By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Tuesday, July 28, US Representative Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose) spoke on out-of-control spending on entitlements and how those programs needed to be reformed to remain solvent.
Congressman Byrne said in a statement: “We are already over $18 trillion in debt, and little has been done to rein in our out-of-control spending…Our nation’s means based entitlement programs must be reformed. These programs are the true drivers of our national debt, and they are slowly becoming insolvent. For example, last week a report revealed that the Social Security disability fund will run out of money as early as next year. Congress must get serious about reforming these programs.”
Rep. Byrne told his fellow members of Congress, “At this very moment the National debt sits at over $18 trillion dollars. We have not arrived at this point because of the actions of one party or one administration. Over the years, both parties have enacted programs that increased our debt…we have reached a point where we must get serious about reining in our out-of-control spending or else we may fall victim to a similar fate that many nations throughout history have experienced.”
The conservative South Alabama Congressman warned, “Here in the United States, our spending problems are reaching crisis level, and we are effectively leaving behind a catastrophe for the next generation. The basis of the American dream is that if you work hard, you can leave behind a better future for your children and grandchildren. That fundamentally American vision is in jeopardy due in part to our irresponsible spending.”
Rep. Byrne continued, “I am a new and very proud grandfather. My grandson, MacGuire, is about to turn one and already his share of the National debt – before his first birthday – is over $40,000. We cannot turn a blind eye to this problem and pretend that it will just get better.”
Byrne said that when most people think of the Federal government, they are probably thinking about discretionary programs. “This is money that goes to things like our military, highways, National parks, agriculture, and medical research.”
Rep. Byrne said, “Since Republicans took control of the House in 2010, we have had some success in cutting funding to various federal agencies. For example, agencies like the IRS and EPA have seen their budgets cut in response to egregious executive overreach. While it may seem like it covers the majority of government operations, discretionary spending actually only makes up about one third of all federal spending. The other portion is what we call mandatory spending. This, along with the interest on the national debt, makes up almost two thirds of all federal spending.”
Byrne said that mandatory spending is on auto-pilot. “Unlike discretionary spending, mandatory spending does not require annual appropriations from Congress. Instead, as long as someone meets the requirements, these programs dole out money without any action from Congress.
Within these mandatory spending programs are what we call means based entitlement programs, including things like Medicaid, Obamacare, food stamps, welfare, and the like.”
Rep. Byrne said, “In Fiscal Year 2012, the federal government spent almost $800 billion on over 92 programs aimed at lifting Americans out of poverty. Despite that record spending, too many Americans simply stopped looking for work. The system is failing the very people it was designed to help. While many of these means based entitlement programs have good intentions, they aren’t supposed to be permanent. These programs were created to help lift people out of poverty, not keep them there. That’s why it shouldn’t be a surprise that during the recent economic downturn spending on these means based entitlement programs ballooned. What is surprising however is that as the economy has improved, the spending on these programs has not gone down. In fact, spending on some of these programs remains at all-time highs.”
Rep. Byrne said that, “Republicans and Democrats both agree that Americans shouldn’t be stuck in poverty, and that’s why we should put party politics aside and come together to address this dangerous cycle of government dependence. We need to reform these means based entitlement programs to put a real focus on workforce training to help connect Americans with the skills they need to get a good paying job that meets workforce demands.”
Byrne suggested block granting the money to the state governments and allow them to craft poverty fighting programs based on their state’s specific societal problems and economic needs.
Byrne said, “I know that reforming these mandatory spending programs won’t be easy, but I didn’t run for Congress to come up here and make easy decisions. I doubt my colleagues did either. “Before I leave this body, I want to be able to look at my grandson MacGuire and know that I have been a part of a real effort to rein in spending and put our nation on a fiscally stable path for the next generation. We won’t be able to make any real progress toward that goal without serious reforms to these means based entitlement programs. That is what is driving our debt, and we cannot keep looking the other way as the national debt skyrockets.”
According to US debt clock.org the largest expense in the federal budget is the soaring cost of the Medicare and Medicaid programs at $957 billion. Social Security is next at $876 million. The rapidly declining defense budget is third at $589 billion. Various income security programs, including the almost bankrupt SSI is next at $311 billion. This is followed by federal pensions at $255 billion and interest on the debt at $248 billion. The soaring federal budget deficit is $497 billion. The national debt is now $18.3 trillion up from just $7.5 trillion in 2004.
Congressman Bradley Byrne represents Alabama’s First Congressional District.