LaHood Op-ed: As we provide COVID-19 relief, we also need a plan to control the federal debt
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressmen Darin LaHood (IL-18) and Dan Lipinski (IL-3) published an op-ed this week in the Chicago Tribune highlighting the need for a plan to control the federal debt, as we continue to provide relief in the wake of COVID-19.
Originally published by the Chicago Tribune: Commentary: As we provide COVID-19 relief, we also need a plan to control the federal debt
By: Illinois U.S. Representatives Darin LaHood and Dan Lipinski
The COVID-19 pandemic has wrought a terrible human toll and created a steep, severe economic slowdown. Our first priority must continue to be combating these dual public health and economic crises, but the price is going to be high. Congress has already approved $3.6 trillion in spending, and it is clear we will need to borrow and spend more.
Unfortunately, we were not as prepared as we could have been to respond to these crises, in part because of poor management of our nation’s finances by both parties. We must act now to ensure that as soon as these crises are over, we put our country on a fiscally sustainable path. That is why we joined 58 of our colleagues in a bipartisan letter calling on House leadership to include measures to address long-term debt reduction in the COVID-19 relief bill currently being negotiated.
Even before this pandemic, our national debt was out of control with publicly held debt totaling over $17 trillion. The current crisis has made the outlook even worse. The national debt is set to equal the size of the entire economy by the end of this year, 10 years ahead of previous projections. Simultaneously, trust funds for programs like Social Security Disability Insurance, highways and Medicare Hospital Insurance are expected to be exhausted much earlier than was anticipated just six months ago.
To confront these issues, we propose that three commonsense, bipartisan budget reform proposals be included in this next COVID-19 relief package. These proposals provide the flexibility that the current situation requires, while holding Congress accountable once the crises are over.
- First, Congress should require an annual report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on the nation’s finances. This report will increase transparency and help put the fiscal health of our nation front and center in congressional deliberations.
- Second, Congress should create bipartisan, bicameral committees to give priority and urgency to those actions needed to keep our various federal trust funds solvent, so that we can better protect vital programs such as Medicare and Social Security. This could be done by including H.R. 4907, the Time to Rescue United States Trusts (TRUST) Act, in the relief package.
- Third, we should bring the debt burden to a sustainable level by putting in place debt-to-GDP targets that would rein in spending in exchange for ending repeated fights over the national debt limit.
These proposals should be enacted now so that they are already in place when the public health crisis is over and the economy has returned to sustained growth. It is not enough to simply count on future Congresses to rein in spending and restore our fiscal health. Congress has repeatedly shown an unwillingness to address our long-term debt outlook. We need to act now to ensure fiscal responsibility later, so that post crisis we have a strong foundation for debt reduction.
We recognize that Congress needs to spend more and provide additional relief before this crisis is over, but we must also get serious about long-term debt solutions. Because of inaction and a lack of political will, we entered this crisis forced to borrow massive sums on top of an already large and worrisome national debt. If Washington doesn’t change its ways, America is on a dangerous path.