Yet the commission that could see no evil in Obamacare’s extravagance blithely recommended cuts in defense spending. We have underfunded buying the new equipment our men and women in uniform need by tens of millions of dollars for decades. Defense spending, as a percentage of gross domestic product, is actually near historic lows -- about half what we averaged during the Cold War. And what could supersede national security? It’s Job No. 1 for Congress, according to an under-appreciated document known as the U.S. Constitution.
Another serious misstep by the commission: not demanding stronger reform of the entitlement programs driving so much of the rising spending tsunami: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Nearly all new long-term debt comes as a result of the cost of these three programs and net interest on the debt. The plan advanced by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and Alice Rivlin, the liberal former CBO director, offers a better model for lawmakers to follow on Medicare and Medicaid.
The commission does deserve applause for doing one thing right: starting the conversation. For far too long, our elected officials have looked the other way, or applied quick, short-term fixes, when faced with our growing debt problem. Thanks to the commission, we’re not only talking about it, we’re getting competing plans from several different quarters. That’s a refreshing change, to say the least.
The onus to keep this momentum going falls to the new Congress. Let’s adopt Thomas Edison’s positive outlook -- and make sure lawmakers reverse the spending trend.