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November 20, 2013

Entitlement reform must be part of federal budget solution

By BILL HAMMOND

The good news for the federal budget: there is finally a conference committee that is looking at the issue. The bad news: it is hard to get Congress to agree on anything these days, let alone the budget.

The big issue is sequestration. Do we, once again, allow huge automatic cuts to take place to control spending?

Sequestration will cause a 2.7 percent reduction in spending beginning in January of next year. Because of the last sequestration, federal spending has actually gone down from year to year for the first time. While that sounds good, these across-the-board cuts without considering the need for individual programs is not a good way to do business.

Democrats aren’t a fan of another sequestration because it makes huge cuts to social programs. Republicans aren’t a fan because of the big cuts to defense spending. Yes, the issue is more complicated, but that is the basic problem.

So what is the alternative to another sequestration? The answer is long-term entitlement reform.

Bank robber Willie Sutton was quoted as answering the question of why he robbed banks by saying, “Because that’s where the money is.” He denied ever actually saying that, but his quote is also the answer of why we need long-term entitlement reform: because that’s where the money is.

Medicare and Social Security are projected to grow by 80 percent over the next 10 years. If a trade could be made to do away with the sequestration and instead pass substantial, long-term entitlement reform, everyone would be better off. I am concerned that Medicare and Social Security won’t be there for my grandchildren, and quite frankly that scares me. We need to fix the financial health of these programs now to ensure their viability for our future generations.

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