Congress and the President Must Solve Budget Crisis

July 7, 2011

“During the debt debate, as Congress and the President circle each other, make offers and counter offers, propose concessions, then refuse to compromise, the American people can’t help but think they have been to this dance before.  They didn’t like what they saw during the government shutdown dispute and they don’t like this new version of the same old thing.


“It’s no surprise, then, that only one out of five people approve of the job Congress is doing.  One of five is a number that, quite frankly, seems high as I read the letters and hear the phone calls that come into my office every day from frustrated Idahoans.  Americans simply don’t believe Congress will solve the biggest problems facing the nation, chief among them being the $14.3 trillion national debt.  The 24 hour news cycle only makes it worse -- both parties just dig in their heels, fearing the repercussions that would come with any compromise. Meanwhile the national debt continues to climb.


“Turn on the news today and you are likely to hear something about the approaching debt limit, which has become a pressure point in the ongoing debate.  But once the debt limit increase debate is over, the really tough part begins. Will Congress have the political will to craft and follow through on a long term plan that lays out a path toward fiscal well-being?  Will the President support such a plan? Will Congress and the President then have the self control to follow through on that plan over the next 10, 20, even 30 years? 


“I was encouraged by the budget proposal put forth this spring by House Republicans and Chairman Paul Ryan that laid out a detailed path to balance.  It was a beginning to the debate, and while it may not have been perfect, it was a first step.  It illustrated just how difficult it will be to meet this challenge. House Republicans were heavily criticized for offering a plan that included reforms to Medicare and Medicaid, but any serious plan will have to bring those programs back into fiscal solvency or put serious controls on mandatory spending, which makes up two-thirds of the budget every year. It will have to deal with health care costs, which are skyrocketing at almost four times the rate of inflation while 10,000 baby boomers retire every day.


“Americans agree that the national debt is a real and serious threat to our economy, but they realize it is more than that. It is more than the cost of the interest paid every year ($202 billion in fiscal year 2010); it is more than the fact that Congress borrows more than 40 cents on every dollar it spends.  A $14.3 trillion debt symbolizes the fear of some that America is now in decline and the strength and standing of our country in the world is under threat.  Now is the time for Congress to overcome partisan disagreements and work together to craft a tough, responsible plan to meet this challenge.”