As of January, a shocking 13.9 million Americans are unemployed. Additionally, Social Security and Medicare – our promise to each senior – has been threatened by policies of spending and taxation that have created an unsustainable and crushing economy. We must explore every option to protect the solvency of these programs by enacting sensible reforms that will protect and preserve these programs. The stark reality is that we cannot continue business as usual.
Entitlements currently consume roughly one third of the federal budget. What is more troubling is that the White House Office of Management and Budget projects that in our current 2011 fiscal year, mandatory spending alone will exceed all federal receipts. So even if we shut down the federal government and stopped funding discretionary programs, we still would not be able to balance our budget for a while.
Washington has a spending problem, not a revenue problem. There is a pervasive culture of spending that is so entrenched that President Obama introduced a budget that assumes the best way to create jobs and prosperity is to raise your taxes, spend your money, and then borrow some more. ‪He ducked the opportunity to provide the kind of leadership desperately needed. Our nation deserves better. Seniors who were promised Social Security deserve better. Our children and grandchildren deserve a future that is not burdened with paying off a crushing debt we passed onto them. And the taxpayers deserve a government that lives within its means.

We must address the spending problem now if we want to restore American prosperity. Currently, businesses are holding back on hiring and investment, in large part due to fear of overregulation and big tax hikes. Washington’s spending spree has legitimized and fueled this uncertainty.
Republicans in the House have offered a plan to reduce the budgets for most government agencies to the levels they were only 2 short years ago – before the bailouts, stimulus package, and massive spending binge. Over the last two years, many federal bureaucracies received budget increases of 30 percent, 40 percent, or – in one case, 100 percent. The numbers are even larger once you add in the the failed stimulus spending.

When Americans understand what is at stake, we can all find a way to do more with less. Seniors deserve to know that we have the will to enact the kind of sensible reforms that will protect Social Security and Medicare and keep the promise we made. That promise can be kept by cutting unnecessary spending and adopting sensible reforms that will preserve these programs.
This moment in American history demands honesty and leadership. Ultimately we are all in this together. By working together, we can restore optimism in the business community and grow this economy by controlling spending and enacting common sense reforms.

Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas) is a member of the House Energy & Commerce Committee.