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More fun than a barrel of rattlesnakes

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By John Barnhart

    As I write this, I don’t yet know what the results of Tuesday’s election will be. There is little doubt that the “Democrats” will take substantial losses. They probably won’t lose the Senate, but they probably will lose the House of Representatives. The Wicked Witch of the West has a safe seat in her San Francisco House district, but she won’t be Speaker of the House when the 112th Congress convenes next year. I’d like to take this opportunity to wish “good riddance” to all those incumbents whom the voters flushed.

    Tomorrow, I’m going to have the opportunity to spend a little quality time with my dentist. A routine checkup last month indicated that I had chewed my way through an old crown on a back tooth. I chewed away the porcelain and chewed through the metal underneath. I have already reminded the dentist that, considering my apparent ability to bite through steel, he may be taking a grave risk by putting his fingers in my mouth. Most likely, however,  I’ll end up offering to sign a confession before he finishes.
    While dental work is not the most enjoyable experience in the world, there is nothing that the good doctor can do to me that’s worse than what the next Congress is facing. They have got to make a good-faith effort to do something about our budget deficits and doing this is going to be more fun than a barrel of rattlesnakes.
    The most painful part of this is that, in doing so, they are going to have to deal with entitlement spending — Social Security and Medicare. These programs are currently on an unsustainable trajectory. There are too few workers to support the number of retirees these programs serve and at some point in the future, after all of us Baby Boomers pile into these programs, they are going to hit the wall.
    When they get to that point, they may not necessarily leave us teetering on the edge of sovereign debt default like Greece was earlier this year. They will, however, bring us to a point at which we will be unable to pay for all the promises we’ve made.
    A couple of months ago, one of Robert Hurt’s campaign workers, a 27-year-old, mentioned that the Obama deficits threaten to leave her generation with huge bills to pay. I replied that, if all it amounted to was sending her the bill in order to give me a free ride, then I’m all for it. My concern is that these fiscal chickens will come home to roost much sooner than that.
    These chickens will come home to roost when lots of 50-something people like me find ourselves, at some place in the future, both retired and economically up the creek without a paddle. Wrenching changes will have to be made quickly if we wait until Social Security becomes insolvent before doing anything.
    Wouldn’t it be nice if the 112th Congress could find a solution to the Social Security and Medicare problems before we find ourselves in fiscal extremis? All of our federal elected officials know that both programs are unsustainable as they now stand. “Democrats” are going to have to get off their hobby horse of  bragging about how they are protecting old people. They’ll have to be willing to do some things that AARP may not like. Republicans, likewise, may have to swallow some things that they won’t be thrilled with either.
    Spending to the point of a Greek-style sovereign debt crisis is reckless. Letting Social Security and Medicare fiscally hit the wall will hurt a lot of people, possibly you. The 112th Congress needs to get serious and do something to avoid both.