By Ernie Over, County10.com Managing Editor
(Lander) – Lander Rotarians were urged Wednesday to “ask the hard questions” and to “demand realistic solutions from politicians” to solve the national debt crisis. Paul W. Hansen, the Rocky Mountain Regional Director of the non-partisan Concord Coalition, summed up the national problem with simple arithmetic. “The United States spends $3.6 trillion a year while bringing in only $2.5 trillion in revenues. That creates a $1.1 trillion deficit. It’s not sustainable,” Hansen said.
Hansen said the country’s debt at $15 trillion is now greater than our Gross Domestic Product for the first time. As a solution, Hansen said the approach taken by the Simpson-Bowles Commission would be a good start, combining budget cuts with increased revenues:
“We can’t get there unless we deal with entitlements because of the demographics,” Hansen said. Using a PowerPoint slide to illustrate his point, Hansen said in 1960 there were five people paying into Social Security for every one person receiving benefits. Today, that ratio has slipped to 3 to 1 and, by 2029 it will be 2 to 1.
He also advocated reform of the tax code, lowering rates to make it simpler but requiring everyone to pay and ridding the tax code of loopholes and tax breaks.
Acknowledging that there are no easy solutions to solving the crisis, Hansen said a bipartisan compromise is needed. He said the only way to get there is with public engagement and understanding of the wider issue. “We need to do it now and make hard decisions,” he said. “And you should demand such action from the people running for Congress.”