|8:10 PM EDT||
Nick Smith, R-MI 7th
Mr. SMITH of Michigan. Mr. Speaker, in the next few days, Congress is going to pass another increase in the statutory debt limit, and it will be signed by the President. I want to talk about the rising sea of debt, and we have to be careful that we do not drown.
A few years of surpluses between 1998 and 2001, which were not really surpluses except by Washington standards, seems to have given us a false sense of security. Since then the situation has deteriorated very rapidly, with huge increases in spending; and now we face the most serious debt and overspending crisis in American history. The value of the dollar is going down because of the increasing debt and the tax obligation that our kids and our grandkids are going to pay is going up because of
President Andrew Jackson paid off the Federal debt in 1835, retiring the last of the Revolutionary War bonds; however, the United States returned to borrowing which has now grown to levels that President Jackson could hardly imagine. Starting at zero in 1835, it took more than a century for the debt to reach $100 billion in 1943; $100 billion in 1943. After 200 years of American history, the debt reached $500 billion in 1976. Now we are projected to borrow more than $500 billion every year, this
year, next year, the year after. The debt stands at $6.5 trillion today and will reach $10 trillion at current borrowing rates before the end of the decade. The administration is now using gimmicks to pay our bills until Congress again increases the statutory debt limit.
The debt is not even the worst of it. The government unfunded liabilities are several times larger than the official public debt. These liabilities are promises that the government has made or obligations it has undertaken without setting aside any resources or a way to pay those debts. According to the Department of Treasury's latest financial report to the United States Government, we owe or can expect to owe $57.8 billion to cover otherwise defaults on direct and guaranteed loans; $55.8 billion
on accounts payable across the government; $1.86 trillion for government and military pensions and benefits; $849 billion in other veterans benefits, mostly medical; $273 billion for projected environmental cleanup from government activities; $202 billion in miscellaneous liabilities. These are all OMB projections, and this is only the beginning. This is the least of it.
This still is not part of the unfunded liabilities which are Social Security and Medicare. It will cost $9 trillion to pay promised Social Security benefits. Similarly, Medicare part A is expected to run $5.13 trillion over expected taxes. Part B is another $8.13 trillion.
Thus, the liabilities in just these three programs is about four times our current debt.
Further, this unfunded liability assumes the full repayment of all trust funds. Government has been borrowing from all of these other trust funds to afford the expenditures that have increased so dramatically over the last several years. If those trust funds are not paid, those amounts, which are really very small by comparison, will have to be added to the liability.
We have gotten to the sorry state of affairs through what I consider overspending and overpromising by Washington. Reelection votes are bought today in exchange for promises of benefits later, and the problem is that the country cannot afford all Washington is promising.
About 13 percent of the total Federal budget is now used to pay interest on the debt. If overspending continues and interest rates return to normal, we could easily see spending of the United States using one-quarter, one-fourth, of all of the total budget. A day of reckoning is coming sooner or later. If the government stays on its present course, we will face the choice of much higher taxes or much reduced benefits and services.
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, Washington needs a new sense of urgency. We are promising too much, spending too much, and leaving future generations at risk. I have long pushed for spending restraints and necessary entitlement reform, including Social Security reform. It is time for those issues to come before the floor.