Runaway entitlement spending and the strength of our economy are on a collision course as baby boomers begin to retire next year in droves. Annual entitlement spending on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid already represents the largest portion of the federal budget. Because these costs go unchecked each year, government spending will soon explode beyond our control unless Congress acts.
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said recently that rising entitlement costs “will drive government spending to unprecedented levels, consume nearly all projected federal revenues, and threaten America’s future prosperity.”
He’s right. If left unaddressed, by 2050 federal government spending on entitlements will leave no money for basic priorities like our military, homeland security, highways, environmental protection and education.
To put it bluntly, such a course will have devastating consequences on every American. And yet, House Democrats have not only ignored the problem; they are preparing to force beleaguered taxpayers to shoulder ever higher costs for a series of new entitlements.
The so-called College Cost Reduction Act, passed by House Democrats on Wednesday, won’t reduce college costs, but it will add billions more to the federal deficit by creating nine new costly entitlement programs. The long-term costs of these new programs will be substantial and will fall squarely on the shoulders of working families. History has shown once an entitlement program is created, it not only never dies, it grows and grows.
Furthermore, most of the so-called “student aid” in the Democrats’ bill wouldn’t help a single college student — instead, it forces working families to subsidize individuals who have already graduated with a college degree. A family deciding whether they can afford to send a high school senior to college won’t see any additional help — but they will be forced to subsidize successful college graduates.
Last month, House Republicans unveiled a report chronicling Democrats’ Top 100 Broken Promises in the 110th Congress. One of those promises was to make college “affordable and available to all” — ironic considering 180 House Democrats voted against Republican-sponsored legislation that would have increased access to higher education for low- to middle-income students.
Another promise was to restore fiscal responsibility and reform entitlement spending. Now that they’re in the majority Democrats have actively abandoned that promise too, authorizing hundreds of billions of dollars in new spending and completely ignoring entitlement reform.
They added $20 billion to the president’s budget, stuffed roughly $17 billion in additional spending into the bill to fund our troops in harm’s way and are adding billions in extra spending to appropriations bills. And to pay for it all they approved a massive $392.5 billion tax increase on middle-class families and small businesses.
We shouldn’t be surprised. Every single House Democrat opposed last year’s Deficit Reduction Act last year, which produced $40 billion in entitlement savings for taxpayers. That effort was led by the president’s nominee for Director of the Office of Management & Budget (OMB), Jim Nussle, who at the time served as chairman of the House Budget Committee. Given Nussle’s record as a budget hawk, it’s easy to see why some tax-and-spend Democrats don’t want him at the helm of OMB.
There is no question that Republicans’ track record on fiscal discipline could have been better during parts of our 12-year majority. We learned our lesson. The complete lack of restraint by majority Democrats now draws a bright line between the two parties on spending taxpayer dollars: Republicans are committed to fiscal discipline. Democrats, clearly, are not.
House Republicans have pledged to sustain the president’s veto of any bills that contain excessive spending. We presented a balanced budget plan without raising taxes while proposing serious entitlement reform. We forced the majority to abandon their slush funds for secret earmarks and adopt GOP reforms making the budget process more transparent and accountable. And we saved taxpayers more than $1 billion by stopping a Democratic scheme to halt private collection of unpaid taxes.
Republicans want to work with Democrats to solve the looming entitlement crisis, but asking taxpayers to pick up the tab for nine costly new entitlement programs is irresponsible. It’s time for Democrats to take a hard look at America’s existing budget problems — and join Republicans in making the necessary reforms.
Originally appeared in Investors Business Daily