Who Will be the CFO In Chief?

Steve Chapman wonders why the presidential candidates aren’t more interested in the nation’s finances:

It’s good to know they are preparing themselves for that 3 a.m. phone call. But I’m not convinced any of them is ready for the 8 a.m. call from the budget director reporting that the deficit is raging out of control. When it comes to combating the fiscal menaces we face, these three are all absent without leave.

The budget situation is already dire. In the last six years, the federal government has spent some $1.8 trillion more than it has taken in. This year, the deficit will hit an estimated $410 billion. If the economy falls into a recession, the gap will grow.

Believe it or not, these are the good old days. In the next few years, the budget will begin to show the effects of a mammoth event that has long been dreaded: the retirement of the baby boomers. Social Security and Medicare already account for one-third of federal spending, and over the next 30 years, they are expected to nearly double in cost as a share of the total economy.

A recent report from the Brookings Institution found that just to pay for all federal outlays, we would have to raise taxes by at least one-third by 2030.

The clock is ticking on Social Security. Estimates project that it will begin to run a deficit in 2017 — less than a decade from now. So why are candidates all but ignoring the topic and, in the case of both Obama and Clinton, talking up spending even more on health care — the costs of which are already projected to rise substantially over the next few decades — instead?