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Getting Our Country’s Fiscal House in Order

Chairman's Column - April 2011

Dennis Hatchell, Alex Lee Inc.
2011 NAW Chairman of the Board

All of Washington, and much of the country, have been intensely focused for the last two years on the fiscal health of our country. Spending, deficits, debt, budgets, continuing resolutions, and other legislative matters have become board room and kitchen table topics like never before.

The first quarter of this year was clearly no exception to this political phenomenon, where the last four months of legislative wrangling was, incredibly, a fight over LAST year’s budget which began on October 1, 2010 (federal fiscal year 2011). This was a budget that the last Congress was required to pass, but they did not! Their failure to complete this essential spending blueprint left the new Congress, with a long and sometimes unseemly fight again over LAST year’s work.

The good news is that the new GOP majority insisted on ratcheting back the explosion in spending the Obama Administration had proposed and, as a result, the budget they finally agreed to (the “continuing resolution”) makes real cuts in federal spending. These cuts amounting to more than $2 billion a week are not enough for a $3.5 trillion budget, but it’s a start. The need to get our fiscal house in order is real and it is absolutely urgent. Government has to make the tough choices that every business and every family have made in the last two years — careful analysis of income and debt and then the difficult spending decisions. Only the federal government has ignored these realities and continues spending without limits.

The real fight lies ahead of us as we finally, at long last, tackle the so-called “entitlement programs.” Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare are “mandatory spending” programs that will grow as if on auto-pilot unless Congress acts to control them.

NAW has clear principles that address this fiscal mess that I am sure you will agree with:

  • First, government spends too much. We have to make the tough decisions to systematically and thoroughly analyze our federal programs and reduce spending.
  • Second, the government does NOT need to raise taxes. Fiscal solvency cannot be achieved by imposing new and additional taxes on the workers and businesses that create their jobs. We need policies that encourage a growing economy.
  • Third, budget reform must tackle entitlements. Mandatory spending and interest on the debt consume more than two-thirds of all government spending today. Anyone suggesting that we can achieve fiscal control without reforming Medicare, Social Security, and/or Medicaid is simply ignoring reality.
  • Finally, accept no gimmicks. We should accept none of the typical Congressional jargon about finding enough money in waste, fraud, abuse, and the Pentagon Budget; or balancing the budget by making totally unrealistic assumptions about economic growth.

It’s time for Washington to recognize the truth about our dire fiscal situation. It’s time for some tough decisions in Washington.

This is a fight our country has to win. NAW is fully focused on this coming battle, and we hope you are, too. We all must actively support the efforts of those in Congress who are willing to risk their political futures to make these hard choices and cast the risky votes. There has not been a better environment in the country for this type of reform for many years, and now is the time for all of us to participate actively in this critical debate.

At a recent meeting attended by NAW folks in Washington, DC, newly elected Florida Senator Marco Rubio said that he was asked by a constituent how he could possibly support Social Security reform given the number of retirees in Florida, and that if he votes for reform he could lose his seat. Senator Rubio’s response: “I’d rather lose my seat than my country.”

Let’s all hope there is a sufficient number of men and women like him to right our fiscal ship.