Wyoming U.S. Rep. Lummis, former Sen. Simpson call for entitlement reforms to fix debt

2013-09-18T06:00:00Z 2013-09-18T11:00:05Z Wyoming U.S. Rep. Lummis, former Sen. Simpson call for entitlement reforms to fix debtBy KYLE ROERINK Star-Tribune staff writer Casper Star-Tribune Online
September 18, 2013 6:00 am  • 

The nation’s ballooning debt will need more than the across-the-board cuts known as sequestration to fix the nation’s economy in the long run, according to a report from the Congressional Budget Office.

The results of the report come as no surprise to Congress and beltway insiders who have been calling the 10-year, 5.6 percent cuts a bandage for a gunshot wound since the reductions went into effect in March.

If current laws remain in place, the report says the nation’s debt will grow to 100 percent of gross domestic product by 2038 — a 27 percent increase from where the nation’s debt-to-GDP ratio stands today.

“Anyone that thinks we’ve solved our long-term debt problems is kidding themselves,” said Mark Goldwein, policy director for the Committee for a Responsible Budget, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington that supports cuts to the nation’s entitlement programs. “Sequestration can only buy us time.”

Despite the nation’s fears about sequestration, the cuts imposed have improved the nation’s long-term outlook on the debt and deficit, but it’s just the beginning, Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., said. Lummis advocated the cuts as a way to rein in federal spending and reduce the debt and said without them the future economic outlook “gets even worse.”

Lawmakers didn’t expect sequestration to significantly improve the debt and deficit in the first place. The hope was that the far-reaching measures of austerity would kick lawmakers into action to work on a deal that would reform the nation’s entitlement programs and tax code.

As they stand, the cuts reduced $40 billion from discretionary spending this fiscal year, while failing to reform the tax code and take a bite out of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. The cuts amount to about 1 percent of the nation’s $3.8 trillion budget, said Bob Grady, a former executive associate director in the Office of Management and Budget under George H.W. Bush.

“No business can expect to stay afloat with 1 percent cuts,” Grady said.

What Lummis and the rest of the Wyoming congressional delegation want to see is entitlement reform.

“They are driving the unstable trajectory of our debt,” Lummis said. “It’s the biggest problem we face.”

But a polarized Congress and an encumbered President Barack Obama show little hope for working on a

comprehensive deal that will cut Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare while reforming the tax code that will appease Republicans and Democrats.

“There’s no way the House and Senate will work together on this in the 113th,” said Michael Linden, director for economic policy at the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank in Washington.

Former Wyoming U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson has been on a crusade to fix the debt since 2010. He was opposed to sequestration and hiking taxes, as Congress did on Jan. 1 in the fiscal-cliff deal.

Without cuts to health care and Social Security, the nation’s long-term outlook doesn’t look good, he said.

Once the debt is at 90 percent of GDP, he said, lawmakers won’t be able to fix the situation. Wages will stagnate, taxes will increase and higher interest rates will keep money out of the hands of average Americans.

“Putting it in simple parlance: People will make less money,” Lummis said. “It will mean an anemic economy where workers are being paid less than their predecessors in the same jobs.”

The report suggested that if nothing is done to change current laws, federal spending for the major health care programs and Social Security will increase to 14 percent of the nation’s GDP by 2038 — doubling the 7 percent average of the past 40 years.

The report also said discretionary spending would decline to 7 percent, a 4 percent decrease over the past 40-year average and comprising a smaller share of the economy than at any other time since the 1930s.

The CBO’s projections offered a glimmer of hope in an economy that is slowly recovering more than five years after the financial meltdown. In 2010, a report from the CBO estimated the nation’s debt would be 200 percent of the national debt by 2035.

“It shows that we haven’t finished the job,” Linden said. “But there’s been a dramatic improvement.”

Cuts to entitlement programs will definitely affect the nation’s neediest citizens and may not affect the nation’s long-term debt. He called the drive to cut entitlements by Lummis and her fellow House Republicans a myopic view that would immediately hurt Americans.

“It’s a real example of how skewed our priorities are,” Linden said. “We could be hurting people today to eventually avoid potential problems 25 years from now.”

Lummis rebuked the comments, saying it would be irresponsible of her as a lawmaker to ignore “the train wreck” that is the federal debt.

“It’s completely false to say that this may or may not happen,” Lummis said. “It will happen. If we do not reform entitlement programs, they will become 100 percent of all our revenue by the year 2038.”

She vowed that America’s social safety net will remain intact if entitlements are reformed. She pointed at the House Republican budget, drafted by Rep. Paul Ryan, as a clear example of how entitlement programs would continue to care for Americans.

“The budget that the House Republicans passed in the spring will balance the budget in 10 years, retains our safety net, reforms entitlements and downsizes federal spending,” Lummis said. “It’s the answer our country needs.”

Copyright 2015 Casper Star-Tribune Online. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(20) Comments

  1. Marguerite
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    Marguerite - September 20, 2013 8:10 am
    As I have pointed out to Rep. Lummis, entitlement reform must come with more revenue -- you know, taxing the wealthiest. The entitlement crash is caused by the wave of baby boomers and the help they will need in the coming decade or two. Sequester is a mindless way to cut spending. Let's do it intelligently, which will mean bipartisan cooperation and taxes, which will require Republicans to stand up to the Mad Hatters in the tea party. Are they up to it? If they aren't, let's elect people who are.
  2. jc45
    Report Abuse
    jc45 - September 19, 2013 4:43 pm
    In an earlier post I had the amount of "entitlement" a member of congress gets. Below Is a link that has the correct numbers.
    http://money.msn.com/now/congressman-laments-dollar172000-salary?gt1=33009
  3. pappy
    Report Abuse
    pappy - September 19, 2013 8:29 am
    They all need to be on SS and their own retirement.
  4. pappy
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    pappy - September 18, 2013 3:58 pm
    Oh my cut the military how could we ever do that? At the same time we could cut forieign spending to countries who hate us. That would save several billion.
  5. 67XL
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    67XL - September 18, 2013 3:55 pm
    You just proved who the real moron is.How about when republicants run out of SS money to poop off on unnecessary wars? Then who is the leach? Get a life.
  6. rocl
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    rocl - September 18, 2013 3:22 pm
    So Rene when you get a government subsidy it's called a "break". When somebody else gets a subsidy to "survive" it's called welfare. How are agriculture subsidies not socialism?
  7. rigrat
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    rigrat - September 18, 2013 1:00 pm
    Simpson is a low life hypocrite,one of the pork barrel lickers who squealed about Vietnam vets getting Agent Orange compensation,yet spent half his life licking the public trough to a shiny sheen.These idiots have no clue about real life in the streets since most of them were born with a silver spoon in their mealy mouths.As for handouts,I concur with others about ranchers and farmers getting subsidies for "damage" to crops by wildlife,and some who get paid for growing nothing,like many wheat farmers in Montana. These dorks need to STFU about entitlements and go away to their corner like good little pups,we are tired of hearing the same old lies from the same old tired liars.
  8. Salty Dawg
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    Salty Dawg - September 18, 2013 12:53 pm
    Agreed on that point.
  9. rocl
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    rocl - September 18, 2013 11:19 am
    In the early 90's when the Repubs took over Congress and wanted to downsize the Federal Government there was a Democratic congressman named Johnson from Oklahoma who thought the BLM should be getting more for grazing fees from public lands. All those rock-ribbed Republican ranchers united and he was out spent and run out of Congress.
  10. Completely Fed Up
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    Completely Fed Up - September 18, 2013 10:48 am
    I thought Simpson was in a home for the mentally disabled. That's where he and Lummis belong. Let's start with the entitlements for welfare ranchers, Cindy. Then move on to entitlements for bidnesses and their pawns in "congress". Simpson and Lummis should do the right thing, and fall forward onto their swords. The average IQ of the state would improve.
  11. Cody Coyote
    Report Abuse
    Cody Coyote - September 18, 2013 9:53 am
    Let's start wit the Pentagon's " entitlements" and work our way out from there.

    The US military outspends the next 27 nations combined , 26 of whom are our allies. The GOP speak with forked tongue on cutting entitlements of the Pentagon brass are not on the chopping block as well, alongside those programs the GOP hates with what all their small stone heart : SNAP f/k/a/ Food Stamps, science and health research , arts and humanities, PBS, education and student loans, and on down thru the list of everything else not Pentagon or personal pork.

    The United States of America used to be number one in almost everything honorable and worthy of nations as a whole . These days, thanks to a dysfunctional bitterly polarized paralyzed Congress , we lead the world in only one category " HYPOCRISY. Lummis , Barrasso and even middlin' Enzi excel at that because they are Republicans first, not Americans.
  12. WyoJeff
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    WyoJeff - September 18, 2013 9:30 am
    I have paid into the system for over 30 years. My "magic wand" is to allow you to keep YOUR money in YOUR own account. That would be an account that the government would not be able to write checks on. At least you will see some of your money come back to you. I doubt I will see any of the money I have put into the government checkbook account. It used to be that business ripped off retirement accounts, now it is our own government that takes our retirement money (until the 401K and I think you want it also) Do you just want to keep a corrupt and broken system working? There is no money, it was stolen and already spent.
  13. side oiler
    Report Abuse
    side oiler - September 18, 2013 9:10 am
    Exactly my thoughts.
  14. side oiler
    Report Abuse
    side oiler - September 18, 2013 9:09 am
    How old are you? Obliviously you have not paid into the system the last 40 years like so many of us have,so you think your magic wand will fix it all? Using your logic us old #arts are supposed to just go away? This is exactly what the GOP would like,just like they would like many veterans to go away.
  15. dd ric
    Report Abuse
    dd ric - September 18, 2013 8:41 am
    Notice that rich ranchers who own lots of land and get cheap grazing fees from the federal govt. aren't willing to pay more for the "entitlement" of cheap grass,but tomorrow the GOP wants to vote to cut SNAP programs by $40B????? Beyond hypocrites,Al and Cynthia and their families have sucked on govt. teats and will do so till death while denying the old and poor are Americans too. ddric

  16. jc45
    Report Abuse
    jc45 - September 18, 2013 8:41 am
    The first entitlement that should be abolished is the lifetime pension at full pay that our Congress members get after serving only one term. Rep Lummis will get approximately $117.000/year when she leaves congress for doing absolutely nothing while she was in D.C.
    Our service men and women do not get that kind of retirement after protecting this great nation in combat
  17. rocl
    Report Abuse
    rocl - September 18, 2013 8:21 am
    Maybe if the Republicans would do something to promote the middle class and stop putting all their efforts into making the rich richer the national debt would take care of itself. My Social Security "entitlement" is something I have been paying into for the past 46 years. The Repubs love to mis-inform and lie, Social Security has nothing to do with the national debt.
  18. pappy
    Report Abuse
    pappy - September 18, 2013 8:19 am
    I have no problem with this if your not already 30 + years into the system. You must also keep in mind that many people are just now starting to break even on 401 Ks they lost 50-60% of during the market collapse.
  19. WyoJeff
    Report Abuse
    WyoJeff - September 18, 2013 7:37 am
    Then why don't we create personal accounts for each working american like the 401Ks we have now? You could have an account for each of the entitlement programs. You could have your own health care account and your own unemployment account. It would truly be your money and you would be entitled to it.
  20. side oiler
    Report Abuse
    side oiler - September 18, 2013 7:19 am
    These clowns need to stop lying to people about "entitlements". We who worked most of our lives and paid into these "entitlement" programs,because we were told to, are "entitled" to some sort of return on our investments. Since politicians won't admit,especially so called "conservative Republicans" like Simpson,that they STOLE the money from these "entitlement" programs long ago,and have no intentions of ever paying it back,they somehow think it is fitting to deprive hardworking folks of their return on investments. this goes against the very principal of the greedy GOP.When I see clowns like Simpson give up their perks, I will cease moaning about their actions.Lead by example Simpson,and you too Lummis,stop LYING to people.
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