Editorial: Confront problems before they become meltdowns
In all of about a week, Congress passed a massive bailout package for Wall Street amid warnings of another Great Depression.
It's amazing what the federal government can accomplish when the pressure's on.
But when the pressure's off, Uncle Sam seems content to procrastinate on solving any number of problems that haven't yet hit crisis stage, but eventually will. Several big, angry elephants sit in the room.
One is energy policy. The U.S. doesn't have one. In fact, the president who once lamented that "America is addicted to oil" has done precious little to break that addiction, having begged the Saudis to send over more and having opposed even the most common-sense of conservation measures.
Meanwhile, congressional Democrats who should know better recently caved to demands to allow off-shore drilling. Look, we know there's a finite supply of fossil fuels. When will we finally have a viable alternative?
Another is Social Security. The U.S. Treasury Department says this senior safety net's trust funds will be exhausted by around 2040, and that its promised benefits exceed its projected revenue by $13.6 trillion. With a generation of baby boomers starting to retire - and a generation of grandkids who'd sure like to, someday - the Treasury reminds us that "acting sooner and spreading the burden of reform across more generations is fairer to future generations." Anybody listening?
In far greater danger is Medicare, which administrators say will have an insolvent trust fund by 2019. Absent reform, this massive health insurance program upon which 45 million Americans rely will continue gobbling up general revenue - fully a quarter of all federal income taxes by the next decade, the Heritage Foundation estimates. Then there are the ranks of America's uninsured, a number that keeps growing. Their predicament raises health care costs for everyone.
We get that it's human nature to procrastinate. But it's the government's job to think ahead - that's why we call them "leaders."
It shouldn't take a nation teetering on the brink of financial meltdown or reeling from a catastrophe to light a fire under Uncle Sam. Those elephants are starting to stink up the room.
Peoria Journal Star