Ryan’s Opening Statement: The Long-Term Budget Outlook

Opening Remarks, as Prepared for Delivery

Hi, everybody—and welcome. Today we’re going to discuss CBO’s long-term budget outlook. So first I want to thank Director Elmendorf and his team at CBO for all their hard work.

I have to say: Your report is sobering. Just take the first line: “Between 2009 and 2012, the federal government recorded the largest budget deficits relative to the size of the economy since 1946, causing its debt to soar.” And later: “With deficits as big as the ones that CBO projects, federal debt would be growing faster than GDP, a path that would ultimately be unsustainable.”

That’s it right there: It’s unsustainable. Our national debt is already bigger than our economy—and yet it’s going to get bigger. Our economy is already too weak to create the jobs we need—and yet it’s going to get weaker. People already can’t find work—and yet there will be even less opportunity. The average number of hours worked is shrinking.

We know what the problem is. Spending keeps growing, and our economy can’t keep up. The debt is weighing down working families. Over the next 20 years, real spending will grow by 27 percent. And I’d like to point something out: We will be taking in plenty of taxes, frankly a lot more in taxes—an even greater share of the economy than the historical average. But that still won’t be enough. We still will be spending more than we take in. 

And the reason that spending is growing so fast is that our safety net is broken. Medicare and Social Security are going broke. CBO says Social Security’s unfunded liability is now 25 percent higher than before. If we do nothing, we could have a debt crisis. And if we did, the most vulnerable would be hurt first and worst.

Now, I understand some of my colleagues might not be all that concerned about the government spending more money and a soaring debt. But here’s what should concern them. If we spend all our money on entitlements, we’ll have no money left for anything else. If we do nothing, spending on Social Security, our major health-care programs, and net interest payments will take up most of the budget. And total spending on everything else will fall to 7 percent of the economy by 2039—that would be the smallest share of our economy since the late 1930s.

And here’s another serious concern: CBO warns that our growing national debt could compromise our national security. If we don’t take action now, we will have less to spend on our national defense, and we’ll be less prepared for future challenges.

So the answer is simple: Repair our safety net. Cut wasteful spending. Prepare for the future. And don’t raise taxes. The way I see it, we shouldn’t force families to pay for Washington’s mistakes. Hardworking taxpayers deserve better.

We need to expand opportunity for everyone in this country, and we can start by getting the budget under control. That’s how we can make the federal government more accountable and more effective.

With that, I would like to yield to the Ranking Member for his opening remarks.