Project Report:
Curbing Spending by Reframing the Politics of Entitlements
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- Investigates causes tending to destroy or impair the free-market system.
- Explores and develops market-based solutions.


The U.S. Federal Government’s budget is projected to swell to nearly 50 percent of the economy by 2050, so The Heritage Foundation is seeking to show Americans the full picture of the federal budget – including long-term obligations from entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare – in order to generate public pressure for spending control. We’re working to change the public’s view of entitlements and intergenerational obligations in the context of the long-term budget crisis, so that Americans accept the need for structural changes to curb spending, especially those changes which don't raise taxes. Finally, we’re working to change the congressional dynamics of entitlement reform to one of bipartisan support for serious restructuring and control of entitlements.


After years of urging Congress and the administration to be more fiscally responsible, and after seeing many so-called fiscal conservatives break their promises, Heritage realized that federal action was only going to happen if voting taxpayers demanded it. That’s why, in 2005, we got together with government officials like (now former) U.S. Comptroller General David Walker and experts from other think tanks – both liberal and conservative – to launch something called the Fiscal Wake-Up Tour. The Tour has since traveled to 39 cities, explaining in simple terms for everyday Americans the entitlement-spending crisis our country is facing, and offering realistic solutions for getting control of the problem. Our hope is that the Tour will promote literacy about our nation’s fiscal strengths and weaknesses – and that it will produce a loud call for greater fiscal responsibility from our elected leaders.

To this effort Heritage has added a parallel conservative tour aimed at key parts of the conservative movement. We need a conservative version of the Fiscal Wake-Up Tour so we can lay out the grim realities of the coming budget train wreck to conservative-leaning audiences who might be encouraged to pursue a “no tax increase” strategy to deal with the problem.

To help our message about entitlement reform reach even more people, Heritage is now developing captivating informational videos that can be watched by a range of audiences in communities around the country. These mini-documentaries will provide the facts, as well as strong moral and emotional appeals to encourage action. Our goal is to humanize and popularize our message so that it’s easy for any American to understand, retain, and pass along to friends, family, and elected officials.


The Heritage Foundation has devoted a significant amount of energy to investigating the causes tending to destroy or impair the free-market system. According to our research, the cost projections for entitlements such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security show that America is on track for an economic “train wreck” that will devastate our economy. According to Heritage Foundation research, numerous surveys and several focus groups, most Americans are open to the idea of increasing taxes in order to solve the problem of entitlement promises. We know, however, that raising taxes – which we’re opposed to on principle – does not necessarily increase government revenue. In fact, economists the world over have shown that lowering taxes stimulates economic activity and can actually bring in higher levels of revenue. To fix America’s budget problems, Heritage is explaining why it is important for Americans to adopt a market-based approach to reforming costly entitlement programs and cut federal spending.


This project focuses on calling attention to the fact that U.S. entitlements are vastly over-obligated and will bankrupt the nation without reform. The total present value of unfunded federal obligations of the federal government, or fiscal exposure – what will ultimately have to be paid under current obligations – now reaches over $50 trillion. This is a financial burden of $440,000 for every household or, a mortgage of $170,000 placed in the crib of each and every baby born in the U.S. today. The worst-case scenario is that if we don’t come to our senses, we could eventually suffer the same fate as Argentina, which ultimately defaulted on its debt, with devastating effect on that country’s economy and living standards. But Argentina wasn’t a superpower, with the risks and responsibilities of that role in the world. Economic collapse of the magnitude that is appearing on the horizon, absent some kind of reform, could have far reaching consequences for America’s place in the world

Information Dissemination

The primary thrust of this project is marketing and educating average Americans, as well as lawmakers, about the dangers of excessive government spending. As we travel from city-to-city, we are meeting with local business and community leaders, students, media representatives and others to explain the fiscal challenges and solutions, thereby enabling them to spread the word to their respective communities. The Fiscal Wake-Up Tour has allowed us to speak directly to 4,300 people in 39 cities across America, and to millions more through detailed media coverage of our events and message in local and national news outlets such as The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, USA Today, Associated Press articles, and “60 Minutes.” In our effort to get the message out to conservative audiences, we joined up with renowned businessman and Heritage Trustee Steve Forbes, as well as our Community Committees for Heritage, to launch a conservative version of the Fiscal Wake-Up Tour, which has now made stops in Chicago, New York, and Atlanta, and will soon be in Tucson, Minneapolis, and Denver. Heritage has also disseminated its information in hundreds of personal meetings with lawmakers and their staff members, and by making the informational available on a special Web site,

Project Link

Amount Approved
$5,000.00 on 6/5/2007 (Check sent: 6/25/2007)

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Posted 3/23/2007 4:25 PM
Updated   11/11/2008 11:05 AM

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