Weekly Columns

Eliminating Debt Must Be A National Priority

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Washington, April 21, 2011 | comments

Seeking to put our economy on the path to prosperity and fiscal responsibility, the House passed the Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 budget, which aims to cut $6.2 trillion in government spending over the next ten years.  The Senate must still approve a budget, and we must demand one that is fiscally responsible because what’s at stake is the future of our economy.

Our nation’s current debt level is a risk to our national security. Just this week, Standard & Poor’s lowered its outlook on U.S. debt to “negative,” reflecting uncertainty about how Congress and the Administration will address long-term debt. Something drastic must be done to ensure our nation does not default on our debt.

As this Congress considers our long-term budget, we need to make clear that the spending spree is over.  We can do this if the Senate passes a FY 2012 budget similar to the House-passed plan.  Spending right now is well above its historical average of twenty percent of GDP, and spending has always exceeded the revenues the government receives. 

Although I am glad to hear the president asked lawmakers to reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over the next twelve years last week, the budget he actually submitted would still increase our debt by nearly $10 trillion over the next ten years. Even though his speech was filled with generalities on how to get there, we are finally forcing President Obama to recognize that major reform and spending cuts need to take place. Now that it seems we are fundamentally aligned on the goal, we need to agree on a specific path to get there.

In the very near future, to avoid defaulting on debt, this Congress will be asked to raise the debt ceiling. A failure to do so could result in the nation defaulting on its debts to investors, a sure path to economic catastrophe. We have to be honest with people – without cutting Medicare and Social Security benefits– something I do not believe we should do – we cannot balance the budget. I do not believe we can or should change the deal we made with current seniors.  But to get a hold of our long-term debt, we must also be honest with future seniors – those currently under the age of 55 – that a different deal will be in their future.  That deal will involve access to health care that is similar to what is offered to members of Congress.

We cannot accept business as usual.  The fiscal direction of this country must change. Before we consider any change to the debt ceiling, we must have a plan in place that legislators and the president can agree upon to improve our country's fiscal and economic future.  This must include significant spending cuts, because reaching the current debt ceiling is only a symptom of our fiscal policy being way off track.

 

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