We have to get serious about debt problem

Idaho Press-Tribune
by U.S. Senator Crapo
February 19, 2016

As our national debt now exceeds $19 trillion and as Congress prepares to establish budget frameworks for the coming year, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has issued projections that require us to take notice of the ever-growing pit of debt our nation is amassing. We must get real and make the changes necessary to stop the growth of the national debt that seriously weakens our country.

CBO’s projections speak to the magnitude of the problem. CBO estimates that the annual deficit for 2016 will be $544 billion, $105 billion higher than last year. This means that in one year alone, our country is expected to spend more than half of $1 trillion more than it has. Federal spending is projected to rise overall by 6 percent this year to 21.2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). Interest spending on the debt will rise by 13 percent this year (payments on the debt will rise from $223 billion last year to $830 billion in 2026).

CBO projects that the number of people 65 and older will rise by 37 percent between now and 2026. This will likely put additional strain on the solvency of entitlement programs — Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — that comprise the majority of federal spending.

Gross federal debt is expected to rise by about $10 trillion, from approximately $19 trillion to $29.3 trillion in 2026. This escalation of debt will occur despite the CBO projections that the federal government will take 4 percent more in revenue this year, amounting to 18.3 percent of GDP, which is well above the 50-year historic average of 17.4 percent of GDP.

This further illustrates that the problem is not worsening due to not enough tax revenue. It grows despite record revenue, further proving the real driver of the problem is far too much federal spending.

Unfortunately, the president seems unwilling to recognize the enormity of problem. Instead, the administration is pursuing a budget that continues to push for more growth in government and more unrestrained spending. The president’s budget would increase federal spending by $1.24 trillion over the next 10 years and would raise taxes by $4.51 trillion. We cannot spend our way into prosperity with borrowed money.

As a member of the Senate Budget Committee, I will work to build on last year’s passage of the first budget resolution conference report in years. The federal government must follow a balanced budget that stops the unsustainable growth of our national debt.

We must end this cycle of irresponsibility now. We must make changes that enable our country to grow and reduce this catastrophic level of debt. We must fix our broken, overly burdensome and complex tax code by simplifying it and lowering rates for all individuals, families and businesses. We must reduce federal spending and enact strong budget controls that prevent Congress and the president from spending beyond our means. We must stabilize our entitlement programs to maintain promises to protect current recipients, while strengthening the systems to guarantee solvency for future recipients.

We must get real and confront this challenge head on, as ignoring it only enables it to worsen.