Chamber of Commerce's "Ten Truths" on Entitlements

As we look toward our worrisome long-term outlook, the drivers of future deficits are clear: our growing entitlement programs and an inefficient tax code littered with loopholes. If we are to solve the long-term problem, both must be reformed. 

However, tax and entitlement reform will both require hard choices, and there may be a temptation to take these two off the table or go for small-ball options. On our entitlement programs, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has developed a list of "Ten Truths About American's Entitlement Programs," that argues that these programs are financially unsustainable.

Their list is as follows:

  1. Entitlement programs are huge, expensive, and reach into every corner of American life.
  2. Entitlement programs are not self-funding and are a main driver of deficits
  3. Entitlement costs are growing at an alarming rate
  4. Longer life expectancies, changing demographics, and soaring costs explain why entitlements as we know them today are unsustainable
  5. Not a single major entitlement program is projected to be financially solvent 20 years from now
  6. The cost to make these programs financially solvent for the next 75 years is almost $40 trillion
  7. Mandatory spending - entitlement programs and interest on the debt - are already squeezing out important investments in other essential programs
  8. We have nothing to fear from carefully crafted, phased-in adjustments to our entitlement programs.
  9. We can reform entitlements without baseline cuts and without breaking our commitment to the nation's seniors, people with disabilities, and poor.
  10. The biggest threat imaginable to Medicare and Social Security as we know them will be if we do nothing at all.

The Chamber has also created a set of myths and facts along with four charts that show the growth of this mandatory spending. The purpose, according to Bruce Josten of the Chamber, is to start talking about the problem so lawmakers can work toward a solution.

We need a national conversation, not a filibuster—a conversation that leads to understanding and drives us toward swift action. But reform is not going to happen until we agree on these 10 truths. So let’s get the truth out there. Let’s start the debate. Let’s find the right solutions.

Josten's lesson is important. Putting the budget on a sustainable path will require tough choices and all options to be on the table. But the first step is acknowledging that the problem exists and detailing its extent. We are unlikely to get our debt under control through revenue increases and cuts to other spending alone, so entitlement reform must be part of the equation.