By Kari Hawkins
The nation's financial situation was pretty bad after the War of 1812. It was tough, too, following the Civil War and World War II.
But U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama said the nation's current financial situation is the most threatening to its future.
"America is in probably the worst financial condition it's been in, in its history. The numbers are pretty brutal," he said.
Speaking to members of the Tennessee Valley Chapter of the Army Aviation Association of America at their membership luncheon Thursday at The Summit, Brooks said federal spending during the past four years has overrun revenues, building up an astronomical debt that now hangs over the American people.
In fiscal 2011, federal spending reached $3.83 trillion while revenues were only $2.57 trillion, leaving a deficit of $1.3 trillion. In fiscal 2012, the federal government had a deficit of $1.1 trillion.
Although the nation did reduce its deficit between the two years, Brooks said it was "not sufficient progress to avoid potential risk of financial insolvency and bankruptcy of the federal government. We've had four years of trillion dollar deficits in a row."
Calling it a "really bad and dangerous risk," Brooks said the nation's cumulative debt now stands at $16 trillion, or $51,000 per every American citizen ($255,000 for a family of five).
"This is a real deep hole," he said, adding that it cost the nation $25 billion to service the national debt in 2011-12.
"The overall picture is what's causing a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth in the halls of Congress," Brooks said. "They're starting to understand there is a huge downside to our country from going down this path."
But Brooks doesn't think cutting the defense budget further is the answer to the crisis.
The Budget Control Act of 2011 required a reduction in defense spending by $40 billion a year, what Brooks describes as "taking an ax to the military."
If sequestration -- an automatic spending cut that includes cutting the defense budget by nearly half a trillion dollars over the next decade (about $55 billion in the first year) if Congress is unable to reach a compromise on how to solve America's debt dilemma -- takes effect, national security will be threatened.
"This debt is a threat to our country," Brooks said. With Iran growing its nuclear threat, Korea shooting missiles, China building up its military, and the civil unrest in Africa and Asia, there are a "a lot of challenging national security issues around the world. But, as Navy Adm. Mike Mullin (who served as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from October 2007 until September 2011) put it, the greatest threat is our debt."
If sequestration occurs, the Department of Defense will have the smallest Army since World War II and the smallest Navy since World War I, according to Brooks. From 500,000 to 700,000 servicemembers and civilians will be laid off from their jobs, he said.
"The national debt has become an impetus for cuts to the national defense structure," Brooks said. "What outside enemy can devastate our national defense like our debt can?"
Other solutions to the national debt crisis include raising taxes and pinpointing other spending cuts. Brooks would like to see the tax structure left alone and spending cuts focused on entitlement programs, which have grown 40 percent during the last five or six years. Although he would exclude "earned" entitlement programs such as Social Security, he would raise the age for receiving Social Security.
"I want to cut entitlements that aren't earned and that don't give back to the nation," he said. "Defense spending does give back by improving our national security. That's important to our country."
Brooks would also cut foreign aid ("We've got to get our financial house in order before helping others around the world); would cut $4 billion received by illegal aliens through fraudulent reporting in relation to the Child Tax Credit; and would not allow the Federal Reserve to print money that devalues the rate of U.S. currency. Lastly, he would work to grow the economy by encouraging tax cuts and incentives that create jobs.
The congressman doubts that any compromises will be reached during the upcoming lame duck session.
"I don't see a probability of fixing sequestration during the lame duck," he said. Rather, he believes there will be another continuing resolution that will keep spending at current levels for the next six months to get past the November general election.
But predictions that the federal government will run out of money in January 2013 and a planned 75 percent increase in payroll taxes will further endanger the economy, may cause Congress to move faster than expected.
In other issues, Brooks said the Benghazi, Libya, terrorist attack and how it was handled by the White House should be thoroughly investigated; going environmentally "green" for green's sake is not a sound strategy and not economically feasible; the Keystone Pacific pipeline from Canada should be developed so that the U.S. reliance on oil from the Persian Gulf can be diminished and so China doesn't get hold of the valuable oil reserves; the U.S. debt and trade deficit with China should be reduced; and China should be forced to abide by fair trade practices.