Every election, we're told, is important. Critical, even. But it's more than the usual hyperbole this time.
Right now, our nation's on the wrong path. If nothing is done, our next generation will experience not liberty, freedom and prosperity, but crushing debt, higher taxes and job-killing regulations.
Unlike any generation before us, we face the very real possibility that our grandchildren may be worse off than their grandparents.
But a comprehensive program that we at The Heritage Foundation have developed, "Saving the American Dream," shows how we can preserve the American Dream.
First, the budget problem must be addressed. Left alone, entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and their unfunded liabilities will cripple the nation.
Reforms to entitlement programs, health insurance and the federal tax code under Heritage's plan would balance the budget within 10 years, and keep it balanced -- not with tax hikes, but with serious cuts in government spending.
Next is debt. Currently, the federal debt is 70 percent of the economy and rising. By the early 2020s, debt would amount to 100 percent of GDP.
That's why each of my three grandchildren has a $200,000+ mortgage -- with no home attached to it. This share of the unfunded liabilities of entitlements will be used to pay for the benefits of my wife and me. It's morally and financially irresponsible to have debt like this.
The Heritage plan cuts the nation's debt to 30 percent of GDP by 2035, and puts it on a downward path. This helps to guarantee that future generations will not be drowned by debt, and the interest costs that come with it.
Big government is another problem. The role of the federal government has been expanded vastly in recent years. The Heritage plan calls for a major realignment of the federal government, reducing it to about one half its currently projected size within 25 years.
Our plan focuses on eliminating the federal government's micromanagement of our economy that should be dealt with on a state or local level -- or, better yet, by the private sector.
Redundant and wasteful programs are eliminated completely, while other responsibilities are granted to the states with greater flexibility. And those functions that the private sector performs better would be removed from the grasp of planners in Washington D.C.
Speaking of the private sector: if we expect it to expand significantly any time soon, we must be sure that government isn't standing in its way. Scheduled tax increases discourage business from expanding, push existing business overseas and stop start-ups, especially among the most creative small-business sectors.
The complicated and unfair tax code would be changed under the Heritage plan, and replaced with a simplified, flat-tax rate system. The new rate is expected to be roughly 27 percent to achieve the revenue goal. And it would fold Social Security, Medicare and all other federal taxes into the single-rate income tax.
This proposed system would reward savings, offer greater wealth creation and empower Americans to take charge of their financial future.
As for Social Security and Medicare, the Heritage plan strengthens and preserves these programs by scaling back benefits for the most affluent seniors and focusing help on those who truly need it.
Heritage's reforms mean seniors would no longer have to fear living in poverty or facing financial ruin due to catastrophic health care costs.
Lastly, the savings-oriented design of Heritage's fiscal plan helps working families save and create more wealth by avoiding double taxation of savings. It encourages a growing economy.
"Saving the American Dream" will help Americans become less dependent on the government for maintaining their standard of living, and become more self-reliant.
Ronald Reagan had a plaque on his desk that read, "It can be done." He was right.
It can be done -- and it must. It's time to promote the principles that made this nation great.
- Ed Feulner is president
of The Heritage Foundation (www.heritage.oeg).