Two former Wisconsin politicians are sounding the alarm about the nation’s debt crisis. The two are part of a larger campaign promoting entitlement reforms.
Last October, former governor Tony Earl and former U.S. representative Scott Klug teamed up to found “Fix the Debt Wisconsin,” a state chapter of a national movement to push legislators to drop politics and put the country on a better economic path. Klug says Congress let their constituents down when they passed a short term fiscal cliff deal with big deadlines still looming: “They had an opportunity to get a significant deal done in December and they sort of punted it down two months down the road.”
Klug points out that there’s another debt ceiling deadline next month and a deadline for automatic cuts known as sequestration in March. But despite the deadlines, Klug says every day that passes without honest debt reduction, interest piles up and the deficit builds. “It’s going to eat us alive and so now is the time to strike some kind of grand agreement and I’d urge both sides to be serious about this or we’re going to find ourselves like Greece, with hat in hand, five or ten years down the road.”
Klug and former Governor Earl also say that entitlement programs have to be reformed. Earl says that includes increasing the eligibility age for Medicare to 67 and tying Social Security payments to income levels, “It is certainly reasonable to talk about means testing Medicare and Social Security. There is no rational argument that I’ve ever heard against means testing except to do anything with Medicare or Social Security for some on my side is the third rail and that’s an irresponsible position.”
Both men say a balanced approach to debt relief including taxes and cuts is the answer but it won’t happen unless constituents demand loudly enough that their members of Congress drop the politics and compromise.