Unless hard choices about spending are made now, budgets will be busted later.

The United States is facing an accumulation of serious economic problems, and worse to come. Addison Wiggens and William Bonner are two prominent writers who have been warning the nation through print and film for more than a decade of a drastic demographic decline. Yet the problem is hardly mentioned by political and opinion leaders.

For 30 years, world birth rates have been falling yet world population levels are still increasing. This is because people are living longer. From the time of Julius Caesar until the late 19th century, never more than two to three percent of the world’s population was over 65.

Now that number is soaring so fast it is almost impossible to keep up with it. Next year it will be 23 percent, and by 2025, 30 percent. This is true for the world’s population, but in the western nations, the percentages will be even greater.

For countries that designed their welfare entitlement systems on the assumption of a stable ratio between workers and retirees, that means budget meltdowns.

For the past 50 years and more, the United States has been using Social Security revenues to support its expenditures. These revenues have helped cover the cost of wars, infrastructure and still more entitlements. The nation has borrowed $11 trillion while leaving the Social Security obligations unfunded.

Now the United States is set to rack up another trillion-dollar deficit in just one year.

The weight of debt and the aging populations are going to place a strain on children not yet born. At current rates, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid would devour the entire federal budget by 2050! This may sound like doomsday, but it is simply mathematical fact. President Barack Obama was correct to state that “We have kicked this can down the road long enough and we are at the end of the road.”

We live in a society that wants cheap goods, but doesn’t want jobs shipped overseas; we want more entitlement programs but lower taxes. For years, politicians have exploited these contradictions for political gain and have led people to believe that they can have it both ways. These illusions have consumed the Social Security funds which were supposed to provide a safety net for retirees.

President Obama has called on all Americans to roll up their sleeves and work to confront the realities. During last year’s national campaign, the pattern for most candidates was to express concern about the deficits, avoid talking about cuts, and propose new “initiatives,” which almost always involve more spending. Of course, they always talk about “investments,” but they really mean spending.

I know Americans are an optimistic people and they would rather hear cheerful news than glum warnings. And here in Maine, we often hear of politicians criticizing pessimistic predictions and demanding that we all be upbeat. We can no longer afford this kind of self-indulgent delusion. I know it’s tempting. I have fallen into the trap myself from time to time.

I am willing to do my share, and I know that those I speak to everyday expect the same sacrifice from the government. Everyone must tighten belts. In the future, the government is going to have to run leaner and meaner, just like our businesses. The time for unredeemable promises, waste and fat are long over. The demographic trends and math just do not add up.

Tax increases will not do the job. People work and invest for themselves and their families. They are not willing to work for the government. Never have been. Never will be. Multi-billionaire Warren Buffet favors increased taxes on the rich, but he is not giving his money away to the government. Instead, he gives it to Bill Gates’ private foundation. He may want other people to be compelled to pay more money to the government but it doesn’t suit him to do the same.

The nation can print more money to stimulate the economy in the short run, but in the long run, we and our children will have to pay a hefty inflation tax, and experience a greater weakening of the dollar.

The choices ahead are hard; the wiggle room is gone. It is time to pay our bills and prepare for less government down the road because surely we cannot continue at this rate.

To do that to our children is truly immoral!

Lance Harvell of Farmington is the Republican candidate for House District 89 (Farmington-Industry). The special election is Feb. 3.

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