Over the next several weeks, a bipartisan committee is tasked with finding practical solutions to America’s debt crisis. The budget conference – the first to convene between the House of Representatives and the Senate in four years – is a long-overdue step toward forging a financial blueprint that changes our country’s current trajectory of excessive debt and spending.
As a member of the budget conference and the Senate Budget Committee, I am hopeful that the process will yield achievable reforms and put an end to paralyzing Washington gridlock. The budget conference, which was part of the agreement to reopen the government on Oct. 16, is responsible for producing a spending plan by Dec. 13.
In my opening statement to the conference committee, I made it clear I would oppose tax increases in any budget deal, urging my colleagues instead to focus on Washington’s spending problem. Demanding more tax dollars from job creators is the wrong approach to deficit reduction and especially harmful in an economy that desperately needs job creation.
My remarks to the committee also emphasized the need to confront the biggest driver of federal debt – the skyrocketing growth of important programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. No one is suggesting any cuts to benefits, nor should they, but bipartisan agreement exists for modest structural reforms. These programs are important to Mississippians, and preserving them for future generations requires meaningful measures to slow their growth. Even President Obama’s most recent budget embraces sensible changes for lasting savings.
With the federal debt at an unprecedented $17 trillion, we must not lose sight of the urgency of a sustainable budget plan. The latest long-term outlook from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) anticipates that spending for Social Security and the major federal health-care programs will rise to 14 percent of our economic output, or gross domestic product (GDP), by 2038 unless changes are made.
An economy eclipsed by debt is a recipe for financial disaster. Economists have linked extremely high debt to weaker economic growth and lost jobs. Without confidence that the government can repay what it owes, businesses are discouraged from critical investment and hiring, putting the country’s future prosperity at risk.
America’s budget problems are real and somber, demanding leadership from both political parties. The budget conference is a golden opportunity to restore faith among the public if lawmakers are willing to roll up their sleeves and make tough decisions. The recent government shutdown left no victors in its wake. Ultimately, turning the corner on our debt challenges means governing toward solutions – not another crisis.
Contact U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., at his Tupelo office: 330 West Jefferson Street, Suite B, Tupelo, MS 38804, or send mail to P.O. Box 3777, Tupelo, MS 38803 or telephne him at (662) 844-5010.