Mort Zuckerman: Political Leaders Must Deal With the National Debt or Future Generations Will Pay

The American public won’t like it, but entitlement policies must change.

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Without dramatic changes such as these, the cost of government will continue to dwarf revenues by staggering margins. Unless we address these painful issues, we are likely to stumble into yet another financial crisis. Unless we focus on our debts and our deficits, it will be impossible for the United States to achieve the twin goals of full employment and GDP growth while simultaneously reducing deficits to a manageable level. We cannot forget that these deficits are occurring on the eve of the retirement of the baby boomers, which will trigger further trillions of red ink. And that is why so many forecast that GDP growth for the remainder of this decade will be slightly more than 2 percent, by far the lowest in the decades since World War II.

None of the imperatives will be politically popular unless our leadership can persuade the country of how necessary this is.

We simply have no choice but to think about programs that will give us the chance to gain control of our eco­nomic future. It will require real leadership and inspiration to persuade people to do what they know they have to do, even though they instinctively won't like it.

Our political leadership—both parties—is evading these central budgetary problems. Washington keeps fighting for narrow partisan advantage while critical national problems remain unresolved. So far, the politicians have failed to explain how we are going to address our future debt and accept the limits of what the federal government can do. If they fail, we will be saddling the young with huge debts and immense taxes, and the American ethic of believing in a better future for our children will be in jeopardy.

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