By Brad Wenstrup, U.S. Congressman
Mr. John Smith
123 Main Street
Anywhere, Ohio 12345
Total due: $60,000
Please make checks payable to the United States Department of Treasury.
Imagine opening your mail to find this bill for $60,000 from the federal government. It seems far-fetched, doesn’t it? Actually, that’s about how much each American citizen would currently have to pay in order to eliminate our national debt.
If that number isn’t scary enough, think about what the bill will be for our children and grandchildren, the ones who will ultimately suffer the consequences of this generation’s reckless spending. When I look at my two-year old son, I can’t help but think: when he’s an adult, what will his America look like? Will it be weaker and less prosperous than the one we inherited from past generations?
The answer to that question is undoubtedly “yes,” if we stay on our current path of fiscal irresponsibility. So let’s get to the core of the problem. Our federal spending is divided into two main parts: discretionary spending and mandatory spending.
Discretionary spending covers everything from national defense, to transportation and infrastructure, to medical research and is determined annually by Congress through appropriations bills. Since taking back the majority in 2010, House Republicans have made important cuts to this portion of our budget. Overall, we’ve achieved $176 billion in discretionary spending cuts since Fiscal Year 2010.
Mandatory spending pays for the interest on our national debt, as well as programs like Medicare and Medicaid, Social Security, unemployment benefits, and retirement benefits for federal employees and military officers. This part of our budget automatically renews by law every year without any Congressional review, and it represents the biggest driver of our national debt.
Take a look at the numbers: in Fiscal Year 2015 our mandatory spending totaled $2.52 trillion, or 68% of the overall budget. Note that $223 billion or 9% of those funds were for interest payments on our national debt, money for which we get nothing in return.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that by the year 2026, mandatory spending will make up 78% of our total budget, crowding out discretionary funds more and more every year and threatening vital programs, including many that ensure our national security.
So while the House has made significant cuts to the discretionary part of our budget, we will not be on a fiscally sustainable path until we seriously repair the automatic spending programs that make up the bulk of our national spending.
Since I came to Congress in 2013, I’ve consistently supported initiatives that would make much-needed changes to these programs, not only providing stability and security to Americans who rely on them, but also ensuring solvency for future generations while reducing costs for taxpayers.
Granted, making these changes will require a strong commitment from all of us. But fiscal irresponsibility doesn’t come without a price. If we don’t address it now, that price could end up being the downfall of our economy.