Statement of Senator Michael B. Enzi
Fiscal Year 2009 Budget Resolution
March 5, 2008
Mr. ENZI. Mr. President, I rise today to discuss my concerns with the fiscal security of our country. This week, we are considering the Fiscal Year 2009 Congressional Budget Resolution in the Budget Committee. As stewards of the public trust, the Congress needs to make the hard choices necessary to leave a fiscally and economically sound country to our children and our grandchildren. Unfortunately, the easy road is where we’ve tread. The budget we will begin working on today is just another slip of paper in the trail leading this country to financial ruin. We simply cannot sustain the current level of spending, which is spiraling out of control.
I know that crafting an annual budget is a very difficult task, but it is important. This document is a vital part of the operation of Congress. It sets a fiscal blueprint that Congress will follow for the year and establishes procedural hurdles when these guidelines are ignored.
As stewards of the public trust, we owe it to all American taxpayers to use the funds they provide us in the most effective and efficient ways possible. If we do that then we provide future generations with a strong and secure U.S. economy. If we don’t, well then the children of America’s future will be waking up to something very unpleasant.
As an accountant, I particularly enjoy this opportunity to look at the overall spending priorities of our nation. Fiscal Year 2009 will be another tight year for spending. It will not be good enough to have another “Pass the Buck” Democratic budget like the one we saw last year, which I did not support. If we consider another budget this year that is tax and spend, with more and more taxes to pay for more and more spending, I will vote against it again.
Mr. President, we must begin this year’s debate on the Fiscal Year 2009 Congressional Budget Resolution with a clear understanding of our responsibilities. We cannot accept a repeat of last year’s empty promises of reducing the debt and reforming entitlements. What actually happened is disgraceful:
Last year’s budget raised taxes by $736 billion – largest tax increase ever, hitting 116 million people. If we follow this year’s proposed budget, many of our constituents will have to dig in their pockets starting in 2011 and find an additional $2,000 to pay Uncle Sam on top of what they pay in taxes now. That ought to be a wake up call.
Last year’s budget increased spending by $205 billion.
Last year’s budget grew our national debt by $2.5 trillion.
Last year’s budget ignored entitlement reform - there was no attempt to tackle the $66 trillion in unsustainable long-term entitlement obligations that face us – not really us, but rather our children and grandchildren.
Americans want to know what we can do to help them, not hurt them. Empty promises can no longer be made. I want to highlight a recent editorial from the Wall Street Journal that talks about the spending promises being made. [Read excerpt from the editorial attached that you noted.]
The majority should be held responsible for its actions. We need to prepare a budget for our nation that reduces the national debt, promotes honest budgeting, and encourages true economic growth by reducing energy costs, reducing taxes, and reducing health care costs.
I do believe that the first priority of any nation must be the health of its people.
Every American should have access to high quality health care at affordable prices and Congress must work with State governments and the private sector to achieve this goal. One way Congress can curtail this rapid rise in health care costs is to use health information technology as a cost saving measure. I hope we can work across party lines to enact health IT legislation this year to aid in addressing the fiscal challenges associated with spiraling costs, and unacceptable levels of medical errors.
I wonder if the American people realize that when Baby Boomers are fully retired and receiving benefits, the cost of supporting that generation through Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security will be so high that we will have no money available for our federal government to do anything else. We will have no money for national defense, no money for education, and no money for transportation infrastructure. This is unacceptable and our country’s future cannot sustain these costs.
This year again, the President’s Budget proposed to reduce the rate of growth in one of our most expensive entitlements, Medicare. The President has sent a legislative proposal to the Congress to meet the requirements laid out in the Medicare Modernization Act passed by Congress in 2003, thus providing more funding for the General Fund that pays for other government programs such as defense, education and infrastructure. But, what reception did it get from our friends in the majority?
Unfortunately, we have heard that "the proposal sent up by the Administration is dead on arrival... and the Administration has trumped up a phony crisis in Medicare." A phony crisis? There is nothing phony about it. We are standing at the edge of a tsunami as the huge Baby Boomer generation – my generation – reaches Medicare and Social Security eligibility. The President’s Medicare proposal is a good starting point. $34 trillion of unfunded liability is certainly not a phony crisis in Medicare. We must address this serious funding constraint head on.
Last year, the majority also promised to abide by “Pay-Go” rules and actually pay for all new spending to “…get America on the right economic track.” Well, as far as I can see this has not happened, and in fact, Pay-Go enforcement rules have been so weakened and thwarted through a variety of different mechanisms and “smoke and mirrors” that we ended up with billions and billions in new spending that is not offset. It is time to bite the bullet. We need to limit increases in discretionary spending by federal government agencies. This is necessary while also taking extreme care to keep our nation safe and secure.
I want to reiterate that we must take seriously the warnings we have heard from the General Accounting Office and the Congressional Budget Office about federal expenditures spiraling out of control. We need to make the budget procedural and process changes to directly address this problem. One of the many procedural reforms that I believe would promote fiscal responsibility and safeguard the nation’s economic health is a two-year budget process.
In fact, in his budget for fiscal year 2009, the President once again proposed common-sense budget reforms to restrain spending. He has several recommendations, including earmark reforms and the adoption of a two-year budget for all Executive Branch agencies in order to give Congress more time for program review. While we may negotiate on the details, we should implement these overall recommendations.
The budget process takes up a considerable amount of time each year and is drenched in partisan politics, while other important issues are put on the back burner. It should not be this way. The current federal system, frankly, is broken. No, it is smashed. It is in shambles. We only have to look to the mammoth spending bills that nobody has time to fully read or understand before they are glibly passed into law and the hammer comes done on another nail in the coffin of good budgeting. Last year’s omnibus appropriations bill is exhibit “A” in my prosecution of a system that promotes fiscal recklessness. It is a serious problem that must be fixed. The current budget and appropriations system lends itself to spending indulgences this country cannot afford and it should be scrapped for a system that is a proven winner.
There is a crucial need to enact procedural and process changes that will enable us to get this country on the right budgetary track again. We simply cannot risk the economic stability of future generations by continuing to “get by” with the status quo. The risks are far too great. Make no mistake, a change to new budget process will not be easy. There are very strong feelings on both sides of this issue. But, as responsible legislators we need to come together to begin the difficult, but necessary, process of change. I, for one, intend to continue to work with my colleagues who are also committed to make the hard choices to safeguard our economic and fiscal future. A nation that cannot pay its bills is a nation in trouble.
If it is a repeat of last year, the Fiscal Year 2009 Congressional Budget Resolution could mortgage the future of our children and grandchildren and require huge tax increases for all Americans. I welcome the opportunity to consider our nation’s spending priorities, keeping in mind we need to make tough choices and sacrifices in order to keep our country strong and healthy.
Thank you, Mr. President, and I yield the floor.