October 15, 2008
Last Sunday I opened the New York Times—and read one of the most powerful ads I’ve ever seen.
The ad was paid for by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. I had the privilege of knowing Pete Peterson when we were in the White House together—he’s a shrewd guy who became Secretary of Commerce. He then went into the financial world and made billions—money he’s now spending to educate the American people. His message was a heroic call to Americans to take over the political process before it’s too late.
In his two-page ad in the Times, Peterson outlines the problem facing the American economy: "As disruptive and damaging as today’s mortgage sub-prime crisis is," he warns, "We’re looking at a "super sub-prime" crisis, which, if left unaddressed, will hurt many more Americans—and hurt much worse."
Among many inconvenient truths: "Each household’s share of the nation’s $53 trillion is $455,000—almost 10 times the median household income. This is unfinanceable!" he warns.
Vital research and development, infrastructure, and children’s programs are already getting squeezed, Peterson notes; "We cannot grow our way out of the problems or solve them simply by cutting earmarks and pork-barrel spending." We could do these things, plus cancel the Bush tax cuts, end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—and we would still be only 15 percent of the way to solvency.
Peterson has a few hard questions to ask our presidential candidates. How, for instance, do they plan to slow the rate of growth in health care costs that threaten to bankrupt America? How will they encourage the country to save more and reduce our dangerous dependence on foreign lenders? And he wants to know if they support a bi-partisan commission to review everything on the table and make recommendations with a guaranteed up-or-down vote by the next Congress?
Congressman Frank Wolf has proposed such a commission, called SAFE—which I’ve talked about on BreakPoint. It would examine all entitlements, identify what we can afford—and slash what we cannot. The commission would submit its proposals to Congress for an up-or-down vote. (The only changes permitted would be those that leave the long-term budget impact unchanged.)
Peterson is warning us that no political promise is going to solve this problem. The only thing that will solve it is Americans being willing to accept a whole new way of life. We need to be willing to share sacrifices and make very tough choices. No more politicians promising to socialize everything, which will simply make a horrific problem even worse.
If you visit our website, BreakPoint dot org, you can find the link to the New York Times ad. I urge you to read it, sign the petition, and invite your friends to do the same.
Our leaders need to sober up. The sad truth is, they will only do so if we force them to. A grassroots campaign to support SAFE would be a good start—in fact, the only plan that has any chance of solving this appalling problem.
We have to take back our government—and put America back on its feet again. If we don’t, our children and grandchildren will pay the price for generations to come.
Chuck Colson’s daily BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.
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From BreakPoint, July 31, 2008, posted with permission of Prison Fellowship, www.breakpoint.org.