Monday, March 07, 2016
Hartzler: Reining in America's out-of-control spending (Part 1)
You’ve heard before that our country is in the grips of an unsustainable debt crisis that threatens our children and grandchildren. As a member of the House Budget Committee and a concerned citizen with a family, I have spoken extensively of the need to rein in our bloated federal government and its unquenchable desire for more taxpayer money. In part one of this two part column, I’d like to take a look into how we got where we are and how we get ourselves out of this morass. Next week we will discuss some possible solutions.
To start, it should be made clear there are two main types of spending – discretionary and mandatory. Discretionary spending refers to the portion of the budget that is decided by Congress each year. This covers defense and other non-defense federal programs, accounting for approximately 30 percent of our total spending. Mandatory spending, on the other hand, is automatic spending Congress does not vote on and is set by how much each program needs to cover the participants in them. About 70 percent of our budget is driven by mandatory programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.
In recent years, Congress has made great progress in cutting discretionary spending. In fact, since Republicans took over the majority in the House in 2010, discretionary spending has been cut by $125 billion.
But while discretionary spending is being trimmed, mandatory spending is growing. Mandatory spending makes up two-thirds of our budget and is largely responsible for our $19 trillion debt. What makes this spending even more of a cause for concern is the fact that interest payments on that debt are continuing to climb and are slated to exceed what we spend on our national defense in the next 10 years. Interestingly, the only programs receiving more than these interest payments are Social Security and Medicare. Unless action is taken, and quickly, these two programs will not be around for future generations.
The simple truth is that we are an aging society, using more and more of the benefits contained in the safety net. Social Security spending is projected to double from $882 billion in FY 2015 to $1.6 trillion in FY 2026. Medicare is also projected to double from $539 billion to $1.079 trillion over the same period of time. This is clearly an unsustainable path.
I want to preserve and protect Social Security, Medicare, and other vital government programs to ensure they are available to those who need them. If this is to happen, we must abandon the path we are on and take our country in another direction – a more responsible, conservative direction.
In next week’s column I will discuss some plans my Republican colleagues and I are considering as we must all come to grips with the fact we are spending too much and must make serious changes so Washington can do what families do all across Missouri's 4th District--live within its means.