By Representative James Lankford
President Obama gave a major speech on Feb. 23, 2009, at his Fiscal Responsibility Summit in Washington, D.C., and stated, "Today, I'm pledging to cut the deficit we inherited in half by the end of my first term in office."
At that time, the deficit was $1.42 trillion. As we enter the final year of his term, the president's recently released budget forecasts a single year budget deficit of $1.33 trillion for Fiscal Year 2012. To put this into perspective, the last full year of the Bush administration had a deficit of $459 billion. Every year of President Obama's term, his deficits were more than twice as high as the largest deficit under President Bush.
Each year, the president submits a budget to Congress to share his vision for the future of the country. The president's budget this year is a typical election-year blueprint for increased spending and free goodies to donors and key sectors of the electorate, but this is not a typical year. America has reached a critical moment with our debt exceeding total Gross Domestic Product. Our national debt now totals more than what we produce in a year as a nation. While that is a huge problem, the bigger problem is the absence of an agreed-upon plan to get us out of this debt.
When you look at the president's long-term budget, there is no hope for a future that balances even a single year. In his proposal, we never pay a dime of the principle on our national debt. Can you name any business in America that never plans to pay off its debt and instead plans to add more debt every year in the future?
Every person who pays taxes should demand accountability from the federal government. Our debt is so large and our economy is so fragile that we must immediately and intentionally face the fiscal reality. Washington budget gimmicks will not solve the national fiscal crisis. Only difficult choices and a consistent long-term plan to slowly get us out of debt will work.
If the situation were not bad enough, the United States Senate has refused to produce a budget since 2009. It has now been 1,023 days since the Senate has performed one of its basic fiscal functions. When the president presented his budget to Congress last year, the Senate voted it down 0-97. This year, Sen. Harry Reid has already announced that the Senate will again not produce a budget or vote on the president's budget.
Our elected leaders need to make big, sweeping reforms to repair our fiscal situation, but the president's budget is complicit with the status quo. As much as President Obama would like the American people to believe that raising taxes on the rich will solve our problems, our government is spending at an unsustainable level. On the current path, we will have more than $26 trillion dollars in debt by 2022, but the president's proposal to "tax the rich" will only bring in $1.5 trillion in the most optimistic forecast.
Our social safety net is bursting at the seams. In 1970, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security only made up 20 percent of the budget. Today, these programs are up to 40 percent, and the rate of growth continues to accelerate. By 2050, all three of these programs will consume every dollar the government receives in taxes.
Medicare in particular is in the greatest danger. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Trustees Report says the program will become insolvent by 2018. Everyone in Washington is aware of this reality, but incredibly there is no plan in the president's budget to preserve these programs. Further inaction means that Americans will no longer be able to count on these crucial safety nets. While we may disagree on how to fix the problem, surely we can all agree that there is a major problem.
This is a moment for conversations around the family dinner table about where our nation has been in the past and where we are heading now. In prior years, both political parties have been guilty of spending without fiscal restraint. Now is the time to clean up the mess -- not place blame or make it worse. Our debt cannot be solved in a single year, but we can develop a plan in a single year that gets us moving toward fiscal responsibility.