Editor's note: This guest post was written by Andrew Hicks, blogger for youthinmoderation.org, and the views expressed may not necessarily represent The Centrist Project
We've had it too sweet for too long, and now America's financial appendix is ready to burst. Our national debt approaches $20 trillion, and our leaders only accelerate the issue, every way you cut it. The only solution, no matter how unpleasant, is to increase taxes and decrease government spending. Yet we're left with elected officials who only deal in the version of reality they present to the public
Since realism makes for bad politics, there’s little chance of adopting the responsible approach - at least, not with today’s politics. Republicans deny the necessity of tax revenue and Democrats reflexively increase spending. But what if we were no longer confined to party boundaries?
Even if just four or five independents could band together in the Senate, they would deny either party a majority. Any bill would have to pass through the middle’s scrutiny. No party could “control” Congress and only the pragmatic solutions would survive.
Seem farfetched? Independent voters are on the rise; pandering isn’t going to cut it like it used to. A 2016 study at the Pew Research Center found that 34% of voters identify as independents. Given the right third name on the ballot, independents ought to be able to earn a third of the votes. All these voters have to do is organize.
With the current political landscape, it would be a big change. However, young people are straying from party loyalty further than the generations that preceded them; the same study found 41% independent and 3% undecided millennials. Perhaps the next generation of politicos, fed up with the ineffectiveness of the two parties, will address the national debt when they take office. Here’s what they’ll have to put under the scalpel to do so:
Courtesy of politifact.com
It’s going to be a gory operating room, isn’t it?
Any such reform should be a gradual process, but there are a few obvious necessities. Change the Affordable Care Act, for starters. It was a noble experiment, but the unexpected complications failed it. Republicans are working on their version of a healthcare plan right now, but their idea of reform evokes outcry not just from the public, but even from their own ranks. Governor John Kasich said the new version of the bill is “still unacceptable.”
Whatever it is that they’ve done in Washington isn’t working: by the global standard, American citizens’ extreme costs for such meager benefits are frankly, embarrassing. Healthcare is one issue America will need to make a black and white decision on. The next generation must either rely on the open markets and competition across state lines, or go for the European single-payer approach, but it is clear that a hybrid option does not quite make the cut.
Second, hunt the great white whale of social security. Gradual increases to the recipient age aren’t going to cut it either: it’s got to be something novel. I’m a personal fan of a transition into private accounts that are contributed to automatically from a portion of income, but that’s just one writer’s opinion. There are many options out there, and until we do away with partisanship, we can’t have a real discussion about which is the best.
Next, decrease military spending. This is not to say that we should allow ourselves to be overrun: far from it. Since we’re making budget cuts, however, this is one place we could stand to see a reduction. Our national defense makes up for 43% of the world’s military expense. Even after a reduction, America would have unrivaled military power. (Furthermore, it may be a better investment to move funds from sheer size into development and research.)
Finally, it’s time to simplify the loopholes and confusion in the tax code into oblivion. Between the irregular brackets and exemptions, it would take Vasco Da Gama a week to navigate the documents during tax season.
There are many viable options for decreasing the national debt, but these are the most pressing issues. It’s up to the next generation to make responsible and realistic decisions, regardless of the precedent for inefficiency. Here’s hoping they do as we say we can, not as we do.