“This graph is kind of scary,” Diane Lim Rogers said as a slide appeared on the screens in the Appellate Courtroom of Eckstein Hall.
The graph showed accumulated public debt as a percentage of gross domestic product, starting in the World War II years and projected through the next several decades. The path of the line in coming years rose so sharply that Rogers said it would never actually happen. Something will force a change.
That was the core point of Rogers’ hour-long “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” session Oct. 11 at Marquette Law School: We can’t stay on the path we’re on when it comes to trends in federal government revenue and federal government spending. Something will force a change, and it can either come from informed, visionary decision making or it can from the forces that will change things in any case, and perhaps not so gently.
Rogers is chief economist for the Concord Coalition, a national non-partisan organization formed by Republican and Democratic leaders who want to see what they call “generationally responsible fiscal policy.”
Rogers has been with the organization since 2008. She worked previously in positions including chief economist for the House Budget Committee and research director of the Budgeting for National Priorities project at the Brookings Institution. She has worked for several Democratic elected officials, but she told Gousha she was usually the one around a table who said, How are we going to pay for this?
In several ways, Rogers outlined the depth and causes of federal budget problems and said most of the solutions that are being proposed now are not enough to resolve things. That includes eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse in federal spending and making cuts in federal programs that are ultimately not going to save enough money. Bolder steps on an array of fronts and including changes in major federal spending areas such as Medicare are needed, she said.
Rogers said she thinks the general population has the will to make such changes, but politicians don’t seem to think so and fear that dealing seriously with the long-term issues would cost them votes. She compared many political leaders to customers at a big box store who see an attractive product on sale that requires no cash down and has attractive payments for the first couple years. They naively and optimistically buy it, without thinking about the long term high price they’ll pay.
Rogers, who has four children, writes a blog, economistmom.com, (“because I’m an economist and a mom, that’s why,” as the blog says). It has been praised by the Wall Street Journal. Her session with Gousha may be viewed by clicking here.