Chairman Price Opening Statement: Why Congress Must Balance the Budget

As Prepared for Delivery

Good morning, everyone. Thank you all for being here.

Yesterday, the Congressional Budget Office released its Long-Term Budget Outlook. The news was not particularly surprising, but it was incredibly troubling. The national debt is on pace to rise to 175 percent of our GDP by 2040. As the nation’s fiscal imbalance grows, our economy and hard-working American families are suffering and will continue to suffer. CBO projects economic growth to average a subpar 2.3 percent. At the same time, Medicare and Social Security, vital health and retirement programs, face insolvency. That’s not just a bookkeeping challenge. It means Medicare and Social Security won’t be there to serve American seniors who have contributed to these programs their entire working lives unless we take action.

There is plenty more to say about the CBO’s long-term budget outlook, but we are not here today to discuss just one economic report. We are here to talk about why it is imperative that we stop ignoring these fiscal and economic warnings and, ultimately, what we ought to do to ensure the American people can have an economy with more opportunity and jobs, a safer and stronger nation, and a more secure retirement.

The title of this hearing is “Why Congress Must Balance the Budget.” I imagine there might be a few Americans watching these proceedings who are scratching their heads and saying “because that’s what responsible people do. Period.” American families and businesses balance their budgets all the time. They do so because they know that it’s irresponsible and unsustainable to spend more money than you have. In other words, it’s common sense. When it comes to taxpayer dollars, it’s about respecting the American worker.

But there are also other reasons we need to balance the budget – reasons other than making the numbers add up. First and foremost, a balanced budget brings significant economic benefits.

When House Republicans introduced a balanced budget proposal earlier this year, CBO projected that our plan would increase real economic output per person by about $1,000, in 2025, and by about $5,000, in 2040. That’s real money in the pockets of working Americans. Moreover, as I’ve said before, every dollar that Washington takes in taxes and every dollar that is borrowed to sustain the deficit spending or cover interest on the debt, is a dollar that won’t be spent on a kid’s education, that can’t be used to pay rent, or buy a house or a car. 

A balanced budget would better prepare our nation to face those unforeseen challenges that inevitably will come with time. No one knows for certain what the future might hold or when we might be faced with a terrorist attack, a natural disaster or another recession. But we do know that our debt and the economic consequences of that debt will make it harder for our nation to prepare and respond.

There are numerous other reasons why a balanced budget is good for this country and it’s why I’m looking forward to hearing the testimony from our witnesses today. We have Ryan Silvey, a state Senator from Missouri, Chris Edwards from the Cato Institute, John Taylor from Stanford University, and Jared Bernstein from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. I want to thank all of you for taking the time to be here today and to share your experiences, expertise and informed views on this important issue.
 
It is incredibly important that we continue to broaden our understanding and the understanding of this Congress and the American people about the tremendous challenges we face and the need to develop positive solutions. Earlier this year, the House and Senate agreed on a balanced budget plan to strengthen America and build a brighter future. But our work is not done. And I’m happy to note that just as we are holding this hearing in the House today, Chairman Enzi and the Senate Budget Committee are holding a hearing on CBO’s Long-Term Budget Outlook. 

I’m looking forward to a lively discussion here today as we focus on why Congress must balance the budget.

And with that, I yield to the Ranking Member, Mr. van Hollen.