“The crushing burden of debt.” That’s a phrase you have likely heard a lot these days to describe America’s fiscal future. Perhaps you have even used it yourself. In fact, some say it has become cliché.
Yet, according to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, this crushing burden of debt is the most serious national security threat facing our nation.
Today we shoulder more than $14 trillion in debt, and will add roughly $1.4 trillion this year. If we continue with business as usual in Washington, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says we will add more than $6.7 trillion more through 2021, and increase our outstanding debt to well over $20 trillion.
It has taken our government years to get into this kind of debt. And while the solution is simple — stop borrowing and spending — it is a solution that we have put off for far too long.
Why is balancing the budget so hard? Think about your own finances. We all balance our household budget. The principal difference between trying to balance your household budget and trying to balance the government’s budget is that we never let our household budgeting get so out of hand in the first place.
When money that goes out the door exceeds money that comes in, it’s time to spend less. In our government’s case, rather than cutting back, it just kept spending more, and borrowing more, and spending more — trillions more.
So how bad is the problem? Well, we use every tax dollar that we receive to pay for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, interest on the debt, and other automatic expenditures. We must borrow every other nickel we spend. Every nickel for homeland security, defense, courts, education, health care, the environment, transportation and more is borrowed.
So, what happens next? How do we avoid the fiscal ruin of our nation?
Back in February, President Obama produced a budget proposal that added $1.5 trillion in new taxes and failed to tackle a single one of the drivers of our debt and spending. The Washington Post, upon reading the President’s budget, chastised the White House in an editorial titled, “Punter in Chief.” That says it all.
My colleagues and I on the House Budget Committee have put together a forward-thinking budget that shrinks the size of government and gets our fiscal house in order by improving incentives to work, invest and innovate through pro-growth tax reform. We have moved from the Washington Post concluding the President is the “Punter in Chief,” to the Wall Street Journal calling our budget “the most serious attempt to reform government in at least a generation.” Both publications are right. Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are all facing bankruptcy, and the president’s budget changes nothing. The Republican budget begins the steps to reform and rescue them all.
Our leaders have tough decisions to make, and America has a long road ahead of it. Our debt crisis took a long time to manifest; likewise, it will take time to resolve. Any American who relies on government spending will experience changes; many of us will struggle. Whether or not we are strong enough to endure the changes and weather this storm will determine whether America, land of freedom, will flourish or fail. Knowing my Georgia neighbors as I do, I know that we will meet this challenge, defeat it, and reclaim America for another 250 years.
U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Lawrenceville, serves on the House Budget Committee and the House Rules Committee.