President’s Budget Forces Americans to Shoulder Costs

President Obama made his final budget request to Congress this week. At $4.1 trillion, it is the most expensive budget proposal in history.  

The President’s 170-page budget increases spending by $2.5 trillion, raises taxes by $3.4 trillion, and adds $9.3 trillion to the national debt over 10 years. In fact, under this proposal, the national debt would be more than double what it was when President Obama took office. As usual, his budget also never balances.

Considering our national debt now exceeds $19 trillion, these numbers are unrealistic enough. However, the truly absurd aspects of the President’s budget are the government-down policies which force Americans to shoulder the costs.

One of the President’s proposals is a $10.25 tax on each barrel of oil, which would mean a 25-cent average increase in the cost of a gallon of gas. When speaking about this new tax, White House economic adviser Jeff Zients said, “We recognize that oil companies will likely pass on some of these costs.” This means passing on the costs to consumers through higher prices, which will hurt the most those who can afford it the least.

The President’s budget also makes no mention of fixing Social Security. Prior to his inauguration in 2009, President-elect Obama said, “We have to signal seriousness in this by making sure some of the hard decisions are made under my watch, not someone else’s.” To prevent millions of Americans from seeing reductions in benefits, we need long-term solutions to ensure solvency of Social Security. Although he has included Social Security reform in every prior budget, making the program solvent is regrettably no longer one of the President’s fiscal priorities. On top of this, the Social Security Administration has said increased consumer costs from the President’s oil tax would make Social Security less solvent.

Additionally, the President proposes cutting crop insurance by $18 billion. It is counterproductive to undermine producers who manage risk.  Cuts to this program could lead to increased premiums for producers, which in turn would likely raise the cost of food for consumers. Rather than cutting this fiscally responsible public-private partnership, we should be working to strengthen it while eliminating truly wasteful government spending.

The Ways and Means Committee held two hearings this week on the President’s budget request with Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Burwell and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew. The billions of dollars in the President’s budget dedicated to funding Obamacare deeply concern me following the collapse of 12 Obamacare Consumer Operated and Oriented Plans (co-ops) under HHS’s management, including CoOportunity Health in Nebraska and Iowa.

In our hearing with Secretary Burwell, I again asked her about the circumstances surrounding CoOportunity Health’s collapse and the financial status of the co-ops still operating. I will be requesting more detailed answers from HHS on these inquiries. With more than $1 billion in federal loans already lost due to co-op failures, taxpayers deserve to know whether these funds will ever be recovered.

The President’s final budget is a wish list rather than a serious proposal to deal with our debt and strengthen our economy. The House will soon begin the appropriations process, through which we can conduct needed oversight over federal agencies in addition to determining how government revenue is spent. We must use the legislative process to make hard choices and put our economy on a sustainable path to growth.