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US Chamber: Social Security, Medicare 'doomed' without $40 trillion more

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Politics,Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets,Social Security

Tired of waiting for President Obama to act, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Wednesday unveiled a sweeping new campaign to convince Congress and the public that the nation's entitlement programs are "doomed" if radical reforms worth $40 trillion aren't made now.

"Entitlements are on a doomed course," said Chamber President Thomas Donohue. He called them "a ticking time bomb."

Bruce Josten, the Chamber's top lobbyist and executive vice president, outlined the pending disaster in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid funding and the group's new effort in a speech to the Chamber's board of directors.

"We need to fix these programs because otherwise they will consume every dollar the government collects. There will be no money left over," he warned in an address packed with gloomy facts and figures. The biggest number: "The cost to make these programs financially solvent for the next 75 years," said Josten, "is almost $40 trillion."

He charged that Washington has given only lip service to the pending bankruptcies of the three programs and he especially slapped denier groups like the AFL-CIO, National Organization for Women, Senate Democrats, and a lack of leadership from the president.

"I know where they are heading and that's partly the concern we have and partly why we are raising our voices today," Josten told Secrets. "The longer you wait to do this the more cruel it becomes" to those who rely on the government benefit programs, he added.

Just consider some of the figures he provided:

-- Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid cost $1.6 trillion a year, and suffered from a cash shortfall of $340 billion.

-- Without reforms, today's third graders will receive only 75 percent of today's benefits.

-- None of the entitlements are projected to be solvent in 20 years.

-- Overall, mandatory spending on entitlements and interest on the federal debt exceed all federal income tax revenues.

The Chamber is urging members and associates to help convince Congress and the public that the problems need to be fixed now before Baby Boomers start retiring at a projected 10,000 a day. To avoid policy fights, it isn't pushing any specific fixes.

"We need a national conversation, not a filibuster--a conversation that leads to understanding and drives us toward swift action," said Josten.

Paul Bedard, The Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com.