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Reining in Federal Spending: Lessons from Social Security


Published September 16, 2020

Limiting the growth in federal spending is difficult, but history tells us it is not impossible. Changes to Social Security in the 1970s demonstrate that Congress can, with the right constraints, cut future spending. As the country rebounds from additional COVID-19 spending, it will be important to return the United States to a sustainable long-term fiscal path.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why is the federal spending so high?
  2. What can the government do to control its spending?

Additional Resources

  • Pick up a copy of The High Cost of Good Intentions: A History of U.S. Federal Entitlement Programs by John Cogan, winner of the 2018 Hayek Book Prize, available here.
  • Watch as John Cogan speaks with Peter Robinson on “Uncommon Knowledge” here.
  • Read John Cogan’s chapter “Entitlements and the Budget” in Blueprint for America, available here.
  • Watch the Blueprint for America video “Entitlements and the Budget” by John Cogan, available here.
  • Watch “Falling Short: Social Security, Medicare, and Payroll Taxes” by John Cogan, available here.