By Bob Stuart
Sixth District Rep. Bob Goodlatte said Thursday that the $17 trillion federal deficit and future federal spending won't be improved without across-the-board reform of entitlement programs.
Those 70 mandatory spending programs include Social Security, Medicare and others such as Medicaid and SNAP. "Those programs are growing four times the rate of inflation,'' the congressman told members of the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Chamber of Commerce.
While federal sequestration and tax increases are helping cut the federal deficit in the short term, Goodlatte said the expected increases in entitlement spending are not sustainable over the next several years.
Goodlatte said next year alone, Medicare will cost $600 billion and serve 50 million Americans. And there is the newest entitlement program -- the federal Affordable Care Act or Obamacare. "This is another program we can't afford,'' Goodlatte said.
The recent problems with the health care program's website and the program's management by U.S. Health and Human Services "are serious problems. They (the problems) must be addressed,'' Goodlatte said.
The congressman said it is past due time for members of the U.S. Senate and House to come together and look at entitlement reform. He said the U.S. House budgets the past three years have included such reform.
"Each of the 70 programs should be reformed on their own merits,'' Goodlatte said. The reforms could include means testing for eligibility.
"I hope the Senate will put out their ideas for reforming,'' the congressman said. "If you don't like our ideas, put your ideas on the table and let's sit down and negotiate."
The expansion of the Medicaid program has been left to individual states. Virginia Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe wants to expand the program. He has said the expansion will create jobs, and it is estimated the expansion would reach another 400,000 Virginia residents. But Goodlatte said the federal government lacks the money to cover a larger Medicaid program.
"We don't have the money. The money won't be there to pay for it,'' he said.
And while Tuesday's statewide elections did not go well for Republicans, Goodlatte said it is important for the Republican Party to continue to stick to the philosophy of limited government and individual responsibility, and to encourage private sector development.