Plenty of interesting speakers and panel discussions at day one of our Corporate Voices for Working Families annual meeting yesterday. Jane Swift, former Governor of Massachusetts, and William Spriggs, PhD, Professor and Chair, Department of Economics, Howard University, gave some perspective on how an Obama or McCain administration would deal with a range of issues, including education and the economy.

And we heard from keynote presenters Debbie Marriott Harrison and Les Brorsen. Debbie is Senior Vice President, Government Affairs, Marriott International, and Les is Americas Director, Office of Public Policy, Ernst & Young.

Then we heard from Isabelle Sawhill, Stuart Butler and Robert Bixby. They go around the country these days spreading the word to those willing to listen about the coming economic crisis linked to federal budget deficits and the large part of the budget now committed to so-called entitlements, with Social Security and Medicare heading the list. Each comes from a very different policy perspective. Sawhill is a Senior Fellow at the liberal Brookings Institution, Butler is with the conservative Heritage Foundation and Bixby is with the Concord Coalition, a group that really focuses on fiscal responsibility in government.

Each have come to the same conclusion. This country is heading for big trouble — and it is trouble that those of us working today are passing on to our children and theirs. They start with this premise, as outlined in some of the material they hand out.

“The next president will face crucial decisions about our nation’s fiscal policy. To begin with, he will take charge of a government that is spending over $400 billion more than it takes it.”

And that’s bad. But here comes the real problem.

“The baby boomers’ retirement, starting this year, ushers in a permanent shift to an older population — and a permanent rise in the cost of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, which already comprise 42 percent of the federal budget.”

Add in a few bucks for national defense, and, well there isn’t much left. And when you see the numbers and the costs over time — it’s a wake-up call. Reduce spending. Raise taxes. Change substantially the nature of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid.

As Bixby says, “It’s a moral issue. It’s about what we leave to our children.”

And the time to do something is now.


by Rob Jewell