Ryan’s Opening Statement: CBO’s Budget and Economic Outlook

Opening Remarks, as Prepared for Delivery

Hi, everybody—and welcome. Well, first I want to thank Director Elmendorf and his team. We appreciate your taking the time to meet with us today. You’ve put together a very informative report. It does a great job of laying out the challenges we face.

My main takeaway is this: We still have a lot of work to do. This year, we’re going to run a deficit of $514 billion. Now, that’s less than last year’s—but it’s nothing to brag about. In fact, the deficit will start growing in just two years. By 2022, we will be running trillion-dollar deficits again—even though we will be taking in a historically large share of revenue. That’s because spending will be growing twice as fast as revenue. So over the next ten years, we will add $10 trillion more to our national debt—for a grand total of $27 trillion. It’s hardly time to start congratulating each other.

Now, I was glad that we passed the bipartisan budget deal last year. It was a firm step in the right direction—but only a step. We need to do more—much more. And it’s déjà vu all over again—because we know what the problem is. Autopilot spending and interest payments are driving our debt. Interest alone will quadruple over the next ten years. And Obamacare is clearly part of the problem. It adds trillions of dollars in government spending. And it’s made things worse for our economy and for working families.

By 2017, CBO projects people will be working fewer hours—precisely because of the incentives created by this law. The effect will be severe—as if 2.5 million people had stopped working full time by 2024. Between 2017 and 2024, overall labor compensation will also decline. And these changes will disproportionately affect lower-wage workers. Translation: Washington is making the poverty trap that much worse.

Your report points out some of the weak spots in our economy: low investment, high unemployment, people leaving the workforce. If we got our act together, we could start paying down our debt and give our economy the certainty it needs. Tax reform, regulatory reform, and energy development—I believe all these could create jobs and increase take-home pay.  

I want to highlight one point. This report says the debt gets worse, and we have slower economic growth compared to the last forecast. But what is particularly troubling is CBO’s projection of labor-force participation. CBO says that about half of this decline is attributable to the aging of the population—most notably the retirement of the baby-boom generation. But CBO also says that government policies, especially the President’s health-care law, are discouraging work. Washington is making this problem worse. This does not have to be our fate. We need to reverse this decline.

So I consider your report a call to action. We know what the problem is. We know how to fix it. And I believe we can work together to get it done. The debt won’t take care of itself—it’s up to us. We must take action now.

So I want to thank you once again for the report and for your time today. I look forward to hearing your testimony. And with that, I want to recognize the ranking member, Mr. Van Hollen, for his opening remarks.