Yesterday, I headed down to Discovery World on Milwaukee’s lakefront to catch the Concord Coalition’s “Fiscal Wake Up Tour.” The Coalition is made up of members of both left-leaning and right-leaning national think tanks who all agree that federal entitlement programs and government debt are going to swallow us whole in the decades to come if nothing is done to rectify the situation. Their panel was joined onstage by fiscal dreamboat Congressman Paul Ryan, whose “Roadmap for America’s Future” attempts to deal with the looming budgetary apocalypse.

For some background on the issue, watch this outstanding “60 Minutes” piece on former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker, who is heading up the Coalition’s education effort:

The panelists each made their case for changing the way government handles its entitlement plans, so the programs can remain fiscally solvent for our children. Each provided powerpoint presentations to make their points. They can be viewed here:

Saving Our Future Requires Tough Choices Today,” By David Walker, President and CEO of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation

Fiscal Wake-Up Tour Introduction (PowerPoint Presentation),” By Robert Bixby, Executive Director, The Concord Coalition

The Budget and Entitlements: Time to Take Action (PowerPoint Presentation),” By Stuart Butler, Vice President for Domestic and Policy Studies, The Heritage Foundation

Since members of the coalition have different ideological backgrounds, naturally they didn’t completely agree on the measures necessary to remedy the budget imbalance. Alice Rivlin of the liberal Brookings Institution advocated for some targeted tax increases to boost federal revenue. Some of the conservatives conceded that a future plan will likely see a mix of revenue increases and spending constraints. Even Paul Ryan’s plan contains some provisions to raise revenue, which drew him a sharp rebuke from a Libertarian in the crowd, who called his plan “the Communist Manifesto.” During question time, Ryan also earned a harsh rebuke from a liberal in the crowd, which had people squirming in their seats. (And me considering crying and yelling “LEAVE PAUL RYAN ALONE!”)

Each panelist agreed that Social Security was going to be a lot easier to fix than Medicaid and Medicare. Social Security, while a big program, has a straightforward formula that sends money to recipients. In order to control costs, the remedies are clear.

Health care, on the other hand, is infinitely more complex. In order to control health care costs, you have to get a handle on a number of things – most of which, lawmakers can’t agree are actually causing cost overruns. Is it too much competition (duplication of services)? Is it not enough competition? Is it people not having the incentive to take care of themselves? Is it government not spending the money wisely?

It appears that video of the event will be available on WisconsinEye at some point, and I’ll link to it when it goes up.

My only complaint of the day was that it was held right next to Summerfest, which made parking impossible. According to the panel’s estimates, by the time I parked and walked to the event, the federal debt had increased by $100 trillion. They should have just consolidated venues and put the Fiscal Wake Up Tour on one of the Summerfest stages. Then again, the tour’s groupies might have gotten out of hand, as they normally do.