Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Lamm and Owens paint grim picture at governor’s breakfast

Two of Colorado’s last four governors focused their 20 combined years of experience on the issues Thursday and agreed: It’s the end of the world as we know it, but both feel fine.

It isn’t that America’s problems aren’t vast, said former Democratic Gov. and Dick Lamm, a DU public policy professor. It’s that there’s been too little action that matters. And unless the U.S. deals with entitlements and “peak oil,” fiscal ruin for the next generation will result and democracy itself could be at risk.

To that scenario former Republican Gov. Bill Owens, now a senior fellow at DU, added deteriorating infrastructure, specifically the interstate highway system.

Both former chief executives met under the auspices of DU’s Burns School of Real Estate and Construction Management, which hosted Breakfast with the Governors for more than 100 business, political and university leaders and students at the Daniels College of Business.

Lamm and Owens combined to paint a grim portrait of the U.S. future without action — $6 to $10 per gallon gasoline, crumbling highways and “a sea of red ink.” But both also offered hard, though doable, solutions. For Lamm, that meant 10 years of raising taxes and cutting social benefits to avoid burdening future generations with “$53 to $73 trillion of unfunded debt” from Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

“How do we get through the baby boomers without bankrupting the country?” he asked.

For Owens, the solution is increasing the privatization of public services — roads, prisons, buses, airports and water and power systems — virtually any public enterprise that the private sector could perform more efficiently.

“It’s building on what our parents left us,” he said. “To re-monetize” public assets to the private sector and apply the income to fixing bridges, roads and other infrastructure.

“I am a believer in using the efficiencies of the private sector for the public good,” said Owens, predicting that the U.S. would soon adopt the European model of leasing-out roads and airports for private enterprises to operate.

“You set in the contract the requirements you insist upon,” he said in describing how quality control would work.

Lamm was unconvinced that “leasing off assets” would be enough, reiterating his call for raising the retirement age and capping Social Security payouts.

“The real problem is entitlement,” he said, adding that the day of “peak oil” — when demand outstrips supply — is not far off and could have a devastating impact on Colorado.

“Global warming is the trump issue,” he warned. “We shouldn’t build a car in America that doesn’t get 40 miles per gallon.”

Comments are closed.