Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

March 23, 2011

Hensarling talks to East Texans about national deficit

Meagan O'Toole-Pitts
Jacksonville Daily Progress

RUSK — Congressman Jeb Hensarling (Texas District 5) visited Rusk Wednesday to discuss the national deficit, one year to date after President Barack Obama’s Health Care bill was passed into law.

“Obamacare will increase spending by nearly $2.6 trillion and help cause our debt to triple during this decade,” Hensarling said.

Repealing the Health Care law would reduce the national deficit by $700 billion, Hensarling said.

The national deficit is more than $14 trillion. The government is spending 42 cents on every dollar it spends, Hensarling said.

National security is threatened by the deficit, he said.

“In the 20th century, the red menace was communism. The red menace for the 21st century is our public debt,” Hensarling said.

Forty-seven percent of the nation’s debt is owed to foreign countries. China is the nation’s biggest lender, owning 29.2 percent of the nation’s debt.

“The interest we pay to China on our debt, they can essentially afford to buy a (Joint) Strike Fighter every other day,” Hensarling. “Our greatest competitor in the world we are building their armed forces with the interest we pay them on the national debt.”

Hensarling cited republican and democratic leaders as being concerned about the national deficit.

“Don’t take me word for it. Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, (said) ‘I think the biggest threat we have to our national security is our debt.’ He didn’t say al-Qaida; He didn’t say radical Islamic fundamentalists; He didn’t say Russia; He didn’t say China,” Hensarling said. “Democrat, Erskine Bowles, who headed up the presidents fiscal responsibility commission, said ‘(This) debt is like a cancer. It’s truly going to destroy the country from within.’”

With the Health Care law and the federal budget, President Obama is making the problem worse, Hensarling said.

“Although (President Obama) did not put the nation on the road to bankruptcy, he’s pressing on the accelerator,” he said. “We have the president presenting a new budget that will, again, double the national debt in five years, triple it in ten, and add thirteen trillion dollars worth of red ink to the nation’s debt.”

The nation’s retirement and health security programs are driving up the debt, Hensarling said.

“Our spending, that’s growing so fast, is driven by Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid,” he said. “In addition to the economic downturn, Medicaid enrollment has increased precipitously.”

In 1950, each Social Security recipient was supported by 16.5 taxpayers, and in 2009 each Social Security recipient was supported by three taxpayers, Hensarling said.

“The programs that are a comfort to my parents are rapidly morphing into a cruel, ponzi scheme for my 7-year-old son and my 9-year-old daughter,” he said.

Josie Schoolcraft, second vice president of the Cherokee County Republican Club, voiced her concerns about Social Security to Hensarling.

“I’m on Social Security and I paid in it and I’m not against Social Security being cut. I am not against Medicaid being cut. We have to get all these people that have never paid in that has a child that’s mentally handicapped and (getting) Social Security checks. That’s got to stop,” Schoolcraft said.

America doesn’t have to cut Social Security to reduce the national deficit, Hensarling said, but programs like Social Security cannot grow faster than the economy.

“You can grow Medicare and Social Security every year in the federal budget but you can’t grow ‘em at six, seven, eight and nine percent a year if your economy is only growing two to three percent a year,” he said.

Hensarling said he doesn’t want to privatize Social Security.

“’Privatized’ is a cold, tested word that people through out there to try to confuse the debate,” he said. “I have backed legislation will allow younger workers voluntarily to take a third of their payroll taxes, out it into a voluntary account that would have about 20 options. It would be somewhat similar to a retirement system that me, as a member of Congress gets to enjoy (that) you don’t ... Over the course of a lifetime that would grow and it would become a property right that you could leave a spouse or you could leave your children. And it would always contain a floor so that no matter what you put in, you could never do worse than what Social Security promises you but has no way to deliver. I don’t call that privatization.”  

The best thing Americans can do about the deficit is to stay informed, Hensarling said.