U.S. Financial Stability Requires Action on Medicare
The "demands imposed by the retirement of millions of baby boomers will consume the federal budget and blight the prospects of the next generations" without efforts to address problems with the long-term financial stability of Medicare and other entitlement programs, columnist David Broder writes in the Washington Post.
According to Broder, Senate Budget Committee Chair Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and ranking member Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) on Wednesday will hold a hearing to make "the case, through expert testimony, that a policy of inaction, looking the other way, is dangerous to the country's fiscal health."
The senators have proposed a bill that would establish a 16-member task force, "whose recommendations to the president and Congress chosen next November would be guaranteed to receive quick consideration," to address the issue, Broder writes. The task force would include lawmakers from both parties and representatives of the administration, with the secretary of Treasury as chair, according to Broder.
Under the legislation, 12 of the 16 task force members would have to approve recommendations, which "would be translated into bill form and given a fast track to a final vote in both the House and Senate, with a requirement of 60% support for it to go to the president," Broder writes.
However, neither Vice President Dick Cheney nor House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) supports the bill, and, "without their backing, prospects seem dim," Broder writes, adding, "If I had the power to summon all 16 of the people running for president to be in one place, I would want them" at the hearing on Wednesday because the problems with the long-term financial stability of entitlement programs "will haunt the next president -- unless at least the first steps to deal with it are taken now" (Broder, Washington Post, 10/30).