Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) warned the American public that the national debt is going to reach “$30 trillion in no time,” explaining that every federal dollar will apply to “unfunded liabilities” and interest on the debt in 11 years, leaving no room for spending in other areas.
The total public debt stood at $5.7 trillion when President George W. Bush entered office in 2001. The debt was $10.6 trillion when President Obama entered office in 2009 after Bush’s two terms as president. The national debt is currently $19 trillion.
With a Republican majority in Congress, Brat said the deficit is still going to rise by $100 billion this year.
“So the deficit is $500 billion. By 2022, it will be $1 trillion a year — the deficit, the amount of money we are adding to the debt — so it will get to $30 trillion in no time, right? So that’s when China is having a hiccup right now because they’re at two times debt to GDP — two or three times,” Brat, a member of the House Budget Committee, said at Hillsdale College’s Kirby Center in Washington during the launch of the Article I Project (A1P) aimed at strengthening the role of Congress.
“We are one time, right? We’re at $19 trillion which is about the same size of the economy, so they’re having a hiccup, a major hiccup, they may not come out of it. And Greece is way past that, and that’s where we are in terms of debt load,” he added.
Brat, a former economics professor at Randolph-Macon College, said the nation’s unfunded liabilities pose an even greater problem for the next president. Unfunded liabilities are the amount of taxpayer money the government has promised to pay to beneficiaries under programs such as Medicare and Social Security in the future.
“Two-thirds of the budget is that right now. In 11 years, all federal revenues will go to unfunded liabilities, mandatory programs and interest on the debt. In 11 years, there won’t be one dollar left for defense, education, transportation or running government in 11 years, so anyone that does not think this is timely, you are not paying attention to the numbers,” he said.
“In 11 years it’s all over and I don’t know if we can turn it around. You’re going to have to have the will of the people somehow grasp that, vote against their own self-interests, rediscover a thing called discipline and we’re going to ask voters to vote for that. Here, take some bad-tasting medicine, it’s for your own good,” he added.
Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, told the audience Congress has “outsourced” its authority for far too long, which has led to an “out-of-control” regulatory state.
“When Congress delegates its fundamental legislative authority to an unaccountable, unelected bureaucracy, it is arguably acting in an unconstitutional manner,” he said.
Hensarling said the “power of the purse” is lawmakers’ most important tool to hold the executive branch accountable.
“For years, Congress has slowly surrendered its constitutional power over federal spending and our priority must be to reclaim it,” he said.
Hensarling called for Congress to “seriously reform” the budget process and stop passing vague laws that direct federal agencies to “fill in the blanks.”
Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Ala.) said Congress has to take back its lawmaking authority from the federal agencies. He urged his colleagues to examine the agencies under their respective committees that are “overstepping their authority” and introduce short bills that say Congress never granted authorization.
“I think the REINS Act is a key key part of that,” he said. “It simply says that any new rule from an agency that has an economic impact of plus or minus $100 million has to go to both houses of Congress to be passed and signed by the president.”
Brat said Republicans face the major challenge of convincing the majority of voters to take “bad-tasting medicine” to fix the nation’s financial problems with no other way around it.
“There’s tremendous pressure on us in the conference to vote for everything that sounds good. Last year we had a thing called the Cures Act to help kids with cancer. I voted against it,” Brat said, explaining that the bill created a new mandatory spending program.
The bill, which provides an additional $8 billion in funding to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has not passed the Senate.
“Curing diseases like cancer, Angelman syndrome, and multiple sclerosis is obvious in its importance. Efforts to cure diseases have been going on for decades with both private sector and, constitutional issues aside, government support. Everyone wants to see these diseases eliminated,” said House Budget Committee Vice Chairman Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) after the bill passed in the House in the summer.
“I was dismayed that H.R. 6 did not respect the importance of research funding by reducing other spending priorities to responsibly pay for the program. Prioritizing our goals is the only way we are going to reduce our $18 trillion in debt,” he added.