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Mar 31

Taking Back Our Fiscal Future

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The National Press Club
529 14th Street NW
Washington DC 20045

RSVP at http://onlinepressroom.net/brookings/new,
or by calling 202-797-6105

Unsustainable deficits in the federal budget threaten the health and vigor of the American economy.  In this public event, co-hosted by the Brookings Institution and The Heritage Foundation, some of the nation's top economists and budget experts present a new paper arguing that the first step toward restoring budget responsibility is to reform the budget decision process so that Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid-the major drivers of escalating deficits-are no longer on auto-pilot.

When the next president and congress take office in January 2009, they will face one crucial question that has been almost absent from the current election campaign: how to close the enormous gap between projected federal spending and revenues. Current deficits are relatively small when viewed in historical perspective: $163 billion or 1.2 percent of GDP in fiscal 2007. However, projected increases in spending for Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security will soon create unsustainable deficits unless current policies are changed. Moreover, the automatic growth in these programs preempts the policy discussion about our national priorities and how they should be funded.  Without addressing upfront this automatic spending growth and the deficits they engender, our newly elected leaders will have little chance to meet the challenges that face Americans in a world of intense global competition and rapidly changing technology.

The authors of this paper are longtime federal budget and policy experts who have been drawn together by a deep concern about the nation's long-term fiscal outlook.  The group includes Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, all affiliated with a diverse set of organizations.  Despite their diverse philosophies and political leanings, they have found solid common ground. 

Following a discussion of the paper and their recommendations, the authors of the paper will take questions from the audience.

More About the Speakers

Isabel Sawhill
Senior Fellow,
The Brookings Institution         
Opening Comments:
Alice Rivlin
Senior Fellow,
The Brookings Institution

Stuart Butler
Vice President,
Domestic and Economic Policy Studies,
The Heritage Foundation
Panel Commentary:
Rudolph Penner
Senior Fellow,
The Urban Institute

Robert Reischauer
The Urban Insitute