During testimony before the House Budget Committee recently, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner was asked by Chairman Paul Ryan if the Obama administration had a long term plans for deficit and debt reduction. “We’re not becoming before you to say we have a definitive solution to our long-term [deficit] problem,” Secretary Geithner answered. “What we do know is that we don’t like yours.”
Geithner, of course, was referring to Ryan’s controversial budget proposal. You can watch the dispiriting exchange here, but the point is that Democrats have no plans of their own. They’re just bent on obstructing Republican plans.
This exchange is what I think of when I read Democrat House Candidate Pam Gulleson’s diatribe against the Paul Ryan budget published in the Grand Forks Herald today in which she calls on her Republican opposition to repudiate the Ryan budget. Gulleson claims Ryan’s budget would destroy Medicare, etc., etc. (the usual Mediscare tactics to scare the bejesus out of senior citizens), but does she offer up an solutions of her own?
Of course not. Because, as I pointed out when Gulleson’s fellow North Dakota liberal Heidi Heitkamp was touting a balanced budget amendment, you cannot address the nation’s long-term debt problems without reforming our out-of-control entitlements, of which Medicare is the worse.
I’m not talking ideology here. This isn’t about conservatism versus liberalism and philosophical viewpoints on the appropriate role of government in our lives. Those debates are important, but this is simple math. The discretionary portion of our national budget is roughly $1.3 trillion. The mandatory spending portion – Social Security, Medicare and interest on the national debt – is roughly $2.3 trillion.
We’re running an annual budget deficit of well over $1 trillion, meaning that even if we cut every penny of discretionary spending (all the money for the FBI and the national parks and the military, etc., etc.) we’d still have a deficit problem.
We cannot fix this problem without reforming Medicare. Politicians like Pam Gulleson and Heidi Heitkamp (and sadly a lot of Republicans too) have been content to kick this can down the road, refusing to make hard decisions about entitlement spending. But we can’t afford any more of that politics-over-duty attitude.