July 21, 2015

This past weekend's edition of PBS TV's "The Open Mind" welcomed PGPF President and CEO Michael A. Peterson for a half-hour interview. The episode, entitled "Beyond Debt," featured show host Alexander Heffner talking with Mr. Peterson about finding sustainable solutions to the long-term fiscal challenge of America's national debt.

A highlight of their conversation:

HEFFNER: So your goal now in terms of the public awareness is to demystify the issue, and has been. Let’s start with the first of those three areas you identified. Can deficit reform and your approach, can that co-exist with what we would like to preserve as a safety net for those older citizens... can those two things co-exist.

PETERSON: Absolutely... I would argue that if you don’t deal with this your safety net is in jeopardy. We all know that in a fiscal crisis things can happen to the budget. We can be in a situation where we have to make immediate cuts that are unintelligent, and I would argue that if we have a sound fiscal footing [we] wouldn’t do that. It’s when you have they have a debt crisis, and you may have an economic crisis that’s caused in part by the debt crisis, that you might have to do unfortunate things and therefore the safety net [would be] in jeopardy... I would say one example is the sequestration that occurred. This was all self-inflicted because we were dealing with brinksmanship in Washington and so forth and they put in place... remember the so-called Super Committee and all these measures and no one expected sequestration to happen but sequestration did happen and they slashed across the board and cut a lot of programs, but I don’t think anybody really would have cut it quite that way if we had had control of the budget in a more strategic sense. So I would argue that’s one example of where you have fiscal uncertainty causing cuts in programs that don’t make sense. So, I would argue anyone who cares about the safety net should be very focused on preserving it and making sure that we have a sound fiscal footing for the future.

Premiering in 1956, "The Open Mind" is a weekly public affairs program designed to elicit guests’ insights into the challenges Americans face in a variety of contemporary areas of national concern. Click here for the full "Beyond Debt" episode video and transcript.

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