Discussing The Deficit, National Debt, Health Care, Social Security, Taxes & Government Accountability

By Andrew L. Yarrow


Public Agenda's Andrew L. Yarrow talks to college students from around the country, gathered in Washington, D.C., where they are serving in internships to learn more about our government and the way it works.

Fifty students from the Washington Center for Internships and Academic Fellowships discussed fiscal responsibility, and more specifically, reforming health care, Social Security, tax policy, and the ways by which government is held accountable, following presentations by Andrew Yarrow of Public Agenda, Diane Rogers of the Concord Coalition, and Nicola Moore of the Heritage Foundation on November 9, 2009.

After the speakers discussed the gravity of America’s fiscal imbalances, the potential consequences of rapidly rising federal debt, and some of the policy trade-offs to be considered to achieve greater fiscal responsibility, students broke up into four discussion groups using Public Agenda's Students Face Up to the Nation’s Finances Choicework discussion guides.


Students from the four groups selected a spokesperson to present their policy recommendations for all students and the panelists to discuss. Their policy ideas include:

 

Social Security Reform

  • Make payroll tax more progressive
  • Require financial education to graduate from high school
  • Include state and local government employees
  • Establish automatic 401(k)s as the default for all Americans

Health Care Reform

Not surprisingly, the group called health care “a mess” and differed considerably on reform options. The group leaned toward including a public option, or at least a trigger to create a public option in the future. Students also preferred incremental, rather than radical, reform. Most agreed that the system should be reformed to incentivize reduced consumer demand and provision of health care (the opposite of present circumstances) to rein in costs.


Students at The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Fellowships brainstorm on potential solutions to the nation's looming fiscal crisis.

 

Making Government More Accountable

  • Stricter PAYGO
  • Make government contracting more competitive
  • Set long-term budget goals
  • Strengthen ethics rules on lobbying
  • Stronger protection for whistleblowers
  • Strengthen oversight of banks/financial institutions oversight, to prevent future bailouts
  • A weak constitutional amendment with a Keynesian/emergency opt-out?

Tax Reform

  • Introduce sales tax or VAT
  • Luxury tax
  • Expand "sin taxes" to include junk foods
  • Lower corporate tax rates to improve competitiveness
  • Higher taxes on the rich

The discussion at The Washington Center was part of Public Agenda's Students Face Up to the Nation's Finances program empowering students and other concerned citizens to learn more about the federal budget deficit and national debt, brainstorm on solutions, and begin taking action to create a better future. Learning materials for Students Face Up to the Nation's Finances are nonpartisan and available online without charge, courtesy of a grant from the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. For more on Students Face Up to the Nation's Finances, check out our web site devoted to this issue, FacingUp.org.


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