By Rick Berg
In North Dakota, we keep our word. We live within our means, we use what we have to the fullest potential, and we do all this without taking unnecessary risk.
Last week, it was announced that for the first time since 1983, Social Security will pay out $41 billion more in benefits than it receives in payroll taxes. Washington politicians now have us at risk of breaking a promise to our seniors. The Social Security system, like most Washington-run programs, is broken.
The politicians in Washington have kicked this can down the road long enough. They are simultaneously passing more and more debt to our children and not addressing the long-term stability of Social Security for our elderly.
It's time we step up and start a dialogue with new ideas to fix the problem. We made a promise to our seniors, and we must keep that promise.
On this issue, I have said time and again that the No. 1 thing we can do to help Social Security, without reducing benefits or privatizing the system, is to get more people back to work and paying into the system. I also have said I support extracting more oil and natural gas from federal land and using those revenues to shore up Social Security.
I am open to the idea of more fully using federal land by permitting more gas and oil production on that land. Extracting minerals from this land is under way; my suggestion simply accelerates development in an environmentally sound manner.
I also am in favor of charging fair market price for the leases and using that revenue to bolster Social Security.
The Bureau of Land Management manages 700 million acres (roughly 30 percent of the U.S.) of subsurface mineral estate underlying federal, state and private lands. There is a huge opportunity right now to take those mineral assets -- which are on the federal government's balance sheet -- and shift some to Social Security by extracting the oil and gas.
It would be another tool to fix Social Security without new massive, job-killing taxes or benefits reductions. This idea also will reduce our dependence on foreign energy, stimulate the economy and create jobs.
To solve our nation's problems, we must encourage and discuss ideas. My thought centers on non-park federal land for this, not on entering a park (the great majority of federally controlled land is not in national parks).
My intention is to use our nation's vast federal land areas and avoid anything that hurts the scenic beauty or environment of our national parks or wilderness.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park is a place of historic importance and majestic beauty. I grew up in western North Dakota, I am a volunteer member of the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation board, and I never would support entering the park to drill or risk impacting scenic beauty or environment by drilling too near it.
I would consider national park resources only if there was a way to do so without entering the park, by using technology such as horizontal drilling to go under the park from well outside the park boundaries, and then only if it would in no way affect the park or view shed.
We must keep our word to our seniors. We must live within our means and use what we have to the fullest potential, and we can do all of this without taking unnecessary risk.
It's how we do things in North Dakota.
It's time we get this country back on track and get this economy going. It's time we stop bailing out Wall Street and borrowing 43 cents on every dollar we spend. And it's time we address the insolvency of Social Security,
If elected to Congress, that is exactly what I will do.