| I decided to run for Congress because I’m worried that the America I help to pass on to my children will be fundamentally weaker than the one I and other Americans inherited. Those same concerns have been shared with me by hundreds of constituents, of all political affiliations, since I began my service in Congress.
The federal government has run up an unsustainable debt of $17 trillion - and rising - and is in the process of bankrupting programs like Social Security and Medicare. According to the Congressional Budget Office, we currently borrow 46 cents on every dollar spent by the federal government. Although the government raised a record-high $2.77 trillion in revenue over the past fiscal year, we still spent $680 billion more than we received.
I don’t pretend to have a monopoly on good ideas to address these issues. What I do know is that most of the choices won’t be easy and will take engaged Americans and leadership from our elected officials to turn the corner. The days are over of kicking the can down the road to the next generations.
I’ve tried to provide common sense leadership on this issue. My first bill introduced in Congress proposed a responsible balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. I also supported separate legislation that balanced the federal budget in ten years through meaningful spending cuts and not through higher taxes.
Hard-working American families and businesses know what it’s like to live on a budget. They make difficult decisions to live within their means every day, and Washington should have to do the same.
Congress has made some tough choices already. Defense spending has been reduced by more than $500 billion over the next decade. The budget sequester will reduce federal spending by another $1.2 trillion over the next decade, including further defense cuts. Although I support giving more flexibility in how the sequester reductions are achieved, we permanently should adopt these lower spending levels.
To finish the job, we need to have an honest discussion with the American people about how we spend their hard-earned tax dollars. About 60 percent of federal spending is dedicated to mandatory spending programs such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and interest on the debt – and that percentage is growing rapidly. Defense comprises about 20 percent of federal spending. Discretionary spending (i.e., education, energy and housing) make up most of the rest. No agency, no account, and no program should be off-the-table for review.
Reforms to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security shouldn’t affect current beneficiaries of these programs. However, these programs are becoming insolvent, and necessary reforms must be taken to ensure their availability to those currently paying into the system and to future generations.
There is certainly waste to be found in the federal government, and we can do a much better job of spending your hard-earned tax dollars effectively and efficiently. However, many of the choices left on the table aren’t so cut-and-dry. Foreign aid routinely is cited as an item to be cut; I’m all for putting that on the table for review, but it’s about 1 percent of our budget. Some citizens feel we need to ask wealthier Americans to pay more in taxes; yet in January 2013, before I began my service in Congress, President Obama signed into law a $650 billion tax increase over the next decade, much of it directed at higher earners. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, these higher earners already are paying among the highest tax rates in over 30 years.
Collectively, Washington has avoided the tough decisions needed to reduce our unsustainable debt and strengthen the economy. This is a clear failure of leadership on behalf of the Obama Administration and Congress.
We need problem-solvers from both sides of the aisle to come together to address our financial future. This is one reason why I joined "No Labels Problem Solvers", a group of Republican and Democrat members of the U.S. House and Senate who meet regularly to build trust across the aisle and develop solutions for America. Being part of this coalition is not about any particular ideology, but rather a philosophy; a willingness to search for common ground rather than exploiting areas of conflict.
I continue to work with my colleagues to put our nation back on a path of fiscal solvency.