I have consistently supported legislation and policies to get the nation’s long-term fiscal house in order by balancing the budget and reforming mandatory programs, so we can eventually pay down our debt.
Budget and Spending
The federal government must cut back on spending so that it can run efficiently and effectively for its citizens. Of the more than $3.7 trillion in annual spending by the federal government, about one third is spent on discretionary programs (those that Congress and the president control on an annual basis). But unless we take on the complicated task of reforming the other two thirds of government designated as mandatory spending (mostly entitlement programs), America will eventually go bankrupt.
The real challenge is that the mandatory side of the budget – including interest on the national debt – is by far the largest category and rapidly growing. Numerous facts, figures and economic analyses have for years warned about the unsustainable growth of mandatory spending. For example, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported that mandatory represented 34 percent of all government spending in 1965; today, that figure has risen dramatically to reflect more than two-thirds of all spending in 2018. By 2028, mandatory is on track to cover at least 77 percent of all spending.
With mandatory spending, it’s not only the rapid rate of its growth, eclipsing discretionary spending, that is alarming. CBO has also projected that the federal trust funds connected to Medicare and Social Security are quickly nearing insolvency and thus will eventually fail to deliver on the benefits promised. On the current path and according to projections by the Congressional Budget Office, Social Security as a whole is expected to become insolvent in 2032 – with the Social Security Disability Insurance Trust Fund unable to pay out full benefits as early as 2028.
Long Term Reforms
Clearly, to make real progress toward tackling our burden of debt, tough decisions and careful solutions are required. But the solutions must include reforms to save and sustain the mandatory programs serving many vulnerable Americans. I believe a good place to start would be passage of legislation I introduced again this Congress, the Bipartisan Social Security Commission Act. The bill calls for a bipartisan and bicameral commission tasked with recommending reforms to ensure Social Security is solvent for at least 75 years. Congress would then be required to vote up or down on the commission’s recommendations within 60 legislative days. This approach worked in 1983 when the solvency of Social Security was extended by 50 years. It can work again if our political leaders will face up to their responsibilities and work in a bipartisan manner.
More on Economy
Following the recently ended fiscal year, it was reported that the federal government’s budget deficit increased significantly compared to the previous year. While this is certainly discouraging news, the existence of a deficit is not surprising or unusual. Critics are of course quick to blame the implementation of tax reform as the chief contributor to the recent deficit. However, the reality is that another factor has for years been driving deficits and as a result, adding to the national debt.
Last week, Congress responsibly fulfilled its most fundamental duty to the American people by funding some of the nation’s most critical and pressing needs. The legislation signed into law by the president not only provides funding to strengthen and support our national defense, but it ensures vital programs and initiatives that serve all Americans can continue to do so effectively. While this recent action by Congress and the president is unquestionably good news for the country, I am proud that it also marks a historic and much-needed return to governing by regular order.