04.05.2011 1

House Republican Budget Committee Members Are Prepared for 2012

The Federal Budget 2012

By Rebekah Rast – While Congress battles out the remainder of the budget for Fiscal Year 2011, the House Budget Committee is already one step ahead.

The federal government’s spending spree is no longer sustainable and the House Republican Budget Committee’s proposed 2012 budget contain big changes to the main drivers of America’s debt — entitlement programs.

The Budget Committee has its work cut out for it. Entitlement programs have grown to consume about 58 percent of the federal budget.

“Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are such a large percentage of the budget,” says Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.), a Member on the Budget Committee.

Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) also a Member on the Budget Committee, adds, “It all needs to be addressed — Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security.  Social Security is a crisis waiting to happen.”

And the committee isn’t wasting time.  Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Chairman of the Budget Committee, has big plans for cutting the federal budget.  In fact, in an interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace, he stated he will be exceeding the goals put forth by the President’s Debt Commission, which means under the newly proposed budget the federal deficit will be cut by more than $4 trillion over the next 10 years.

When Chris Wallace asked how, Rep. Ryan responded, “By cutting spending, reforming entitlements, and growing our economy…  You have to address the drivers of our debt.  We need to engage the American people on fact-based budget, on stopping politicians from making empty promises to people, and talk to the country about what is necessary to fix these problems.”

Republicans on the House Budget Committee agree with Rep. Ryan and stand behind the new budget proposal.  “Chairman Ryan gets it.  He is interested in focusing on the issues,” says Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a Member on the Budget Committee.  “We have a 41-year-old from Wisconsin who is willing to lead where our President is not.”

Reforming entitlement programs won’t be easy.  Members of the committee know that and are prepared.

“There is a host of special interest groups,” Rep. Cole says in regards to those who will fight against any changes to these programs.  “AARP sees it as an attack on these programs.  Reform can also mean a lot of political points for Democrats.  They are masters at exploiting entitlement programs.”

Rep. Rokita adds to that list, “Democrats will call us mean people and say that we don’t like old people.  They have so much faith that the government will fix and take care of all of this.  Republicans are scared too.

“I say let’s do what we can do now,” Rep. Rokita adds.  “Every week I am leaving a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old at home to come out here.  I am committed to changing things.”

For these Republican Members, it is not an issue of scoring political points, but putting America back on a path towards fiscal responsibility and ensuring future generations receive their due benefits.

“The President has done nothing and the Democrats have never proposed a plan,” Rep. Cole adds.  “In the words of [House] Speaker [John] Boehner, ‘it is time to have an adult conversation with the American people.’ ”

That conversation will include the problems with these entitlement programs as well as proposals on how to fix them.

The ratio is 3.4 to 1 that pay into Social Security for every person that draws out, Rep. Cole points out.

To address this problem Rep. Stutzman proposes increasing the retirement age.  “Life expectancy is in the 70’s now; those are changes we can make incrementally.”

Rep. Cole agrees and continues, “Baby Boomers are getting ready to retire.  They will be eligible for Social Security.  This is also the longest living generation so far, which is a good thing, but that means they are receiving 20-plus years of benefits.

“Social Security reform is about saving the program,” Rep. Cole continues.  “We need to make changes now.”

Along with saving Social Security, the 2012 budget proposal will save Medicare and Medicaid as well.

To accomplish this, the Budget Committee has big changes in store for Medicare.  First off, for those 55 years old and over, Rep. Ryan assures that no changes will be made to their benefits.  For the rest of the America people, he is proposing a premium support system.

“Premium support is exactly the system, I as a member of Congress and all federal employees have,” he described to Fox’s Chris Wallace.  “It works like the Medicare prescription drug benefit — similar to Medicare Advantage today — which means Medicare puts a list of plans out there that compete against each other for your business and seniors pick the plan of their choosing and then Medicare subsidizes that plan. It doesn’t go to the person into the market place, it goes to the plan. More for the poor, more for people who get sick, and we don’t give as much money to people who are healthy.  Doing that saves Medicare.”

As far as Medicaid is concerned:  “We propose block grants to states,” Rep. Ryan states.  “We have had so much testimony from so many Governors saying give us the freedom to customize our Medicaid programs to tailor for our unique populations in our states.  We want to give Governors freedom.  We will be proposing block grants.”

Republicans on the Budget Committee will be rolling out their 2012 budget proposal this week.

“Every year we delay fixing this problem, we go about $10 trillion in the hole of more unfunded promises that Washington is making to people,” Rep. Ryan told Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren in an interview.  “We got to start talking honestly with people.  We need fact-based budgeting and we need honest budgets.  And we got to give the country a plan to prevent — preempt a big debt crisis…  Kick the can down the road, go trillions of dollars deeper into debt, and then everybody starts getting hurt, and that’s what we want to avoid.”

If Congress does not make dramatic changes to these entitlement programs that drive America’s debt and if the status quo holds constant, Medicare’s trust fund is projected to be exhausted by 2029 and Social Security’s trust fund is to be depleted by 2037.

When a baby born today reaches 18 years of age, there will not be an option of Medicare and when they are in their 20s, Social Security will also be wiped out.

“America is the great nation that it is because generations past have ensured its freedom and prosperity,” says Bill Wilson, president of Americans for Limited Government (ALG).  “Unless serious changes are made to the way America runs its finances, the leaders of today will be gifting a bankrupt nation with insurmountable debt to their children and grandchildren.”

Congress has until April 8 to reach a compromise on this year’s budget and then it will be time to take up a new budget proposal for 2012.  Negotiations on Congressman Ryan’s budget promise to be even more arduous and time consuming, and all the more necessary.

Rebekah Rast is a contributing editor at Americans for Limited Government (ALG) News Bureau.  You can follow her on Twitter at @RebekahRast.

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