In fiscal year 2009, which ended on September 30, the federal budget deficit was an unprecedented $1.4 trillion. The Congressional Budget Office predicts a similar deficit for FY 2010. The national debt, racing toward $12 trillion, is growing at rates that haven't been matched since World War II.
On Monday, October 19, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said during a speech in California that the U.S. government must establish a "sustainable fiscal trajectory, anchored by a clear commitment to substantially reduce federal deficits over time."
The annual Social Security and Medicare Trustees reports released earlier this year also paint a stark picture of the dire financial health of the country, and of the two programs upon which every older American relies. According to the Trustees reports, Social Security will start paying out more in benefits than it collects in taxes in 2016, a full year sooner than projected last year, and the fund will be completely depleted by 2037. Medicare's trust fund is in even worse condition, and assuming current policy, will be exhausted by 2017. In total the U.S. government owes nearly $57 trillion in unfunded entitlement program obligations.
The federal deficit, national debt, and condition of Social Security and Medicare, are economic, moral, and generational issues. Is it right for one generation to live very well knowing that its debts will be left to be paid by their children and grandchildren?
I continue to advocate for a national commission to address this problem. The bipartisan bill I have introduced with Rep. Jim Cooper of Tennessee, the SAFE (Securing America's Future Economy) Commission Act, would establish a bipartisan panel to address the budget crisis and put all options on the table - entitlement spending, other program spending, and tax policy. Congress would be required to vote up or down on the commission's recommendations.
I am committed to bringing attention to this important issue, and will continue to push my colleagues in Congress and the new administration to join me in this bipartisan effort.