Repairing Our Broken Budget System is a Moral Duty

(Draft of Statement To Be Given Tomorrow)

Few are willing to admit - much less discuss - the looming financial crisis facing our country. However, the longer we put off fixing the problem, the worse the medicine will be and the greater the number of people that will be hurt.

That is why I introduced legislation today to establish a national commission that will put everything - entitlement benefits and all other federal government programs as well as our tax policies - on the table and require Congress to vote up or down on its recommendations in their entirety, similar to the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) first created by former Rep. Dick Armey in 1988. This commission would be called the SAFE Commission, to secure America's future economy.

Many will say the problem is too big to be fixed. Some will view the proposal as too risky, particularly in an election year. Others will say it is an abdication of responsibility. My response to such comments is that the problem is so great we can no longer look for excuses not to act. Nothing, I believe, is too big to undertake.

Abraham Lincoln, one of our nation's greatest presidents, once said, "you cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today." Yet that is precisely what we have been doing - avoiding our responsibility to future generations of Americans by passing on a broken system in the form of unfunded Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid obligations.

The growing gap between money that has been promised to future generations in various entitlement programs and that which is available to pay these promised benefits is staggering. To meet the government's current unfunded promises for future spending, every American - including multimillionaires like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet -would have to hand over 90 percent of their personal net worth in today's dollars. This is unacceptable.

As a father of 5 and grandfather of 11 - soon to be 12 - the challenge posed by the pending retirement of baby boomers strikes me as much more than a routine policy discussion. I deeply believe there is a moral component that goes to the heart of who we are as Americans. By that I mean, I wonder if we have lost the national will to make tough decisions that may require sacrifice? Moreover, have we lost the political courage to reject the partisan and special interest demands and do what is best for our country? If we remember the legacy we have inherited, our debt to previous generations, our grandparents and our parents and the sacrifices they made to make our country what it is today, we will be moved to do our duty.