Inflationary Debt Spiral: Fiscal Cliff Getting Closer, Faster

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Hubwonk transcript, Brian Riedl, November 1, 2023

Joe Selvaggi: [00:00:00] This is Hubwonk. I’m Joe Selvaggi.

Welcome to Hubwonk, a podcast of Pioneer Institute, a think tank in Boston. How much money can the U.S. borrow before ordinary citizens take notice? It may well be that we’re about to find out. While the federal government has run a deficit since funding its incepting Revolutionary wWar, the 2023 budget year 2 trillion defici  has pushed the debt over 100 percent of GDP. This profligate borrowing at a time of relative national prosperity and security is a reflection of a bipartisan appetite for more public benefits and lower overall tax rates. But the most daunting of our future fiscal challenges comes not from discretionary choices from passing administrations, but rather from a well predicted demographic shift of the more than 10,000 Baby Boomers who are retiring every day.

While all expect to collect Social Security and Medicare benefits that have been promised, they will likely have a front-row seat to those programs’ insolvency in the coming decade. This debt wall will also affect those still in the workforce, as federal borrowing will raise interest rates, stoking inflation at every level of the economy.

How can a nation that has ignored warnings about debt and deficit for decades now come to terms with the fact that its borrowing habit will now inevitably affect all future consumers and retirees? What choices are on offer for those seeking to reduce spending and increase revenue in time to avoid program insolvency? And what will the next decade look like as this crisis unfolds?

My guest today is Brian Riedl, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, who has spent more than two decades advising policymakers in Washington on debt and deficits. He will share with us his concern that unlike debt surges of the past that occurred during world wars or financial crises, our current structural deficit comes without emergencies and is projected to grow unchecked into the future.

He will discuss the effect the debt is having on Americans’ ability to spend and borrow in the current economy and the impending insolvency of Social Security and Medicare for seniors in the coming decade. Mr. Riedl will offer his views on how responsible voters and their representatives can find compromise to fuse the coming crisis.

When I return, I’ll be joined by budget expert and senior Manhattan Institute fellow Brian Riedl.

Okay, we’re back. This is Hubwonk. I’m Joe Selvaggi. I’m now pleased to be joined by Manhattan Institute senior fellow Brian Riedl. Welcome to Hubwonk, Brian.

Brian Riedl: Glad to be here, Joe. Thank you.

Joe Selvaggi: All right, well, this is your first visit to Hubwonk, and I want our listeners to know, that I enjoy your writing on federal debt and deficit because you’re very clear, you’re concise, and I think you get to the point. And, you know, if I may say, it doesn’t seem that you have any partisan allegiance. you call it like you see it. And, and that’s why, I [00:03:00] really wanted to have you on the show. So, we’re going to be talking about, debt and deficit here, but I want our listeners to know beyond Manhattan Institute’s role there, you’ve done a lot of work in Washington, both in think tanks and working with some politicians. Tell us briefly your background in Washington.

Brian Riedl: Sure. I moved to Washington in 2001, which seems like a long time ago. All of a sudden, I’m very old. I spent 10 years running the budget shop at the Heritage Foundation, then six years in the Senate as chief economist to Senator Rob Portman and as the staff director of the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Growth, before going to the Manhattan Institute.

In 2017, so six years on the Hill, the rest of it at think tanks on the side. I’ve also done work on presidential campaigns. I worked for the Romney campaign in 2012. I was the lead drafter of his 10-year deficit reduction plan. [00:04:00] And in 2016, I was director of tax and budget policy for the Rubio presidential campaign.

Joe Selvaggi: So, okay, so that places you in our listeners minds, someone very engaged in not just. Theoretical, but in very practical policy prescription. So, let’s start with some basic terms. We’re going to talk about debt and deficit. I’m amazed that when I talk to people how, they confuse the two terms. I’ll just throw it out. I know we roughly take in as a sort of the natural income is our taxes and that’s about 4 and a half trillion dollars. And what goes out, is what we spend on everything from Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines to Social Security and Medicare. That’s about $6.5 trillion, which, if you’re keeping score at home, it’s about $2 trillion worth of deficit or a debt in one year, which cumulative if you go all the way back to, the beginning of the country, you add up all the deficits, we now have arrived at $33 trillion. For our listeners, how does this year’s current debt of $2 trillion and our current debt of $33 trillion compare with the past?

Brian Riedl: Yeah, I mean, generally $33 trillion is the total that if you include trust funds, which is not money that’s been borrowed from the public. It’s just the kind of money that were promised to spend like that’s just security trust fund. A lot of economists use the $26 trillion, which is the debt held by the public, the amount that we actually borrowed. So, the debt really peaked during World War II, 106% of GDP, and economists like to measure debt as a percent of GDP because whether or not your debt is manageable depends on its share of your income. Obviously if your income is $50,000 a year, you can’t afford much debt, but if your family income is $10 million a year, you can afford debt.

So, we measure debt as a share of our income. It was 106% of GDP at the peak of World War II, which was a record, but then thankfully, World War II ended, and it dropped all the way down to 23 percent of GDP by the mid-70s, and was still about 35 percent of GDP by 2007. Unfortunately, it has since spiked to 100 percent of GDP, right under that World War II number. And the scary thing is, we’re headed to about 200 percent of GDP over the next couple decades, which would double the debt level from World War II.

Joe Selvaggi: So, again, to put it in historical context, you mentioned World War II, not a small event, fighting, really bad guys on both, coasts, I don’t know, 50 million lives lost. It was epic, and then, again, the United States played an important role in resolving that conflict. We’ve gone through since then, let’s say the world financial crisis. We’ve had, now more recently, COVID, which are events that might explain why debt might go up, this particular debt, this $2 trillion that happened in fiscal year 2023. Is there any sort of moment or event that would justify something that happened last year that. You know, it’s going to go away next year, therefore, it’s distorting [00:07:00] our outlook.

Brian Riedl: Well, you’re hitting on why economists consider this year’s deficit to be an earthquake for the budget and for the economy. We have had bigger deficits before than this year. It was about 7.7 percent of GDP. The only time we’ve ever had bigger deficits were due to World War I, World War II, the Great Recession, and the pandemic. And those were short term bursts of deficits. And generally, the short-term bursts don’t worry economists much because over the long term, you can afford that and manage a one-time spike.

What’s scary is in the last year, the deficit doubled from $1 trillion to $2 trillion during peace, prosperity, no major wars, no pandemics. This is driven by the permanent cost of government. We have had Social Security and Medicare costs go through the roof. Interest costs have doubled on the national debt over the past two years.

And then you had a really big spending spree and frankly tax cut spree from Donald Trump, followed by Joe Biden. And so, the danger is this isn’t a one-time spike that’s going to go away. In fact, these deficits are going to get bigger were projected to have the deficit rise to $3 trillion within a decade and then keep going. So, this is a lot more dangerous than a one-time spike that you can pay for over a longer period.

Joe Selvaggi: So, we talk about spending too much again. I think our revenue, we can talk about revenue and if it dips, but I’m going to guess that you’re going to tell me it hasn’t dipped much to justify this. So, we’re talking about a spending phenomenon.

For our listeners, maybe on the left, they may think, well, this must be all that spending we do on defense, or on the right might be transfer payments to, I don’t know, indolent welfare recipients. These are largely myths. Where does our government spend most of its money? Where are the big bucks going?

Brian Riedl: Social Security and Medicare are the biggest programs and they’re growing rapidly. This is the predictable result of 74 million retiring Baby Boomers, as well as on the Medicare side, rising health care costs. Last year alone, Social Security costs rose 11%, and Medicare costs rose 18%. Just to give you a flavor, there’s kind of a myth that Social Security and Medicare pay for themselves with premiums and payroll taxes. That’s just not true. They don’t come close to enough. So, every year, Washington has to transfer general revenues into the Social Security and Medicare systems to pay all benefits. Last year, it was $500 billion that had to be transferred into Social Security and Medicare. A decade from now, it’s going to be $2 trillion.

So, if you want to know why deficits are rising, the main reason, it’s because the cost of the Social Security and Medicare [00:10:00] shortfalls are going to leap by $1.5 trillion dollars. You combine that again with rising interest rates on the debts, which is kind of a residual of not being able to pay for these programs, and the costs are going up.

That’s not to say defense can’t be cut. That’s not to say other programs can’t be cut, but in general, defense is actually decreasing as a share of the budget. It’s down to about 12 percent of federal spending, which is the lowest level since the 1930s. Again, there is waste and defense, everything should be on the table, but from a pure mathematical standpoint, Defense spending is not significantly rising, and as a fact, it is actually rising much more slowly than Social Security, Medicare, and some other programs.

Joe Selvaggi: So, you mentioned that these two, particularly Medicare and Social Security, are growing substantially. I’m not sure I heard it in your answer. Why? I mean, we’ve heard of the quote unquote silver 000 baby boomers retiring every day. [00:11:00] Yep. I get that. Seem like extraordinary numbers. you know, we’ve talked about healthcare costs generally on this podcast. Why do you see, in addition to, you know, those retirees, what’s driving this increase?

Brian Riedl: Well, yeah, I mean, again, the big part is just demographics. You add 74 million people to a system when the number of workers is actually not growing. You’re down to a decade from now, we’re going to be down to two workers for each retiree. That means every married couple is going to have to support themselves with their children and the social security and Medicare benefits of their very own retiree every married couple, but it’s not just demographics. Again, as you mentioned, rising health care costs makes the hole in the Medicare program two to three times the size of the hole in the Social Security program.

Because when health care costs are rising 5, 6, 7 percent per year, you have to add that on to the demographics. Additionally, for Social Security, [00:12:00] this is not well understood, but Social Security bakes into its system very large benefit increases from generation to generation, much faster than inflation.

So, when you have programs that have more retirees jumping in with more generous benefits and rising health care costs, while the number of workers paying these benefits is stagnant. Ultimately, the system kind of tips over. It can’t pay for itself, and you have to put trillions into Social Security and Medicare to take a look at the 30-year budget.

The Congressional Budget Office has said that over the next 30 years, we’re going to run budget deficits of $119 trillion. Just like a staggering number and that’s even with the tax cuts expiring $119 trillion of that $116 trillion will be Social Security and Medicare shortfalls. And the rest of the [00:13:00] deficit over 30 years is just $3 trillion. So, the budget is nearly balanced over the next 30 years, except for social security and Medicare. It’s the whole ballgame.

Joe Selvaggi: I’m glad we’ve, you know, we’ve really dialed into the, the issue here. Now, again, you know, our listeners may have their own positions, own normative values of the size of government, and we can have that discussion on another podcast. At the end of the day, we know, if you borrow money, you have to pay it back. Or at least I hope we know that. And we know that the government doesn’t have its own money. So, in a sense, if it doesn’t collect it in revenue, it has to borrow it from the future. Our listeners are thinking, it’s not my debt, not my problem.

I’m going to get old. I’ve been promised. So, security is, you know, is anybody, talking about this at a political level, you know, anyone running for office, we’ve got a presidential year in the future, but also. you know, has anybody tabled any kind of, solution, be it, an adjustment to benefits or a proposed tax increase, as anybody talking about this?

Brian Riedl: Not since [00:14:00] Paul Ryan got savaged when he tried to reform Social Security and Medicare and opponents ran ads showing him murdering senior citizens Donald Trump has kind of altered Republican orthodoxy Donald Trump says we will not touch Social Security and Medicare even with the trust fund going insolvent in 10 years Donald Trump said Republicans will not touch it Democrats have basically said the same thing.

In fact, the more Social Security and Medicare get closer to insolvency, the more politicians double down on their refusal to fix it. You’ll remember during the State of the Union, Joe Biden said, I will never change benefits for Social Security and Medicare by one penny. He also said he’ll never raise taxes on anyone but the rich, which means the numbers just don’t add up.

And now Republicans are running for president, essentially saying the same thing. They won’t touch them either and I get that it’s a third rail and people say [00:15:00] we’ve earned these benefits and we have to be very careful how we reform Social Security and Medicare to do it gradually, which is the case for doing it sooner rather than later, so you can do it gradually. But here’s the reality. The government has made promises that it has no means to keep. There is no way it’s going to be able to borrow $119 trillion over the next 30 years. If you take a look at the financial markets, it’s simply not going to be able to borrow $119 trillion, at least not at sustainable interest rates.

So, the only choices are to either adjust spending and benefits somewhat. Or double middle-class taxes. There really isn’t a third option. Maybe they can run the printing press for a little while, but that’s not sustainable. The government has simply made promises it can’t keep. But politicians don’t want to talk about that because they’re afraid of the blowback.

Joe Selvaggi: So, again, we’re listening [00:16:00] to our listeners are those voters that will provide that blowback. So, if nobody sort of lets them in on the, the reality, I think, I guess I’m going to say, well, my effort might be to reduce the blow back on anyone proposing a solution. you mentioned, you know, folks don’t want to hear this, but I think, you know, again, with our, you mentioned Donald Trump, I think I wrote a read in your piece that he added roughly a trillion dollars to this debt and Biden. About $4 trillion. So, this is a bipartisan problem. for our listeners who are just like, yeah, this sounds, these are issues for policy wonks in Washington. Why should I care? You alluded to the fact that we have, we can’t borrow at sustainable rates. Is all this borrowing affecting our listeners in ways such as inflation or interest rates?

How does, let’s say, these issues that you and I are concerned about, that may be happening more, how does that affect the guy on the street?

Brian Riedl: We’re seeing it already. Interest rates are rising. Mortgage rates are nearly eight percent. part of this is [00:17:00] driven by debt. The more the government borrows, the more it raises interest rates. And that’s because there’s a pool of savings out there. This is a little bit of a simplified model, but there’s a pool of savings out there. And the more savings the government soaks up to pay for its deficits, the less savings that’s available for families to borrow for home loans or car loans or businesses to borrow.

So that creates a little bit of a shortage of savings for everybody else, which pushes up the interest rate. We’re seeing interest rates rising right now. We’re seeing inflation rising right now. It’s not all driven by debt. But a lot of it has been driven by very rapid increases in government spending And now the financial markets are somewhat spooked by the rising debt. And so that’s part of the reason they’re pushing up interest rates If you want to take a look at a general consensus among economists It is that the amount of borrowing projected over the next 30 years should by [00:18:00] itself add three points to interest rates.

So, if the interest rate would be four percent. At current debt levels, just the borrowing for the debt would raise it to 7%. Now, perhaps other factors can counterbalance that. The Federal Reserve can try to lower interest rates more. Perhaps savings will rise elsewhere. But the simple effect of the borrowing itself is to add three points of pressure to interest rates. That’s going to affect everybody in the meantime. And we haven’t even gotten into the fact that the unsustainability of this means your taxes must eventually go up if spending is not restrained. This is not an ideological point. This is a mathematical point. If we don’t do anything about these costs, middle class taxes will dramatically rise because I’m telling you, taxing the rich aren’t going to be enough.

Joe Selvaggi: So, you’ve gone there. I was going to ask that later, but again, I’m sure some of our listeners saying, look, you’ve heard the rhetoric, you know, the richest country in the world, you know, the billionaires pay a lower, virtual tax rate than their secretaries. Tell our listeners, why can’t we just simply soak the rich, you know, we’ve got trillions of dollars in debt, and we’ve got all these billionaires. Why not just ask them to pay their “fair share. “

Brian Riedl: The argument that taxing the rich can fix the budget made sense when the deficit was $300 billion a year when the deficit is $2 trillion heading to $3 trillion, you can tax the rich. I think it should be on the table. I think it should be part of the solution. If you think taxing the rich can close $116 trillion Social Security and Medicare shortfall over the next 30 years, you’re dreaming. We could seize every penny of wealth from every billionaire, and it would fund the government for eight months — once, for eight months — and then it would be gone. We could assess 100 percent tax rates on everyone over for earning over $400, 000, it wouldn’t even balance the budget.

I did a report on taxing the rich recently where I used models from Treasury, the Congressional Budget Office and liberal think tanks to maximize taxing the rich. I set every tax for the rich at the level that would maximize revenues, and I determined that if you just completely ignored the economy, you could maybe squeeze about 1 to 1.5 percent of GDP and revenues out of the rich. Maybe there’s a case for doing that. Taxing the rich should absolutely be on the table. But deficits are 7 percent of GDP right now, and they’re going to 10 to 12 percent of GDP. So, I don’t want to say we can’t tax the rich. In fact, in my paper, I propose certain tax hikes on the rich. But we need to be realistic that the left’s argument sometimes that taxing the rich can solve the budget. Is no more mathematically correct than the people on [00:21:00] the right who say cutting foreign aid or cutting welfare can balance the budget You can’t close a gap that big from those areas regardless of whether they’re a good idea you just can’t come close.

Joe Selvaggi: So, okay, so I think we’ve, I hope, scared a few people and also taken off the table. Some of the myths that, you know, can be solved with the taxing those over. I think I read the paper whereby all the revenue of those making more than $400,000 dollars. All of it is $2 trillion dollars a year, but we’re borrowing that. So, it’s, you know, it’s the scale is very out of balance.

So, you’ve been on the Hill. You’ve been in think tanks. You’ve been writing about this extensively. Other Where is our solution and, you know, who’s going to have to essentially tighten his belt? Where is the pain going to fall? Let’s assume, you know, I’ll stipulate that we do it in the short term.

In the long term, you know, we’re all dead, I guess, as an economist would say. But in the short term, what’s a viable path one might take?

Brian Riedl: There really isn’t politically a path right now because lawmakers and the voters basically don’t care. I’m trying to get them to care. They don’t. Ultimately, what’s going to happen at some point is the financial markets are going to have the final say, because we are dependent on borrowing $119 trillion from financial markets to pay these benefits.

If the financial markets simply refuse to lend it, then you have no choice but to either print the money, which creates its own problems, or finally address debt and deficits. I would love for us not to have to get to that point where you’re doing it in a fiscal crisis and an emergency because the financial markets are cutting us off but when we do reform Social Security and Medicare and deficits and debt and taxes The first rule is everything has to be on the table Everything has to be on the table.

There can be no sacred cows Republicans have to put taxes on the table. [00:23:00] Democrats have to put Social Security and Medicare on the table. Defense has to be on the table. Everything has to be reformed because it’s too big of a lift for any one part of the budget to do. I would like to see reforms across the budget and also some gradual changes to Social Security and Medicare, particularly for upper income seniors.

We can try to protect lower income seniors if we start now. And on taxes, you know, I think you can start with taxing the rich and then it’s a matter of how the middle, how much the middle class is going to pay in the less damaging way.

Joe Selvaggi: So, again, I have friends on both the right and the left. I think some are sort of aware of this problem, but they imagine, you know, they’re going to play it out and things are going to break their way.

I think those on the left think, well, eventually we’ll be at the end of our debt limit and those darn Republicans are going to realize they’ve got to raise taxes on the rich. And the right thinks, well, eventually we’re going to run out of money and those on the left. who advocate for bigger government will realize we finally run out of other people’s money. How does this end when it, you know, when nobody comes to their senses until there’s a crisis? What will it look like?

Brian Riedl: It’s going to look like a crisis. and no, no one’s really sure when that would happen. Five years, 10 years, 15 years. But lest you think I sound alarmist, the economists at Penn Wharton, University of Pennsylvania, did their own model of the budget long term and their economic model collapsed. It crashed. They could not even model an existing economy over the next several decades. And that’s, again, that’s the University of Pennsylvania economists. At some point, something has to give. And when they do, I would love for it to be before then. But at some point, when the financial markets basically say we will stop lending to you at reasonable interest rates.

You have, then there’s no choice but to raise taxes and cut spending. And at that point, you have to do it drastically. You can’t phase it in. You have to consolidate soon. And a lot of policies that right now seem absurd, you know, nobody wants to change Social Security and Medicare. Nobody wants to raise taxes on the middle class.

Nobody wants to cut the fence or nobody on the right wants to cut the fence. No one on the left wants to, you know, change anti-poverty programs, a lot of policies that right now sound absurd. Will be less absurd when the financial markets have essentially cut us off and we have no choice That might be what brings Republicans and Democrats together and every day and every week. They know all this. They know this is happening and a lot of them actually have their own little plans of here’s what we’re going to do when we have to sit down and solve Social Security and Medicare. A lot of them actually have their own little pet ideas. So, everyone on the hill knows this is coming, but they want to delay it as soon as possible because if they talk about it now, they’ll get hammered by voters.

Joe Selvaggi: So, as the end approaches, voters in our audience are listening, perhaps still a little bit skeptical. Is it fair to say that our current spike of inflation and our rising interest rates, including mortgage rates, are making homes more expensive. Is this sort of the beginning tremors of an imminent earthquake?

In other words, is this really a symptom of that larger problem? And if it is, you know, I think a lot of people say, I. So, once these interest rates come back down, then I’ll go buy a house or whatever. I think people think this is temporary and what you’re suggesting is this is a sort of a curve up into a, you know, a pretty fraught future.

Brian Riedl: It’s funny because people say you guys have been warning about Social Security and Medicare forever and nothing bad has happened. Well, the warning has always been that Social Security and Medicare were going to be in deep trouble starting in the 2020s and 2030s. The reason they talked about it in the ‘90s and 2000s was because that was the last chance to phase in gradual reforms. But the argument that, oh, you guys have been telling us this for decades. Yeah, they were telling you that $2 trillion deficits were coming by the 2020s. And now it’s the 2020s and the deficit is $2 trillion and they were telling you forever that Social Security was going to go insolvent in the early 2030s and now the trustees have said in 10 years Social Security will be insolvent. And so the warnings were actually correct.

I think people may have misheard when the collapses were going to come, they weren’t going to happen in the early 1990s or early 2000s. That was the last chance. The phase in reforms, it was always going to happen now, and it’s coming now, and we’re already feeling it. The [00:28:00] deficit is $2 trillion. Inflation and interest rates are rising.

Social Security is scheduled to be insolvent in 10 years. And if people think that interest rates are going to go back to what they were 10 years ago, I find it highly unlikely that the Federal Reserve is going to reduce the federal funds rate back down to zero or 1%. I think they’re not going to want to get burned again.

The financial markets aren’t going to want to get burned again. Interest rates may come down somewhat from where they are now, but if you think 3 percent and 2 percent mortgage rates are coming back, I think you’re going to be really surprised when that does not happen.

Joe Selvaggi: Indeed. So, we’re getting close to the end of our time together. I kind of already asked you this question, but if you were, I always like to ask every policy, I guess, if you’re king for a day, or you had every one of the 435 members of Congress in a room, and they were all listening to you and taking notes. What would you prescribe right now? What would you do? [00:29:00] you know, assuming you had the, you know. The cooperation and the political will behind you?

Brian Riedl: I would first try to enact a law essentially targeting the debt to stay at the current 100 percent of GDP over the long term. I would set budget targets over the 5- and 10-year period to keep the debt at 100 percent of GDP to set a framework and make tradeoffs and set priorities.

And then from there, I would try to get members to put everything on the table. Gradual reforms to Social Security and Medicare, mostly starting with upper income individuals and trying to squeeze out inefficiencies. And there will be taxes, taxing the rich, and on the tax side, too, trying to clean up as many bad deductions and loopholes.

That’s a good place to start. Bad deductions, bad tax loopholes, and get everything on the table to get that going. First, you set the framework of what the debt target should be. [00:30:00] And then everybody has to hold hands and jump together. All priorities are going to take a hit.

Joe Selvaggi: Indeed. That way, ultimately, we don’t go off that cliff whereby I can’t imagine when we essentially become insolvent, some 80 year old relying on Social Security, the check would, you know, wouldn’t that, or I don’t know, an aircraft carriers would essentially pull into the dock and not have any gas to leave. Is that what it would look like?

Brian Riedl: I mean, ultimately what you post about the 80-year-old with the Social Security check. That’s why the longer we wait for reforms, the less likely it is the reforms will include Social Security and Medicare changes. Because when Baby Boomers are 80 and 85 years old, when you have 74 million Baby Boomers in their 80s, it’s too late to change the retirement age and benefits.

That means it’s all going to be done on the tax side. And some may say, great, protect benefits, tax the rich. But as I said earlier, in order to pay all benefits, forget taxing the rich. You’re going to have about a 20 percent national sales tax, a [00:31:00] value added tax, and you’re going to have your payroll tax jump up about eight or 10 points.

That’s basically the future you’re facing, which is European taxes, but without the European benefits going to families, because the money instead is all going to seniors. So, the families paying European taxes won’t even get the European benefits. That’s the kind of the future we’re headed for.

Joe Selvaggi: Well, for those right-of-center listeners, that’s a dystopian world that I think, perhaps should motivate those on the right, perhaps, to come to the table and say, the future that we’re, you know, that we’re trying to avoid looks very, large government, large taxes and everyone unhappy that doesn’t sound very good.

So, we’ve run out of time. I want our listeners if you’ve we’ve piqued their interest in your writing in your analysis. Where can we read more? Brian Riedel, I know of course Manhattan Institute, you’re part of a wonderful organization. I listen to frequently, the dispatch. Where can we find your writing?

Brian Riedl:

If you go to my [00:32:00] page on the Manhattan Institute, there’s a link to all of my writing. I write for the dispatch. I write for the New York Post, the Daily Beast, occasionally for the Washington Post and New York Times. But you can find it all on the Manhattan Institute website. If you just go to my page and scroll down. Also, I’m on Twitter, Brian underscore Riedel.

Joe Selvaggi: Wonderful. Okay. So, we get daily updates on how things are going in this brave new world of ours. Well, thank you for joining me today on Hubwonk, Brian. You’ve been a great guest. Hopefully I’ve given our listeners something to think about. So, and you know, if something changes, I hope you’ll come back and join me again.

Brian Riedl: Thank you very much, Joe.

Joe Selvaggi: This has been another episode of Hubwonk. If you enjoyed today’s show, there are several ways to support Hubwonk and Pioneer Institute. It would be easier for you and better for us. If you subscribe to Hubwonk on your iTunes podcatcher, it would make it easier for others to find Hubwonk. If you offer a five-star rating or a favorable review, of course, we’re [00:33:00] grateful if you share Hubwonk with friends.

If you have ideas or suggestions or comments for me about future episode topics, you’re welcome to email me at Please join me next week for a new episode of Hubwonk.

Joe Selvaggi discusses the consequences of record structural deficits and debt with budget expert Brian Riedl, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. They delve into how these factors could impact the financial stability of Medicare and Social Security and examine the limited time available to avert a potential crisis.


Brian Riedl is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute with a background in budget, tax, and economic policy. He has significant experience in government roles, including serving as chief economist to Senator Rob Portman and as a director of budget and spending policy for political campaigns. Riedl’s work at the Heritage Foundation contributed to efforts to control federal spending. He is a widely published author and media commentator. Riedl holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science from the University of Wisconsin and a master’s degree in public affairs from Princeton University.