By Ross Connolly
Congress was set to face a moment of reckoning in September. After years of reckless spending, the government would once again come up against the debt ceiling, meaning the country could no longer borrow to pay for out-of-control expenditures.
This could have been a moment to begin getting serious about our mushrooming national debt, to rein in the excesses that threaten our future, and to show that Congress was committed to ending the business-as-usual behavior that has led to Americans preferring root canals to Congress.
Instead, the debt ceiling deadline simply became the latest shameful example of Washington leveraging a crisis to increase spending and continuing to put our nation’s fiscal future at risk. With a budget deal that piles up $1.7 trillion in new debt over the next decade, Congress has once again chosen to kick the can down the road.
Budgeting by crisis is a lousy strategy for your finances at home and an equally terrible idea for America. But instead of having the courage to stay in Washington and work to find a solution, Congress instead chose the drunken sailor route, with no regard for where this path leads. It’s time for lawmakers to commit to moving forward with serious spending reforms. That’s particularly true of our congressional delegation representing the frugal Granite State, where we know that you can’t keep spending money you don’t have.
We are not only bankrupting future generations, but putting our current seniors at risk. The Medicare trust fund will begin to run a deficit in just seven years, and seven years after that, the Social Security trust fund does the same, when the programs become reliant solely on current tax receipts. That means automatic cuts for beneficiaries. This is not something far off in the distant future. It’s about to happen to people you know, maybe to you.
And while last week’s vote was the latest iteration, this crisis has been decades in the making. We’ve all seen this coming.
Over the past 15 years, Americans for Prosperity has consistently offered solutions to repairing our ongoing fiscal problems, both to Republicans and Democrats. Today, we call on both parties to stop pointing fingers and start having critical, reality-based conversations about bringing responsibility back to federal spending.
Any solution must deal with the biggest drivers of the federal budget: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. These programs, which are critical to seniors and many disabled individuals, account for 84% of increases in projected federal spending over the next decade. The unfunded liability of just Medicare and Social Security is $56 trillion, dwarfing even our national debt.
Fixing these programs will not be easy and must be done in a way that protects those who depend on them, but they are an integral part of resolving our nation’s long-term debt crisis. At the same time, we must also scale back discretionary spending if we are going to make a significant dent in the massive deficits that the Congressional Budget Office is projecting for the next 10 years. Busting discretionary spending caps by $320 billion over the next two years is taking us in the wrong direction.
As we listen to lawmakers, the president and the candidates in our first-in-the-nation primary state, conversations about reducing debt and deficits are few and far between, if we hear anything at all. For future generations, this silence in deafening.
Ross Connolly lives in Merrimack. He is deputy state director of Americans for Prosperity in New Hampshire.