Skip to content
U.S. National Debt:

The Worst Of All Possible Options Is Doing Nothing

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo and Congressman Mike Simpson

Senator Alan Simpson (R-Wyoming), Senator Mark Warner (D-Virginia) and President of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget Maya MacGuineas recently joined us at a federal fiscal issues symposiumhosted by the University of Idaho's McClure Center for Public Policy Research.  The symposium provided an opportunity for us to sit down with some of those working to find solutions to America's fiscal crisis and discuss with Idahoans the debt crisis that threatens our nation's future. 

America is at a debt to Gross Domestic Product ratio that no nation in the last 200 years has been able to sustain without serious economic consequences.  As panelist Maya MacGuineas framed it, our debt levels are already doing damage: "Our economy is not growing as fast as it otherwise could be…We are not going to be able to have a vibrant economy until we quit borrowing so much."

The solutions are difficult but achievable, and require that all options must be on the table.  We know that we must control federal spending, and a revenue solution is part of the remedy.  We know that we must have budget enforcement mechanisms that will finally keep Congress within adopted budget limits, and we know that there is a pathway out of this if we act now. 

We also know that the worst of all possible options is doing nothing.  If we do nothing, our entitlement programs-Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security-continue screaming toward insolvency.  If we do nothing, the bond markets will solve this program rather than Congress or the President, and the consequences will be devastating.  But, we have opportunities to make progress in this terrible crisis. 

We have the opportunity to reform the overly-burdensome tax code and make America a strong, competitive economy again.  We must enact pro-growth tax reform, which would simplify the tax code for all Americans, grow our economy and make American businesses more competitive.  We have the opportunity to reform our entitlement programs and put them on paths to solvency.  We also have the opportunity to put in place budget enforcement mechanisms that give Americans confidence that federal spending limitations will be honored.  Achieving these reforms would reassure America's future.    

This is the economic challenge of our lifetime and will determine the future of our country.  We must come together and work out a solution that includes tax and entitlement program reform, deficit reduction and tough budget enforcement mechanisms.  It should, and must, include the participation of all Americans in finding and implementing solutions. 

During the symposium, we took questions about whether spending cuts through sequestration are expected to take effect, the future of Social Security and Medicare, the impacts of potential defense spending cuts and expected changes in support of veterans.  We heard from a small business owner seeking tax certainty and simplicity and a family physician wondering about the impacts on affordable health care if something or nothing is done to address the deficit.  We heard from a local mayor and county commissioner wondering about the impacts of deficit reduction on the ability of communities to provide necessary services.  We heard from a dairy farmer interested in passage of a Farm Bill with existing farm programs.  We heard from a college student and teacher wondering about the potential impacts of deficit reductions on education.  We thank the McClure Center for hosting this valuable discussion. 

We hope that through this symposium and others more Americans gain a deeper understanding of the solutions necessary to avoid the worst option-doing nothing-by utilizing our opportunities to strengthen our economy.

You may access Senator Crapo's and Congressman Simpson's websites through the following links:  The symposium, which was broadcast on Idaho Public Television, can be accessed through the following link:

# # #

Word Count:  590