

What that means in Trenton, and what I suspect it means in Washington also, is this. It means we are going to drag our feet for as long as we can until we hope it dies a natural death because God knows we don't want our fingerprints on it for murdering it, but we also don't have the guts to do it. . . Ladies and gentlemen I think it's time for some impatience.

My generation cannot afford to wait any longer because America’s creditors aren’t willing to wait forever. Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare, the main spending drivers behind our debt, are on pace to grow substantially for the foreseeable future. They don’t even represent the main problem. Nick Gillespie and Veronique de Rugy explain in a new article that the primary budgetary threat is our growing interest payments. They point to a CBO projection that over the “next 70 years, public money spent on interest will grow from 1.4 percent of GDP (or $204 billion in 2010 dollars) to almost 41.4 percent of GDP (or $27.2 trillion in 2010 dollars).” [Take the U.S. News poll: Is Obama right on entitlements?]

Yes, you read that correctly--$27.2 trillion. With a T.

So forget patience. My generation needs to force politicians to toss out the old playbook--one in which politicians ignore the unpopular problems, instead focusing on, as Chris Christie calls it, “the candy of American politics.” High-speed rail, green technology, expanded internet access, all great, but it won’t matter unless someone steps up with the guts to deal with our debt.

The wait, wait, then obfuscate, approach to politics has to go. And I think young adults are just the generation to do it.

The under-30 crowd is becoming a dominant political voice around the globe. Time magazine has an article today explaining that the underlying feature of the Middle East’s recent upheaval is a population where 60 percent are under 30 years old. They cite a recent survey of Middle Eastern youth that finds “the No. 1 wish of the young in nine countries was to live in a free country.”

Now let me be clear, I’m not calling for a violent regime change or even a mass youth movement of any kind, I use the example to simply show that young adults have the power to change politics. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels clearly recognized the strain of liberty that runs in young adults. In his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference last week he laid out an “assignment [for] this generation of freedom fighters.” He said we are “tasked to rebuild not just a damaged economy, and a debt-ridden balance sheet, but to do so by drawing forth the best that is in our fellow citizens.” [ See a slide show on 10 GOP frontrunners for 2012.]

We don’t need to be violent. In fact, we must be the opposite; we must show that our path is the one of hope.

But hope, like patience, only gets you so far. If President Obama is not going to lead us in creating solutions to these problems, then conservatives must be bold in their approach. They must be hopeful in word but decisive in action. [ See photos of the Obamas behind the scenes.]

Boldness will require, once again, tossing out the old playbook that says talking about Social Security and Medicare reforms is akin to political suicide. Christie said yesterday, “here is the truth that no one is talking about: you’re going to have to raise the retirement age for Social Security. Oh I just said it and I’m still standing here! I did not vaporize.”

Such honesty is hard to come by in a Washington that takes a wait-and-see or a you-first approach to governing. The time for such games is over. Waiting is no longer a virtue young adults should hold dear in our politicians, our generation must instead demand action.