I’ve spent the past couple of months listening to political candidates in a variety of formats. I like most of them as people, but I am struck by how thin our political discourse can be.
Consider the federal purse. Politicians are quick to zoom in and focus on specific programs they’d like to trim. Cut the budget. Easy. Case closed. But what’s missing from that simple narrative is math.
Where is the real savings? What’s the cost right now and over the next few decades?
Three issues that jump out at me are higher education, immigration and health care.
A recent study by Goldman Sachs found that young people carrying huge student loans are purchasing fewer homes. As noted by The Washington Post’s Wonkblog: “Only a small share of young adults -- 6.6 percent -- are borrowing sums that exceed $50,000. But they carry a disproportionate share of the debt.”
And it’s not just fewer houses being purchased — it’s less buying of everything. This next generation is burdened with more than $1 trillion in student loans; the very same cohort we expect to pay for my generation’s retirement.
According to Pew Social Trends: The Millennial generation is “entering adulthood with record levels of student debt: Two-thirds of recent bachelor’s degree recipients have outstanding student loans, with an average debt of about $27,000. Two decades ago, only half of recent graduates had college debt, and the average was $15,000.”
So cuts in higher education “save” money — unless you look at the entire economic picture. The case should be made by citizens about why it’s sometimes smarter for the federal government to spend more money, not less, on key priorities. Educating the next generation, the one that’s going to pay all the bills, ought to be one of those areas where spending more now might save us all money down the road.
The economic impact of immigration is just the opposite. The same folks who would cut federal budgets want the federal government to spend even more money to secure the borders. But we are already spending record amounts. The federal government spends more on border enforcement than it does on the combined budgets of the FBI, DEA, Secret Service, US Marshals Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Money is not going to “solve” the border issue. (more…)