Responsibly Addressing the Nation's Needs

Wednesday, August 8, 2007; 12:00 AM

If Robert J. Samuelson had done his homework before concluding that think tanks have failed to push the envelope on government finances, he would have discovered that the Center for American Progress has developed several ideas to address both general revenue shortfalls and looming entitlement challenges. The primary challenges -- revenue shortfalls, benefit coverage, and cost explosions, especially in the health care sector -- have been addressed in detail by CAP over the past four years, complemented by a broad array of proposals that address a significant share of the challenges lying ahead.

Let's start with health care. In 2005, CAP developed a proposal that would guarantee affordable health care coverage for all Americans, while also identifying a way to pay for it through a small value-added tax. One year later, the center proposed the creation of a wellness trust to boost preventive health care services, which not only could improve the health of millions of Americans, but also help to slow the associated rising health care costs. Then, earlier this summer, CAP proposed a set of solutions to introduce more cutting-edge information technologies into the health care arena, which again could help to reduce health care inflation.

Equally, on retirement savings, people at CAP have developed thoughtful, big ideas. For instance, my colleague Gene Sperling proposed the creation of universal 401(k) pension plan that would likely improve personal and national saving without adding to the federal budget deficit. In addition, CAP's comprehensive proposal for a more progressive, simple and fair tax plan, proposed in 2005, would cut the then-projected Social Security financial shortfall over the next 75 years in half. CAP's tax reform proposal, if enacted, would have generated $500 billion in additional revenue, compared to the generally accepted baseline of the extension of the most recent tax cuts.

In just a few years, the Center for American Progress has shown that it can address the most pressing needs of an aging society, while remaining fiscally responsible. Our ideas are affecting the conversation, so we are surprised that Mr. Samuelson failed to come upon CAP's body of work on government finances. Our combination of proposals -- only a click or two away on the Domestic and Economy pages of our website -- could vastly improve health and retirement savings coverage while also improving the nation's fiscal outlook through more revenue and better cost containment.

Christian E. Weller
Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress

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