WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, M.D. (GA-06) issued the following statement after the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released an update to its Budget and Economic Outlook – projecting a $426 billion deficit for Fiscal Year 2015, annual deficits toping $1 trillion in 2025, and annual average economic growth of just 2.3 percent over the next decade:
“Washington’s fiscal house is a mess. Hundreds of billions of dollars will be added to the national debt this year and trillions more in the years to come. Without control over spending, our nation will lose control over its own future and be increasingly under threat from global economic and national security challenges. Across the country, the anemic economic growth that CBO projects will mean less prosperity and opportunity for American families and businesses.
“Federal spending is being driven in large part and increasingly so by the nation’s health and retirement programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security while at the same time those programs are headed toward insolvency. Positive, principled solutions are needed to save and strengthen these vital programs for current and future generations and to help restore balance to our nation’s fiscal outlook. That is why the House Budget Committee has started a new initiative called Restoring the Trust for All Generations to focus attention on the challenges inherent in these programs and forge a discussion about how we can improve them and build a stronger, more prosperous country.”
WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, M.D. (GA-06) issued the following statement marking the 80th Anniversary of Social Security and called for innovative solutions to save and strengthen the program for today’s seniors and tomorrow’s retirees. According to the latest Social Security Trustees Report, Social Security faces insolvency in 2034.
“For eighty years, Social Security has helped Americans retire with peace of mind. Today, the program is on an unsustainable path threatening current seniors and tomorrow’s retirees. An overwhelming majority of Americans realize Social Security is in trouble and many rightly have little confidence the program will be there for them even after they have spent their working years paying into the system. Out of respect for today’s retirees, today’s workers and future generations, policymakers must focus our time and energy on finding positive solutions that can save and strengthen Social Security. We need to rethink how to help foster financial security for America’s retirees today and in the future.
“In an effort to encourage thoughtful discussion and action, the House Budget Committee has recently launched an initiative entitled Restoring the Trust for All Generations to highlight the challenges facing retirement, health, and economic security programs, such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Restoring the Trust aims to engage the American people so that we can build a coalition of support for innovative and positive solutions that will improve and protect these vital programs.”
To learn more about Restoring the Trust, click here.
By Tom Price
Chairman of the House Budget Committee
July 30, 2015 Permalink
Today marks 50 years since President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Social Security Amendments of 1965, creating Medicare and Medicaid. For five decades, seniors, as well as those with long-term illnesses, disabilities or limited means have relied on these programs for access to health care. American workers have paid taxes with the understanding that if or when the time comes, Medicare and Medicaid would be there for them.
For today’s workers and those who will enter the workforce in the years to come, that arrangement is no longer sustainable. According to the latest Trustees Report, Medicare’s trust fund will go insolvent in 2030. Meanwhile, many Medicaid enrollees are having trouble gaining actual access to physicians and treatments. They have health coverage without health care.
This status quo is untenable, and that is unfair to the American people. It’s unfair to today’s Medicaid beneficiaries, seniors on Medicare, and those nearing retirement. It is unfair to millions of today’s workers and those getting ready to enter the workforce who are going to be putting their hard-earned tax dollars into a broken system.
So something has to change. But where to begin?
For about as long as there has been a Medicare or Medicaid program, there has been a vocal opposition to anything approaching a solution that might improve the programs or make them financially sustainable. It is counterintuitive, but favoring the status quo – which is unsustainable and harmful to beneficiaries – is actually considered politically safer than trying to save and strengthen these programs. Then again, common sense has never been particularly popular in Washington.
The only way to realize positive change is to first build a coalition in favor of reform, and that is precisely what we at the House Budget Committee have committed ourselves to accomplishing. We have begun an initiative called “Restoring the Trust for All Generations.” Our aim is to bring the facts to the American people; to bring together those who are invested in preserving these critical health and retirement programs; and to engage those who have serious concerns about the fiscal challenges inherent in these programs.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Republican members of the House Budget Committee sent the following letter to their colleagues in the House Republican Conference highlighting the challenges facing America's health, retirement, and economic security programs. The letter urges House Republicans to focus on finding positive solutions to save and strengthen vital programs such as Medicare and Social Security.
The House Budget Committee recently launched an initiative called "Restoring the Trust for All Generations" focused on engaging the American people on the need for addressing these challenges. To learn more, go to budget.house.gov/restoringthetrust
Since the turn of the twentieth century, Americans have made commitments to one another within and across generations to maintain a sturdy and secure safety net available to all, and to guarantee that each new generation would be better off than the one before. These commitments support a distinctly American aspiration: to foster a Nation where the greatest number have the greatest opportunity to realize the greatest success achievable in a fair and compassionate way – where the greatest number of American dreams can be realized.
Regrettably, however, Washington’s health, retirement, and economic security programs – Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and numerous others – are now failing the very people they were intended to serve. They are binding seniors and low-income families to a costly, centralized health care strategy that intrudes on the personal decisions of patients and their doctors; promising retirement income the government cannot provide; trapping the disadvantaged in a web of welfare programs that draw beneficiaries into long-term government dependency; and strapping college students with years of personal debt because of a government-run student loan program that drives up tuitions.
Moreover, the open-ended spending in the vast majority of these programs is unsustainable, and running up a huge national debt that today’s children and grandchildren will bear – at the cost of enormously higher taxes and lower standards of living. Even now, the U.S. economy is struggling under the dead weight of excessive government spending, limiting opportunities for America’s working families to get ahead.
All these facts are well known, and they lead to one conclusion. We must transform these benefits programs to ensure they are fiscally sound, and that they truly achieve their intended aims. To do so, we must change the way we think about how these programs can help fulfill America’s commitments. Our benefits programs must offer reliable assistance for those in distress while guiding them toward self-sufficiency. They must ensure health and income security for those in retirement. At the same time, the federal government must foster an economy that expands opportunities for homeownership, a college education, and the many other pursuits available in a prosperous nation. We also must make sure to leave the next generation with a robust and growing economy in which they can fulfill their destinies.
“One of the great mistakes,” Milton Friedman observed, “is to judge policies and programs by their intention rather than their results.” When we look at the results, we know that we cannot simply preserve these programs; we must improve their underlying policies so the programs better serve the American people. This is a moral imperative.
Therefore, the Committee on the Budget urges our colleagues to make this a top legislative priority, now and over the next several years. We must commit to a sustained effort to save and strengthen appropriate benefits programs, large or small, while endeavoring to provide services in a more efficient and responsive manner – to restore Americans’ trust that the promises of these programs will be kept. We cannot afford to delay. The longer we wait to act, the more difficult becomes the challenge of ensuring America’s commitments are fulfilled, today and in the future.
Chairman Tom Price (GA-06), Vice Chairman Todd Rokita (IN-04), Scott Garrett (NJ-05), Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-25), Tom Cole (OK-04), Tom McClintock (CA-04), Diane Black (TN-06), Rob Woodall (GA-07), Marsha Blackburn (TN-07), Vicky Hartzler (MO-04), Tom Rice (SC-07), Marlin Stutzman (IN-03), Vern Buchanan (FL-16), Mark Sanford (SC-01), Steve Womack (AR-03), Bruce Westerman (AR-04), Dave Brat (VA-07), Rod Blum (IA-01), Alex Mooney (WV-02), Glenn Grothman (WI-06), Gary Palmer (AL-06), John Moolenaar (MI-04)
WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, M.D. (GA-06) issued the following statement after the House of Representatives approved a three month extension of the Highway Trust Fund:
“A safe and modern transportation system is a vital component to a healthy and growing economy. Which is why our nation is in need of a long-term plan to repair and update our roads and highways. However, it is clear that more time is needed for both the House and Senate to continue working on finding a long-term solution that will address our transportation infrastructure needs in a fiscally responsible manner. The current six-year proposal that the Senate has been debating raises some serious concerns – including the fact that it provides just three years of funding for six years of authorization and an increase in funding authority at a time when the trust fund is unable to cover the current level of commitments. Congress should take the time that this extension provides and work through these concerns and others to come to an agreement that the American people can support.”
We called today’s hearing to discuss the Congressional budget process. I’d venture a guess that the American people are probably not all too familiar with the specifics of this issue. That’s understandable. But I believe – and this hearing will hopefully show – that the manner by which, and the rules under which, Congress puts together a budget are incredibly important to not only the fiscal health of our nation but the health and vitality of our Constitutional system.
The Congressional budget process is broken. It is outdated. It has been 40 years since the rules were written. Suffice to say, our world has changed dramatically. What has not changed, unfortunately, is the habit in Washington of spending beyond its means.
The current budget process is not only ill-equipped to help policymakers be more fiscally responsible – it reinforces bad spending habits. The default is always to spend more when we know that more money is not always or often the right solution.
The current budget process is also not particularly good at forcing Congress to do its job. This year was the first time since 2001 that the House and Senate had passed a joint 10-year balanced budget agreement. When Congress ignores its budget responsibilities, it is forfeiting the power of the purse – which we all know is not just about dollars and cents.
The Constitution gave Congress this authority so that the people’s elected representatives could hold government accountable – to ensure robust and legitimate oversight of the bureaucracy and, when necessary, eliminate ineffective and inefficient policies and programs. As Madison wrote: “this power of the purse may, in fact, be regarded as the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people, for obtaining a redress of every grievance, and for carrying into effect every just and salutary measure.”
No one would argue that creating a budget is a simple task, especially when Washington spends three-and-a-half trillion dollars per year. We can make small changes here and there that will help enhance Congress’ authority in this area. But when dealing with a process that was created before a lot of the people in this room were even born, it’s time to start thinking about starting over. As former CBO Director Alice Rivlin said a few years ago: “The time for incremental reforms in the budget process is over. The Congress should blow it up and start over from first principles.”
What might those principles look like?
First, we should be exercising constitutional control. The Founding Fathers explicitly gave Congress the power of the purse and we need to have a better sense of respect for that duty when it comes to taxing and spending. This in turn will help correct the shift in balance of powers and help pull back the overreach of the Executive Branch – both Republican and Democrat.
Second, is promoting fiscal responsibility. As I mentioned at the beginning, the current process reinforces a bias toward higher spending without sufficient rules or guidelines in place to align spending with anything resembling a sustainable outlook. A smarter process would incentivize more responsible fiscal choices.
Third, we must increase our oversight. Waste, fraud and abuse exist all throughout the federal government. And too much spending is simply set on auto-pilot. We need to regularly review our spending habits so we can fix mistakes and make improvements where needed.
Fourth, and finally, we need a better understanding of how much programs cost. We need to continue to strengthen our non-partisan fiscal analysis to gain stronger insight into how policies affect the economy and the federal budget. With more information, Congress should be able to make better decisions.
A better budget process is achievable, and by adhering to common sense principles such as these, we can begin to spend tax dollars more effectively and efficiently.
That’s why it’s so important we are having this conversation today and I’m pleased to welcome our witnesses.
We have Paul Posner, the director of the graduate public administration program at George Mason University. David Primo, an associate professor at the University of Rochester and a senior scholar at the Mercatus Center at George Washington University. Phillip Joyce is a professor of public policy and senior associate dean at the University of Maryland’s school of public policy. And Carmel Martin, the executive vice president for policy at the Center for American Progress.
I want to thank you all for taking time out of your busy schedules to be here today. I look forward to an enlightening conversation about how we fix our congressional budget process and ensure hard-earned taxpayer dollars are spent in a more responsible and accountable manner.
I’m pleased to yield to the ranking member, Mr. van Hollen. Read More
WASHINGTON, D.C. - House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, M.D. (GA-06) issued the following statement after the Medicare and Social Security Trustees released their annual reports:
“Medicare and Social Security are on an unsustainable course. Today’s Trustees reports have confirmed that fact once again. Those who are opposed to making serious reforms to save and strengthen these programs will look at today’s reports and do little or nothing. The rest of us ought to do what’s right and what’s responsible and that means building support for positive solutions to these challenges now, not decades from now. That’s why the House Budget Committee recently launched our Restoring the Trust initiative to raise awareness about the looming insolvency of these programs so that real reforms can be achieved sooner rather than later. Time in running out. The Disability Insurance program is slated to go insolvent next year.
“Americans understandably have lost confidence in their leaders to actually address these sorts of challenges in an open and honest manner. The best way to restore that trust is to take these Trustees reports seriously. We must build a consensus among policymakers and the American people for reforms that will save and secure Medicare and Social Security for all generations so that we protect the health and retirement security of millions of seniors now and in the years to come.” Read More
Thank you Doug Holtz-Eakin and the American Action Forum for the invitation to be here today and for putting this event together. To all of you in the audience and the panelists, thank you for your interest in this important debate and your willingness to be a part of it.
You don’t have to spend your spare time leafing through actuarial reports and Congressional Budget Office analyses –– in order to understand that our nation’s health and retirement programs – Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security – are in financial trouble. With 10,000 baby boomers reaching retirement age every day, the structure of these programs is simply unsustainable. This means they will not be sustained!
By the time a child born today is able to vote, the Social Security trust fund will be insolvent. When today’s preschooler enters college, the Medicare trust fund will be insolvent. When today’s Kindergartner enters the workforce, he or she will be required to finance nearly half a retiree’s Social Security and Medicare benefits all by themselves.
And then there’s Medicaid. In 2014, more than 45 million individuals relied on Medicaid or the State Children’s Health Insurance Program for their health care. But enrollment in Medicaid and SCHIP no longer guarantees access to the doctors or treatments folks need. In too many instances, it’s health coverage – without the health care.
When you add Obamacare to the entitlement mix, federal spending on health care alone – Medicare, Medicaid and the ACA – is projected to approach $2 trillion annually in the years to come. That will eat up a sizeable and growing portion of annual tax revenue – crowding out other necessary spending, including defense.
These are the facts, and there’s no way around them.
But, believe it or not, there are a good number of folks who say this isn’t a problem – at least, not an urgent one. They read the same reports. They can all do the math. But, for a whole host of reasons, they tend to do what’s comfortable right now, and has been public policy for years, which is to ignore the problem and downplay the consequences.
Or they say we just need to raise taxes to cover any funding gaps. Or borrow more money and mortgage our children’s future, throwing the burden to other generations.
But every dollar the government takes out of the pockets of hardworking Americans is money that is not available for a family to support a child’s education, to pay a mortgage, buy a new car, pay the rent, or take a family vacation. Every dollar the government borrows drains the pool of savings that would otherwise be available for investment in the long-term prosperity and economic opportunity of our nation.
This harm to growth and job creation compounds the fiscal challenges in our health and retirement programs. Medicare and Social Security were never designed to shoulder the entire weight of an individual’s retirement. But in an unhealthy economy, individuals and families are less able to grow their own nest egg and are increasingly reliant on government assistance – which increases the burden on these programs.
This cycle of uncertainty and economic pain impacts all of us in one way or another. As Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security run toward insolvency, current seniors, future seniors, and the working families who pay for today’s benefits will face the consequences – that’s all of us.
Thankfully, this can be avoided, but only if there is a critical mass of support for reform. Whether or not we can achieve that critical mass is, at the moment, almost as important as the policies that might be adopted to put these programs on a path to solvency.
That is why we at the House Budget Committee are working on a project to shine a light on the need to ensure health and retirement security for today’s seniors and tomorrow’s retirees. Our goal is to restore the trust for all generations, by motivating our colleagues and the American people to get involved – to engage our fellow citizens in a discussion and build consensus toward positive solutions.
In typical budget fashion, we aim to put the nation on sound fiscal footing. That in and of itself is a tremendous challenge. However, we are not simply interested in just making the numbers on a page add up.
We want to restore the trust of the American people by saving, strengthening, and securing these programs – making them more responsive to the needs of beneficiaries. We want to look beyond just the big three and also focus attention on other mandatory spending programs – financial support programs, food stamps and educational assistance to name a few. Our goal is to end the immoral practice of forcing more Americans into dependency on broken programs.
To achieve this goal, we have to win the argument. To win the argument, we have to humanize the challenge and let folks know that, whether they believe it or not, they are invested in the success of these programs – whether as beneficiaries themselves, a family member to a beneficiary, a working-age individual paying a portion of their paycheck to fund the programs or anywhere in between.
Those who oppose our reform efforts have been putting a human face on these issues for a long time. You all might remember in the last presidential election, President Obama’s team created this interactive online character named Julia and they built a website that chronicled Julia’s life and all the wonderful things they said the government would do for Julia.
It was a remarkably telling example of the Obama Administration’s vision for America – a cradle to grave state of government influence in one’s life. Conveniently absent from the story is of course all those folks – including Julia – who are paying for these programs – and the fact that, while she may retire and be eligible for Social Security and Medicare in her 60s, she will be one of the millions of seniors who spent a lifetime paying into a program that went bankrupt long before she was able to utilize it.
That’s the type of misleading characterization we are up against. Our critics try to claim the moral high ground. They say they are the ones looking after our seniors and those less well-off. But where’s the morality in committing seniors and low-income families to a health care system that cannot deliver – or which intrudes on the personal decisions of patients and their doctors? Is it moral to promise retirement security that the government knows it cannot provide? As policy thinkers and policymakers, achieving real, substantive improvements to the nation’s health and retirement programs will require showing that the status quo, do-nothing crowd are the ones acting recklessly and leaving the American people in a terrible situation.
In many ways, Republicans have already made tremendous strides with the Medicare reforms we have proposed in the House Republican budgets for the past several years. We have begun to normalize the issue and debate, so that it is acceptable to broach the topic of reform.
To see good ideas become good legislation and eventually good laws, we have to build a coalition around support for positive solutions. What might that coalition look like?
Here’s a hint: it’s not just folks who want to balance the nation’s budget. I’m one of those folks, and I was proud that Congress adopted our balanced budget plan this year. But we have to take a message of reform to those who might traditionally see any change as an assault on their benefits and show that the true assault comes from doing nothing. And it cannot be something we just talk about during budget season. We must continually engage on this front.
The danger to beneficiaries is not coming from those of us trying to improve the programs; it is coming in a few short years when Medicare and Social Security go bankrupt. Or, for those on disability insurance, as soon as next year.
So we need a coalition that is made up of Americans who believe in – again – saving, strengthening, and securing these programs. After all, even if Medicare and Social Security were on sound fiscal footing, which they are not, seniors would still benefit from expanded choices to ensure a healthier and more secure retirement. Medicaid would still be in dire need of improvements to ensure recipients actually have access to physicians. Income assistance, food stamps and other welfare programs would still benefit from efficiencies giving communities greater control and flexibility to tailor the programs to meet the needs of their citizens. Milton Friedman noted “One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intention rather than their results.” When we look at the results, we know that we can’t simply preserve these programs; we must improve their policies so they better serve the American people. This is a moral imperative.
My goal here today is not to simply reinforce what you already know. It is to enlist you and your friends, others who might be tuning in to this conversation, to become a part of a concerted effort to restore the trust in these programs, in the goal of health and retirement security, in the goal of helping others shift from government assistance to independence, financial security and economic opportunity.
We purposely are not coming forward with a slate of legislative solutions – so as not to pre-determine the outcome of a healthy and honest debate – except to say that if we fail to motivate our fellow citizens and empower them to face these challenges, America’s health and retirement programs are destined to go broke – breaking the solemn promises we have made to each other.
So we come with principles – principles that speak to the character of the American people; to our belief in the individual; to expanding choices and encouraging innovative thinking; to restoring market forces and engaging the spirit of federalism.
These principles will form the foundation of this campaign – Restoring the Trust for All Generations.
Success in this endeavor will not come quickly. The enormous challenges facing our nation’s health and retirement programs have grown over decades. Those who would demagogue our efforts have spent years refining their attacks – and are well entrenched and invested in the broken status quo. With every passing day, our work gets more challenging. So we need both a sense of urgency and a healthy perspective that we should be willing to accept even incremental progress along the way.
I hope you and your colleagues, your friends and family members will see the value in participating in this effort.
As I said at the outset, we really don’t have a choice. Even if you think you’ll be well on your way to achieving financial independence in your retirement years and will find no real use for the government’s assistance, you are still paying for it. And the economy you live and work in is paying for it. And, compassion for our fellow citizens ought to compel us to at least see the wisdom in ensuring millions of Americans are not left out in the cold, when we could have saved and strengthened these programs when we had the chance. This is the most predictable fiscal crisis our nation has ever faced.
If we make responsible decisions today, if we do not shy away from the tough challenges – but instead embrace this opportunity we will be able to foster a nation where the greatest number of Americans have the greatest opportunity to realize their dreams and to achieve the greatest success for themselves and their families with a more prosperous and secure future – that’s a pretty good goal.
You can learn more about the House Budget Committee’s efforts by going online at budget.house.gov/RestoringTheTrust. There you will find additional information including a white paper the committee has produced that dives deeper into these issues – providing greater detail about the challenges we face and the principles needed to solve them. We plan to update the site as we move forward and we are actively soliciting input from the public in this effort.
Thank you again to Doug, AAF and everyone here today for your time. I look forward to taking your questions and continuing this conversation. Read More
The paper provides background on the looming insolvency and/or ineffectiveness of the nation’s health, retirement, and economic security programs, the adverse impact they will have on current and future generations of beneficiaries unless reforms are made, and the principles that should help guide the formation of solutions to save, strengthen and improve these programs. As the paper states, the time to act has come, and it will require a coalition to advance positive solutions based on a common sense set of principles:
Americans have lost confidence that their government can fulfill its promises, and Washington’s unsustainable budgetary outlook simply reflects in numbers the failures of its policies. Restoring the trust among America’s generations requires a new approach and a new way of thinking about how to keep the Nation’s commitments. Addressing this challenge is an imperative that cannot wait – and every American must be engaged in the discussion. …Building consensus to advance positive solutions is the next step toward securing the promises of the Federal Government’s major benefits programs. This requires new ways of thinking about how to fulfill these promises in a fiscally sustainable way, and developing a set of principles to guide the process. As described above, those principles should include expanding choices for individuals and families; restoring market forces and fostering competition that will encourage innovation and restrain costs; encouraging self-sufficiency rather than prolonged dependency; and engaging the spirit of federalism, allowing States and localities greater flexibility to meet the particular needs of their populations. Such steps can greatly contribute to restoring the trust in America’s promises for all generations.
CLICK HERE to read the full paper. Those wishing to participate in and contribute to this effort are encouraged to visit budget.house.gov/restoringthetrust for more information and to submit their insights to advance this conversation.
House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, M.D. (GA-06) will address this new initiative in a speech tomorrow (Wednesday) at an event entitled Rising to the Challenge: The Need To Fix Entitlement Programs hosted by the American Action Forum. Registration for the event as well as a link to watch a live-stream can be found by clicking here.
WASHINGTON, D.C. - House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, M.D. (GA-06) issued the following statement after the House of Representatives passed H.R. 6, the 21st Century Cures Act:
“Supporting medical innovation and the work of agencies like the NIH is critical to ensuring America remains a global leader in the fight to cure deadly diseases and develop breakthrough medical treatments. My colleagues who have worked diligently on this legislation ought to be commended for their dedication to that effort. At the same time, while the goals of this legislation are laudable, the fact that it creates a new mandatory spending program is both troubling and unnecessary. There’s no reason that these programs could not be authorized and then made, appropriately, a priority through the discretionary spending process.
“Before coming to Congress, I practiced medicine for over twenty years. The headquarters for the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention is based in the Atlanta area. Needless to say, I wholeheartedly support the pursuit of medical research and innovation. However, I cannot support this legislation as it stands. It sets an unacceptable precedent – particularly at a time when so much of our federal budget is already on auto-pilot, increasingly difficult to control and a significant risk to America’s fiscal well-being. I stand ready to work with my colleagues in advancing funding for health care research and to do so in a responsible manner.” Read More