Our nation is in a budgetary crisis, and at a crossroads as to how we determine our fiscal priorities. Some believe we should tax and spend more while others believe we should be more prudent with our resources. However, the national debt is more than $20 trillion dollars, nearly doubling under the Obama administration’s runaway spending. To me, this decision is clear: we must live within our means and pay off our debts.
As a fiscal conservative, I am committed to working with my colleagues to cut spending and put our fiscal house in order. Congress does not have a blank check; it is vitally important that we balance the federal budget. I have great hope, under President Trump’s leadership, we can work to make this happen.
I am a strong proponent of a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. While these amendments come in many forms, they all demand that expenditures must match revenues, unless a supermajority in both the House and the Senate vote to approve deficit spending. A balanced budget amendment is the only way to guarantee that Washington will live within its means. I have cosponsored two balanced budget amendments in the 115th Congress, H. J. Res. 1 and H. J. Res. 2.
While a balanced budget amendment is important, there is no reason we cannot put our books in order now. The Republican House has consistently passed a budget that would balance in 10 years, reigning spending in a responsible manner while finally halting the runaway growth in our federal debt. Make no mistake, doing so will require difficult choices, and many of the services and benefits that we have come to rely on from the federal government will have to be re-examined and curtailed. Even in Texas, where we pride ourselves on self-sufficiency, we will have to adjust our expectations to the federal government. However, these cuts are necessary to ensure that we do not leave our children with a nation that is worse off than the one we inherited from our parents.
One difficult decision, for example, will be addressing the unsustainable futures of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. In 1962, spending on health and social security only accounted for 10% of federal spending. Today, they account for roughly 50%. Programs broadly categorized as income security have risen from 9% to 15% and are expected to continue to rise. This brings the growth from 23% in 1962 to 65% in 2014. During the next roughly 25 years, these programs and interest of the debt will gradually consume every tax dollar raised by the federal government, leaving no money for other federal priorities like defense and highways, for example. The quickening number of Baby Boomer retirees presents a problem for Social Security and Medicare. For instance, currently, the Social Security Administration Trustees estimate that beginning in 2034, only three-quarters of scheduled benefits will be paid out.
While I do not support reducing benefits for current beneficiaries, renegotiating these programs in a grand-fathered manner is essential to the next generation of seniors and the poor. My colleagues and I have proposed plans for substantial changes to these programs that will finally make them solvent and ensure that our most vulnerable will not be abandoned in their time of need.
Putting our nation back on sound fiscal footing means addressing these programs, growing the economy by reducing regulatory burdens and reforming the tax code is paramount.
After Republicans won the White House in 2016, I am proud to say that a Republican Congress passed several important measures that did just that: rolled back the regulatory state built up under the Obama Administration and passed a tax reform bill that will let more Americans keep their hard-earned money.
While I am partial to the fair tax – a system that taxes at the point of sales rather than income, like the tax we use in Texas – this tax reform bill is a large step to streamlining an over burdensome tax code and putting our nation on the path of fiscal responsibility. Conservatives have long-held that the best way to pay off our debt and live within our means is to grow the economy. Many liberals believe in a tax and spend approach – an approach that helped to get us in this situation – but conservatives believe in lowering taxes on individuals and businesses while broadening the base. A stronger economy and a larger base means higher revenue to help fund the programs we expect without adding to the national debt.
Growing the economy to bring in more revenue is critical, but that does not negate my belief that taxpayer dollars should be spent wisely. It is the responsibility of Congress to continually re-evaluate the spending process and how we allocate taxpayer dollars. When I first came to Congress, I reasonably believed that if the House voted to cut spending in an appropriations bill, the savings would go towards reducing the deficit. However, this was not the case, that money remained to be reallocated by the Appropriations Committee to another line item. I viewed this to be a flaw in Congress’ oversight responsibilities. I fought to close this loophole with an amendment I introduced to change House rules and ensure that money cut on the House floor from an annual appropriations bill be put toward reducing the national deficit. When Republicans re-gained the majority in 2010, my amendment was included in the House rules, and to date members of Congress have offered hundreds of amendments to cut spending from appropriations bills deemed unwise by using my amendment.
Reducing our debts and deficits is one of the single greatest challenges facing our nation. How we respond will shape our children’s futures and test the limits of how well a people can govern themselves.