WASHINGTON—U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee, released the following prepared remarks today as the budget conference committee held its second public meeting, at which Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf also testified:
“I am once again honored to be joined here today by some of the brightest minds and leaders in Congress. Thank you all and thank you to Director Elmendorf for offering us your expertise.
To work together on financial solutions we must first agree on the nature and extent of the problem. I would submit to this conference committee that the evidence is beyond doubt: our nation’s current and future budget problems are the consequence of unsustainable spending levels. The fundamental problem is that annual expenditure growth in mandatory programs and means-tested aid programs is more than twice the annual growth rate of the economy. That is the definition of unsustainability.
After 2015, Mr. Elmendorf and his CBO team tell us deficits will begin their relentless rise so that we will approach a trillion-dollar deficit in 9 years and reach a trillion-dollar deficit in 12 years and every year thereafter. Our debt problem is nowhere near fixed. Virtually every expert agrees on this. Can’t we also agree? I think so.
The most substantial change to our federal spending trajectory made in recent years was the addition of a new health care entitlement, the Affordable Care Act, without a dedicated funding source such as the payroll tax that supports Social Security and Medicare. A report from GAO shows that the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, will add the equivalent of $6.2 trillion to our deficits over the next 75 years.
Obamacare was sold on the premise that it was somehow entitlement reform and would reduce the deficit, yet there is now no doubt that Obamacare will add enormously to our future deficits.
Our budget problems though are not limited to major entitlement programs. The federal budget is racked with paralyzing inefficiency, duplication, and waste. GAO has identified 163 areas of inefficiency consisting of over 1,500 duplicative or overlapping programs that are not fixed by the Budget Control Act.
The President says the problem is with the American people. They must send more money. But, Washington has no right to ask taxpayers for a single additional dollar as long as this waste and abuse of taxpayer dollars continues. This committee has an opportunity to restore the people’s trust in Congress by identifying ways to make government leaner, less wasteful, and more accountable. Would that not be a moral good—indeed, a moral imperative?
Let’s put this all in context. In 2011, Congress struck a deal: it would raise the debt ceiling $2.1 trillion in exchange for $2.1 trillion in reduced spending growth over 10 years. What this meant was that Congress would spend roughly $45 trillion by 2021 instead of $47 trillion. The President and Senate Majority insist that we should replace these spending reductions with tax increases—in other words, instead of saving taxpayer dollars, as promised, we should raise taxes and spend more money. While spending limitations can be smarter, more spending and more taxing would violate the promise the Budget Control Act made to the American people.
A new economic model is clearly needed in Washington. Over the last five years we’ve added approximately $7 trillion to the debt. And what has occurred over that five year period?
- The U.S. population has increased by 12 million and yet the number of people working has declined by 2 million.
- Almost all of the drop in the unemployment rate since 2010 has come from people leaving the labor force. There now are 91.5 million people not in the labor force.
- The number of people on food stamps has grown by 15.6 million.
- Median family income is lower today than at any time since 1996.
- Median wage and salary income for men is lower today than at any time since 1997 and for women since 1999.
Hopefully this committee can find common ground as we try to reverse these economic trends that are hammering middle America.”