“We’re going to become another Portugal, Ireland or Greece” if the national debt is not reduced, the first-term Republican from Tupelo said during a discussion of his first 100 days in office with the Daily Journal editorial board.
Since being sworn in on Jan. 5, he has spent most his time on the FY2011 and FY2012 federal budgets and the country’s ballooning $14.3 trillion deficit.
“It’s accumulating at a rate our grandchildren cannot afford,” Nunnelee said. “We’ll have to bump the debt ceiling by mid May or mid June.”
Numerous times during the meeting, Nunnelee criticized Democrats for failing to recognize the seriousness of the deficit and not passing a more responsible spending plan. He said the nation doesn’t just need to freeze its current spending level; it needs to slash expenditures from every sector of the government.
Even the country’s major entitlements – Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security – face restructuring as Congress tries to rein in debt and save the entitlement programs from bankruptcy.
“The budget the House adopted does begin to deal with entitlements, specifically with Medicare,” Nunnelee said. “If we do nothing, it goes bankrupt in nine years.”
The House’s 2012 budget, called “The Path to Prosperity,” would leave Medicare alone for those ages 55 and older but start restructuring the plan for everyone else.
Nunnelee said details aren’t yet clear on what would happen, but he said it might work like the current federal employee insurance plan that pays a portion of whichever plan an individual picks.
As a federal employee, the 52-year-old Nunnelee said he has joined the federal health insurance program.
Nunnelee didn’t delve into details for Medicaid, and said Social Security isn’t addressed in the current budget proposal, which aims to trim $6 trillion from the budget over the next decade.
The congressman’s meeting came on the one-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion, the largest oil spill disaster in U.S. history.
Nunnelee defended his co-sponsorship of three bills aimed at expanding offshore drilling even as Mississippi still suffers the economic and environmental consequences of the spill.
“It’s a very serious problem, and all the responsible parties need to pay for the mess they caused. Clean it up and take steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” he said. “But right now the price of gas is bumping $4 a gallon. The economy that might have been showing some signs of recovery is all of a sudden being hit real hard.”
He said his north Mississippi constituents especially feel the pinch of higher gas prices because of the long commute generally associated with rural living.
“When you live 45 minutes to an hour from work,” he said, “that eats into your family budget pretty hard.”
But expanded offshore oil drilling represents only one part of the total energy solution, Nunnelee said. He wants to see oil wells tapped in Alaska and North Dakota, more nuclear power plants, more natural gas wells, and more research and development on developing and implementing alternative energies.
“We ought to have a national goal for this generation that says we become energy secure before the end of the decade,” he said. “There is no one magic answer.”
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or email@example.com.
Town Hall Meeting
- U.S. Rep. Alan Nunnelee, R-Miss., will hold a Town Hall Meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Circuit Courtroom at the Lee County Justice Center, 200 W. Jefferson St., in Tupelo. The meeting is open to the public and is expected to last about one hour.