Weekly Columns

Out of Control Spending: How We Got Here

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Washington, February 17, 2016 | Tiffany Haverly (202-226-8072) | comments

I want to begin this week’s column by noting my thoughts and prayers continue to be with the family, friends, colleagues and loved ones of Justice Antonin Scalia. I had the honor of meeting Justice Scalia on more than one occasion, and I always found him to be respectful and thoughtful. Our country has lost a great constitutional conservative, and Justice Scalia’s death will have a huge impact on the future of our nation. As we are in the midst of a presidential campaign, I believe the Senate should delay confirmation of his successor until we have a new president.

Last week, President Obama submitted his final budget to Congress. It’s no surprise his budget spends too much, proposes steep and unrealistic tax hikes and never balances. In last week’s column I wrote about some of the problems I have with the president’s budget; and I believe it’s important to not only oppose bad ideas, but to put forward new and better ideas to get our country back on track. This week, I want to share with you how our country got into the fiscal mess we’re in now, and next week I’ll share some conservative ideas and proposals I believe will help get our fiscal house back in order. I realize this is no small task, but it’s important we do the work now to leave a better country for our children and grandchildren.

For too long, lawmakers from both parties – Republicans and Democrats – have been irresponsible with your tax dollars. It’s time we look at all federal spending and find a sustainable way to fund our priorities without spending more and more money we don’t have.

Republicans in Congress have led the charge to cut discretionary spending; fiscal year 2016 (FY16) discretionary spending was $125 billion below the FY10 level. While more can and should be done to control discretionary spending, two-thirds of federal spending is on autopilot and is not voted on annually by Congress. This is known as mandatory spending, and includes programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, ObamaCare subsidies and food stamps. 50 years ago, this spending only made up one-third of our budget, but it’s now two-thirds and growing at an unsustainable rate.

Further, if we don’t make significant changes, interest payments on the national debt will eventually exceed what we spend on our national defense, Medicaid, education, transportation and other programs combined. Over the next ten years, interest owed on the national debt will exceed $5.7 trillion. The only programs that will receive more money than the interest on the debt are Social Security and Medicare, and they’re on an unsustainable track too. If we want Social Security and Medicare to be available to future generations, we need to act now. As more Americans enter retirement age, Social Security spending is projected to double from $882 billion in fiscal year 2015 to $1.6 trillion in fiscal year 2026. Medicare is also expected to double, growing from $539 billion in fiscal year 2015 to $1.079 trillion in fiscal year 2026.

I hope you’re seeing that this is a serious, multifaceted problem. In addition to cutting out our reckless spending, we have to make changes to mandatory spending so we can pay down our debt and ensure programs like Medicare and Social Security are sustainable and viable for future generations. If we continue down the current path, we’ll leave a less free and less prosperous country for our children and grandchildren. In my next column, I’ll highlight what House Republicans are proposing to cut spending, reform mandatory spending and start paying down our national debt.

Feel free to contact my office if I can be of assistance to you or your family. 
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