October 20, 2005

October 20, 2005 | News Releases on Federal Budget

Feulner: A Line in the Sand on Federal Spending

Washington, Oct. 20, 2005-Heritage Foundation president Edwin J. Feulner, Ph.D., delivered the following remarks today at a joint press conference with conservative leaders from the American Conservative Union, the Club for Growth, the Family Research Council, and other conservative groups:

Congress and the President face a critical test. The American people are calling for fiscal sanity. The question is: Can Washington muster the political spine to act responsibly? I am optimistic that our elected representatives can, with courage, lead us on the right path.

The President has called for offsets to pay for hurricane relief and rebuilding.

The House Leadership responded with a 4 point plan to pare spending growth. These are good first steps. But, already there is slippage. Some Members have balked at modest 2% across-the-board spending cuts.

Congress must do more, not less. I believe that any Member of Congress who cares about responsible spending must do two things: End pork barrel spending, and postpone the new Medicare drug entitlement for at least one year. These two measures will save taxpayers $66 billion in the first year alone.

Recent calls to return money earmarked for pet pork projects in the highway bill have resonated with taxpayers throughout the country. Why? Because Main Street Americans recognize that money is better spent on hurricane recovery projects than on vanity projects like bike trails and $220 million bridges to nowhere.

Pork Barrel Spending Chart

We cannot tolerate passing along enormous debts to our children and grandchildren just so politicians can continue to pass out pork back home.

I commend those members such as Mike Pence, Jeff Flake, Jeb Hensarling, Ron Lewis, and, yes, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who vowed to give back most of her earmarks. "I would give them up to help Katrina victims," she said.

The rest of Congress should join those members of both parties who are willing to give up their earmarks to meet this huge national priority.

The line in the sand is clear: Congress should rescind the highway bill pork projects and redirect those funds to help rebuild infrastructure along the Gulf Coast.

Further, Congress must reject any attempts to lard up Katrina-related legislation with new earmarks.

And finally, Congress should declare an earmark moratorium for all up-coming appropriations bills.

When asked last week if he were a conservative, the President responded that he was and "Proudly so." I take him at his word.

He must give an ironclad promise to veto any bill that crosses his desk with earmarks attached - whatever it is. There must be no compromise on that.

Of course, fiscal responsibility demands more than simply a pork-free diet. Current unfunded entitlement obligations have this nation on a path to fiscal disaster.

We are less than one generation away from Congress being unable to pay for anything other than Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and interest on the federal debt - leaving not so much as a penny for defense or homeland security.

I repeat: We are one generation away from Congress being unable to pay for anything other than Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and interest on the federal debt.

Too many in Washington are in denial.

I had to laugh-bitterly-at a recent memo rebutting a Heritage paper calling for more spending restraint. This memo came from a staff aide to my friend, the Senate Majority Leader.

He used specious arguments to rationalize our government's current spending habits and still could not reach a more inspiring conclusion than we're in better shape than France.

To meet our existing promises without exploding deficits, federal taxes will have to grow more than 50 percent by 2030. Total taxation would reach 36 percent of GDP, with severe consequences on America's economic growth.

Spending as Percentage of GDP

And, I advise my Senate staff friends that when that happens, France will look good by comparison!

It's a future our children cannot afford. And so we must look beyond merely diverting funds from low-priority programs to our highest priorities. We must stop expanding universal entitlements when we cannot meet our current obligations.

Congress must, at a minimum, delay the Medicare prescription drug benefit for one year. It would save $33 billion dollars and give Congress time to figure out how to get Medicare costs under control.

No elected official can be truly serious about getting spending under control unless they embrace these two simple proposals - abandoning all pork and delaying the prescription drug benefit. Those who say they want to rein in spending are not serious if they reject these basic building blocks of fiscal responsibility.

Edwin J. Feulner, Ph.D., is President of The Heritage Foundation.

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