The United States is currently $21 trillion in debt and counting, making it the country with the most debt in the world. The only other body that comes remotely close to the United States’ debt is the European Union, which is composed of 28 other countries.
At the federal government’s current rate of spending, we can expect the debt to increase by over $1 trillion per year — and that rate is only set to grow. Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare and defense spending comprise the largest items budgeted for the federal government.
Currently, Medicaid and Medicare cost over $1 trillion to fund yearly. This spending is followed closely by Social Security at a figure of $986 billion per year, and the third highest budget item is defense spending at $667 billion, which is budgeted for $716 billion per year.
In the short term, deficit spending actually benefits citizens. It stimulates the economy and provides subsidies for certain industries which provide job security for millions. However, in the long term, the effects are catastrophic. The higher the debt increases, the less the U.S. dollar is worth. The cost of everything rises as the value of the dollar plunges, retirement isn’t guaranteed through Social Security and interest rates will continue to surge which also increases the deficit even further.
The solution is a difficult one and will likely be unpopular. Unfortunately, it comes down to two choices — drastically raise taxes or drastically cut spending. Republicans can’t campaign on raising taxes, and Democrats can’t campaign on reforming and cutting social benefit programs. With that said, there is only one solution that would work — a compromise.
First, legally mandate that everyone must buy health insurance starting at birth. By doing this, the government could shut down Medicaid and Medicare altogether and, instead, subsidize it. This would evenly spread the expenses of the program to all taxpayers. By requiring everyone to buy healthcare and allowing the government to subsidize low-cost health plans, we would cut waste and lower the cost of healthcare overall by introducing competition among providers. That said, there would also be less need for the massive amount of government manpower required to operate the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) which would save billions in taxes.
Next is Social Security. The first solution would be to make it illegal for the government to remove funds from Social Security. Second, a person should not be able to withdraw from Social Security unless they pay into it.
Third, a person can’t qualify for Social Security until he or she turns 70 years old. To be fair to those nearing retirement, this new rule would only apply to people under 60. These relatively small changes to Social Security have the capacity to shave billions in program costs.
The short list of solutions is as such: privatize and subsidize medical insurance for all Americans and eliminate the Medicare and Medicaid program, reduce defense spending by 10 percent and create a retirement-account style Social Security system that only pays out to the people who paid in.
Brandon Brown is a senior psychology major from Laurel, Mississippi.