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
Just over two years ago, President Donald Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act into law. Since then, Americans are not only getting to keep more of their hard-earned money as promised, but the economy is clearly booming as a result of the president’s continual focus on pro-growth policies. Indeed, there are numerous signs that the country is better off and that the best is still ahead.
Once again, Congress is quickly approaching another critical deadline related to government funding. At this time last year when Republicans controlled both chambers of Congress, more than 75 percent of annual funding had already been signed into law in record time before the start of the fiscal year. Unfortunately, now more than two months into the current fiscal year, no full-year appropriations bills have passed out of Congress or been signed into law.
President Donald Trump and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe recently announced that our two countries finalized a limited trade agreement, and I am encouraged that it was formally signed by both countries this week. While I was participating in a congressional delegation trip to Japan and other Pacific Rim nations in August, we were told that a deal would likely be agreed to soon. A couple of months later, I am pleased it has finally come to fruition. This limited agreement is particularly good news for American farmers, ranchers and manufacturers.
The economic success that America has experienced lately is truly historic. Even with unemployment as low as 3.7 percent, Congress has an opportunity to further improve the nation’s economy and create more jobs by advancing the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which would replace the outdated North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). USMCA already has bipartisan support, and if it were brought to the floor in the U.S. House of Representatives, I think it would easily pass.