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Lee Rogers: Current Congress to blame for massive debt

Guest Commentary

Posted: May 14, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: May 14, 2012 1:55 a.m.

A recent Signal editorial by Representative Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, titled "Time for governmental fiscal accountability (April 30)" points out our nation's massive debt and declares that we are broke. On this point I agree with McKeon, but I think it's difficult to place the blame on anyone but Congress.

We have the largest debt in history, and it built up over the last 10 years, on his watch. Between 2001 and 2004, we were to have a surplus of $850 billion, and the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the federal government would have a $2 trillion nest egg by now, but, instead, we have a $15 trillion debt. So what happened?

The contracting economy and reduced tax revenue of the recession accounts for about $3.5 trillion. But six acts of Congress account for the majority of our debt.

1. Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 added $1.6 trillion

2. Medicare Part D (prescription drug benefit) added $350 billion

3. War in Iraq cost $800 billion

4. War in Afghanistan added $550 billion

5. Troubled Assets Relief Program (bailout) $700 billion

6. American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (stimulus) $787 billion

This is just what it added to our debt so far. Interest payments on our debt are more than $240 billion yearly and represent the sixth largest federal budget item. The unfunded liability on Medicare Part D is an astounding $16 trillion. Estimates for the total cost of war when we take care of the thousands who are injured, disabled or enter our VA system will be greater than $4 trillion.

McKeon voted for five of the six major causes of our debt. I'm not arguing the worthiness of any of the items, but I am arguing the fact that not a single one was paid for. McKeon voted to take out our nation's credit card and swipe it. He wears the façade of a fiscal conservative, but his voting record shows he's really a deficit spender.

McKeon is now publicly complaining that Obama is doing nothing to avoid sequestration and the statutory cuts to the defense budget. McKeon voted for that, too, but perhaps he was crossing his fingers.

It was the Budget Control Act of 2011, which created the super committee. If the super committee failed to reach a consensus on reducing our deficit, equal mandatory cuts to defense and domestic spending would begin. In reality, the defense cuts are not cuts at all, they are a slowing of the growth rate. Defense spending will only grow by 13 percent in the next 10 years, not 24 percent.

Yes, we are in tough times. I think about my children and future grandchildren who will be paying off this debt, which we accumulated in 10 years. I think about my mother or in-laws, to whom we've promised health care and Social Security, who must now suffer as a result of Congress's irresponsible behavior.

Congress created this mess. We can't send the same people back to Washington and expect a different result.

Dr. Lee Rogers is a candidate for U.S. Congress in California's 25th District. He lives in Simi Valley with his wife and two daughters.



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