By DANIEL SUDDEATH
If lawmakers knew of a way to prevent the latest recession before its onset in 2007 and did not act it would have been “absolutely unforgivable,” Indiana’s 9th District U.S. Rep. Todd Young said Wednesday.
Similarly — knowing the level of the national debt coupled with forecasts for an economic plummet if spending isn’t balanced — Young said Congress and President Barack Obama will carry a burden of guilt if they do not soon approve measures to address the country’s economic future.
“We know it’s coming,” said Young, a Republican from Bloomington, of shortfalls predicted in entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security, as well as potential damage to the country’s bond ratings if the national deficit isn’t lowered over the next decade.
Young — who has been back in the 9th District meeting with various organizations and groups over the past week — commented on the debt limit, federal budget and tax reform during a visit with the News and Tribune Editorial Board on the same day Obama held his first White House news conference in nearly three months.
According to an Associated Press report, Obama referred to Aug. 2 as “a hard deadline” to deal with budgetary issues such as a potential increase of the country’s debt limit.
The Republican House passed a budget in April that included about $6 trillion in spending cuts, though the Senate has yet to OK a fiscal plan. House Republicans have touted the 10-year plan as a means to reduce national unemployment to 4 percent by 2015, as the jobless mark was last reported to be 9.1 percent.
Many Republicans are proposing spending cuts to programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, while Obama is calling for reductions in tax abatements for the wealthy.
“The tax cuts I’m proposing we get rid of are tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, tax breaks for oil companies and hedge fund companies and jet owners,” Obama said according to the AP report.
The International Monetary Fund has warned of financial repercussions that could include a spike in interest rates if Congress doesn’t raise the national debt ceiling.
But Young said he’s unlikely to vote in favor of raising the debt limit, which is currently $14.3 trillion, “absent some very significant spending cuts.”
Congress must address “autopilot” spending through entitlement reform to make a lasting dent on the national debt, Young said. But he added the plan of House Republicans wouldn’t affect the Medicare benefits of people 55 or older.
“I would hope everyone realizes something needs to be done if we’re going to save these programs,” Young said.
But what would happen if Obama’s budget proposal is approved in Young’s opinion?
“We drown in a sea of red ink, and a fiscal crisis will ensue and tank our economy,” he said, as Young added failure to act soon on entitlement programs could result in the benefits of those currently receiving Medicare being jeopardized.
The fiscal year will end Sept. 30, and the current budget deficit according to the AP is expected to reach a record $1.4 trillion by that time.
Young also criticized Obama’s approach in Libya as he cited a failure by Obama to communicate with or seek approval from Congress over U.S. involvement in the Middle Eastern country.
“On so many fronts, I’m constitutionally very uncomfortable with how we got here,” Young said.
But he added that the U.S. has an obligation to assist its NATO allies such as France and England, though Young did vote not to fund troops on the ground in Libya if that option is explored by Obama.
When asked about the difference between Libya and how President George W. Bush handled Iraq, Young said that while the accuracy of the information provided by the White House at the time can be debated infinitely, “at least there was consolation with Congress.”
Obama also addressed Libya during his press conference.
“We have not seen a single U.S. casualty,” he said according to the AP. “There’s no risk of additional escalation. This operation is limited in time and scope.”