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America's Future

What Should Our Budget Priorities Be?

Tony Wharton

16 pages
Kettering Foundation Press

America is slowly coming out of a long recession. Unemployment, after peaking at 10 percent in 2009, has fallen below 8 percent; more new homes are being built, although just gradually. Despite the heavy blow we've taken in the last few years, the US economy is very large and still growing...

We have significant resources, but they are finite. What direction should we take?

This issue guide offers three possible options to consider:

Keep Tightening Our Belt

Though painful, the sequester (mandatory across-the-board budget cuts) showed that we can get by with less. We should continue cutting gradually to bring down the deficits, shrink the national debt, and let the private sector drive the recovery.

Invest for the Future

We are making progress on the deficit. We need to make some adjustments to entitlements, but now is not the time to slash programs; it may result in hobbling the recovery. Instead, we should make strategic expenditures and grow the economy, which in turn will shrink the deficit.

Tame the Monsters

The steady growth of defense, Social Security, and Medicare/Medicaid are the main drivers consuming the federal budget...Social Security and Medicare, in turn, should be need-based and self-sustaining. We should get away from the whole concept of "entitlement," which is bankrupting those programs. We also should reform and simplify the tax code.

Author Bio
Tony Wharton is a former newspaper reporter who has written about public policy issues and deliberation for more than 20 years. He was the editor of “Journalism as a Democratic Art: Selected Essays by Cole C. Campbell,” a 2012 publication of Kettering Foundation Press. He and his family live in Richmond, Virginia.