Time to lead and engage on the budget

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Like Senate Democrats, the president has proposed a budget that does not balance and increases taxes. His budget will increase taxes by $1.1 trillion, approximately $7,500 per taxpayer, over the next decade.

The president already got his tax increases in the midnight fiscal cliff deal just a few months ago. And while he claims these tax increases will only impact “the wealthy,” many Americans have now learned that they were included in that group. Taxes were increased on every working American through payroll tax increases in January. Now, President Obama wants to increase taxes again. 

Raising taxes in a struggling economy is like throwing gasoline on a fire. Should we be surprised by the latest lackluster jobs report showing people have stopped even looking for work?

This government does not have a revenue problem — it has a spending problem. The American people cannot simply continue to pick up the tab for Washington’s out of control spending.

The best thing we can do to get our economy back on track is create a stable environment for job creation and put more money in the pockets of consumers. 

Just as Prime Minister Thatcher set England on a decades-long course of prosperity with her decisive leadership, House Republicans passed a bold budget that will put America on a similar path.

Our plan balances the budget in ten years without tax increases and proposes sensible reforms to Medicare and Social Security to make them stronger for years to come.  

Now, it may appear there is no common ground and no hope for compromise. But, despite our disagreements, I am encouraged. Unlike Senate Democrats, the president has opened the door to discuss entitlement reforms. 

The single biggest issue driving our spending problems in Washington is the exploding costs of entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare. Millions of Americans have paid into these programs and depend on the social safety net they provide. 

People like my 85 year-old grandmother who could not survive without Social Security. Or my 63 year-old mother who works in a factory in Greensburg, Indiana and cannot retire without these benefits she has invested in her entire adult life. 

And yet, these programs face bankruptcy if nothing is done to save them. In ten years, Medicare funds will be depleted; in twenty years, the Social Security trust fund will be empty. Both programs already spend more each year in benefits than they receive in tax revenue. Seniors today should receive what they’ve paid into these programs. Tomorrow’s seniors should too.

Though politically challenging, most non-partisan policy experts agree the solutions are straightforward and not in dispute. Medicare needs to provide services more cost-effectively through greater competition and flexibility. Social Security needs to have an annual rate of growth in line with actual price changes. We must harmonize the retirement age across these social programs and give support to those who need it the most. 

The president’s rhetoric has not always matched his actions when it comes to the need to save Social Security and Medicare. His proposed entitlement reforms seek modest changes where bold action is needed. He is even holding those reforms hostage to tax increases. Nonetheless, I am encouraged by the president’s willingness to discuss these programs.

The president has an opportunity to convince House and Senate Democrats about the need for urgent action. His budget opens the door to a serious conversation between the two parties, and more importantly, the House and Senate. His willingness to discuss reforming the long-term trajectory of entitlement programs shows that compromise, though difficult, is possible. 

I hope that both the president and the leaders in Congress will take this opportunity to engage in a real and open process of reconciling our two budgets. Americans deserve the certainty that a balanced budget with clear priorities will provide. They need to know that safety net programs will be there when they need them. All of this is possible if our leaders make the tough decisions we were sent here to make. 


Messer is a member of the House Committee on the Budget and Republican Freshman Class president.