Each year, Washington spends billions of dollars more than it takes in, and the problem will only get worse. The recent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) long-term budget outlook shows a $40 trillion increase in debt over the next two decades. Even soaring tax receipts will not be able to keep up with surging spending, which has put us on the road to fiscal calamity. So why aren’t more people talking about it, and why aren’t we doing anything to fix it?
It’s a bipartisan failing.
The federal budget is not just a source of political debate; it’s a reflection of national priorities. Dumping trillions of dollars of our retirement costs on to our children and grandchildren is simply immoral. In a family, when parents overspend for themselves, the proper response is not to force the teenage kids to pick up the tab; it’s to scale back the spending.
We all know the big problem lies in so-called mandatory spending—the vital but unsustainable entitlement programs and interest on the debt—now 2/3 of the budget and within ten years projected to be over 3/4 of the budget. Groups from across the political spectrum are beginning to voice support for gradual and responsible reforms of entitlement programs that include protections for working class Americans. Solutions like means-testing entitlement benefits and gradually allowing the Medicare eligibility age for upper income Americans to catch up to Social Security have been proposed by groups like the Urban Institute and the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. The latest version of the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles plan includes these reforms. As the Medicare age is gradually raised in response to increased longevity, I believe low-income Americans can and should be protected.
By acting now, we can avoid this crisis. We can avoid leaving an immoral legacy of massive debt, high taxes, and anemic economic growth to our children and grandchildren. We can do it while spurring economic growth by reforming the tax code, encouraging more domestic energy exploration, replacing Obamacare with patient-centered health care, expanding exports through new agreements, and limiting Washington red tape. And we can do it while continuing to ensure that these vital entitlement programs are available for all Americans, particularly those who need them most. But we can’t do it if we ignore the problem or if we are afraid to address it squarely.
That’s an approach our country truly cannot afford.
Senator Rob Portman