What You Should And Should Not Worry About

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Should you be worried? Yes, judging by this list of things to worry about and not to worry about as provided by former Office of Management and Budget Director Mitch Daniels before NAFCU's annual meeting.

* Worry-Long term energy policy. "I'm really struck by and concerned over our lack of activity as a country with long-term energy policy. Our fate is really tied to this. Are we going to take steps somewhere, somehow to make ourselves less dependent? We are coming up to a very important turning point on Yucca Mountain (Nevada) as a place to put nuclear waste. As one of my friends said, 'Everybody wants to pick it up, nobody wants to put it down.' If it is not permitted to go forward we are probably out of room with nuclear power. Gas prices today are manageable. Energy sources long term are the concern."

* No worry-Gas prices. "Alan Greenspan pays very close attention to the six-month oil future. We may have come to a new plateau. It looks like we're in for a prolonged period of more than $30 a barrel

* Worry-Long-Term Government Entitlements. "I'm not here to say 'Don't sweat the deficit,' but I am here to say you should be more concerned about our entitlement situation. Our total federal deficit is $4.7 trillion dollars or so. Our unfunded entitlements are far more than that. The net present value of the unfunded promises of Medicare is now calculated at $28 trillion.

* Worry-Declining populations. "A larger question that is less well understood is a global phenomenon. For the first time in history we have a situation of underpopulation. Fertility rates in many developed countries are at their lowest in history. Countries that go flat or even shrink demographically get old in a hurry. That's a problem when younger people pay the medical bills of the older people. Population growth has always driven economic growth. What happens when it goes flat? In the United States, we got rich before we got old. What about countries like Mexico and China that are getting old before they get rich?"

* No worry-National debt. "I am the last person you could have invited to this meeting who would tell you not to worry about that. But there must be some perspective. I think this is temporary. Receipts to the federal government are rising. Refunds in spring of this year were lower than expected, which is probably because people were earning more than expected.

* Worry-Terrorism. "History will judge and in this room and in every room there will be very different opinions on whether it was wise to carry the war on terror to its sources. I do want to say the long-term threat of terrorism is something to worry a lot about. It is not something to go into denial about. Please remember we lost three times as many people on Sept. 11 as we have lost in Iraq to date. The economic cost to taxpayers to build a homeland security operation, rebuild Iraq, and the hit of 9/11 should not be minimized. We cannot sit down and sit still and hope it will not happen again."

* Worry-Divisions within the U.S. "When I look around our country right now, I am struck and disturbed by a new set of divisions and estrangements I don't think we've seen before. A relatively small one is in sharing of burdens in our country. One percent of Americans pay 37% of the income tax. The top half pay almost half of income tax. We want to be careful about arriving at a point where half of Americans don't feel they have a skin in the game or an investment in the country.

"The one that really troubles me the most is that it appears to me that we have arrived at a place in American life where we have very, very sharp divisions of a new kind. We have divisions of outlook based on income and educational status. The divisions we seem to be coming to today are much more cultural and attitudinal. In the cases of some people, if I think you're wrong about something, then you are evil, a bad person. We haven't lined up by religious factions in the past."

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