By Greg Hunt
The national debt took center stage at the town hall meeting hosted by U.S. Representative Chip Cravaack in Cambridge May 18. Looking out over the audience midway through, Rep. Cravaack asked, “We have to do something; do you all agree?”
The “something” which he then spoke on was raising awareness and support of House GOP Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity” which was first presented back in April. Ryan, in his seventh term as a Wisconsin U.S. Representative, has been both heralded and attacked for his budget plan.
Rep. Cravaack began the evening with a warning on how Medicare is getting out of hand with the beginning retirements of the Baby Boomer generation, mixed with the lengthening average life expectancy for Americans.
“There is heavy lobbyist pressure in the Medicare realm. But in 17-to-19 years, Medicare will be totally defunded if we do nothing,” he spoke.
Likewise, Social Security is heading down the same path. Pointing to a graph on the screen, Rep. Cravaack said, “In 1950, there were 16.5 workers supporting each retiree going on Social Security. At the present rate, by 2040 only 2.1 workers will be supporting each retiree.”
Foreign holdings of U.S. debt also caused much concern for Rep. Cravaack. Pointing to another graph, he said, “In 1970, 5 percent of U.S. debt was in foreign holdings. It grew to 19 percent by 1990. In 2010 as our debt grew to $8.4 trillion, 47 percent are in foreign holdings– with the Chinese holding the bulk of that amount.”
“When you own the company, you drive the company,” he warned.
During the Q & A session of the evening at the Cambridge Campus, Cravaack was asked where he personally would slice the federal budget. He quickly replied, “The Department of Education and the Department of Energy. I drive by the Department of Education, and you wouldn’t believe the size of that office. That’s money being spent in Washington D.C. which should be spent at the local level of education.”
One area not discussed at the town hall gathering was defense budget cuts. The Path to Prosperity emphasizes the common defense of the country as a principal job of government.
Wrote Rep. Ryan in his plan, “For Fiscal Year 2012, this committee assumes $553.1 billion in budgetary authority for the regular operations of the Department of Defense. It also assumes full funding for the modernization of the infrastructure that builds and maintains the nation’s nuclear weapons systems. In addition, this budget includes $117.8 billion for ongoing military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
After an exhaustive review of the Pentagon’s budget, Defense Secretary Robert Gates identified $178 billion in efficiencies and savings, $100 billion of which would be reinvested in higher priority combat capabilities.”
Key facts about the House-passed Fiscal Year 2012 Budget Resolution– “The Path to Prosperity” (source: paulryan.house.gov)
• Cuts $6.2 trillion in government spending over the next decade compared to the President’s budget.
• Eliminates hundreds of duplicative programs, reflects the ban on earmarks, and curbs corporate welfare bringing non-security discretionary spending to below 2008 levels.
Debts and Deficits
• Reduces deficits by $4.4 trillion compared to the President’s budget over the next decade.
• Puts the budget on the path to balance and pays off the debt.
• Keeps taxes low so the economy can grow. Eliminates roughly $800 billion in tax increases imposed by the President’s health care law. Prevents the $1.5 trillion tax increase called for in the President’s budget.
• Calls for a simpler, less burdensome tax code. Lowers tax rates for individuals, businesses and families. Drops corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent to be more in line with rates in other nations.
• A flaw in Medicare’s structure is driving up health-care costs, which are, in turn, threatening to bankrupt the system – and ultimately the nation. This budget saves Medicare by fixing this flawed structure. When younger workers become eligible for Medicare, they will be able to choose from a list of guaranteed coverage options. Medicare would then provide a payment to subsidize the cost of the plan.
To read the full 78-page plan, go to paulryan.house.gov/News/ and click on “The Path to Prosperity: Restoring America’s Promise” under the “By Issue” heading.
For another angle on defense spending, read author Mark Thompson’s “How to save a trillion dollars,” published in the April 25, 2011 TIME magazine. (http://www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,2065108,00.html).