The role of government is a hotly debated issue these days. On Wednesday night, I heard candidate after candidate in the Republican presidential debates talk about getting big government out of our lives.
I wonder though while many Americans may agree on the surface, would they still feel the same if government services stopped or were even reduced. Are fewer teachers the answer? No Social Security? A smaller military?
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Senator Tom Coburn, Oklahoma’s version of “Mr. Chips Goes to Washington.” An idealist for sure, and as far as I can tell, unwavering in his own disdain for the largess of the federal government. First elected to the House in the 90’s, he has preached a pretty simple message. Pay as you go and don’t borrow from future generations to fund today’s programs.
As I see it, our budget problems are pretty simple to identify, if hard to fix. For decades the expansion of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid was financed by shrinking defense spending. After 9/11 and two wars, defense spending has exploded, while entitlement programs’ costs also continue to rise with our aging population and uncontrolled health care costs. Add in the Bush tax cut earlier this decade and an unfunded drug entitlement for seniors, and our budget deficit has exploded.
That’s my diagnosis, and here is Dr. Coburn’s cure, and true to his medical background, he promises that ‘this may hurt a little.’
Take a look at our conversation. I am curious what you think.