White House says yes, we have a spending problem
After Nancy Pelosi's statement last week that it's "almost a false argument to say that we have a spending problem," much mirth-making was had at the expense of the clueless Minority Leader.
So yesterday, the White House was forced to admit that, yeah, we do indeed have a spending problem.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said Monday that Washington does have a spending problem and the main driver of that problem is health-care costs.
The remarks followed a statement by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Sunday that "It is almost a false argument to say we have a spending problem."
"Of course the president believes that we have a spending problem," Carney said at a White House briefing, adding that the problem "is specifically driven by -- and I think every economist worth, whose insights into this area are worth the paper on which his or her PhD is printed, would tell you that -- the principle driver, when it comes to spending, of our deficits and debt, are, is health care spending. And that's just a fact.
"What is also a fact is that we have reduced nondefefnse discretionary spending to its lowest level as a percentage of our economy since Dwight Eisenhower was president."
Pelosi said on "Fox News Sunday" that there have been "plenty of cuts" and that the economy needs investments to foster growth. She echoed President Obama's call for more revenue to help balance further cuts.
Carney said Obama has acted to eliminate wasteful spending, including proposing to Congress the merging and streamlining of agencies -- something Congress has yet to approve.
"But the fact of the matter is we need to reduce our health care costs. Funnily enough, recognizing that fact, the president took action to do just that through the Affordable Care Act, which has been scored by the CBO to significantly reduce our health care costs going forward," he said. "Going forward, we need to do more."
Carney, in a break from Pelosi and other House Democrats, said Monday that Obama is open to cutting some entitlement benefits as part of a larger budget deal, specifically noting the formula used to calculate government benefits known as chained CPI. He said Obama is not open to raising the eligibility age for Medicare.
Carney is right - to a point. Yes, government spending on health care is out of control. And entitlement reform will be necessary not only to deal with the current deficit, but also to bring down our $16 trillion debt.
But there are dozens of federal programs that could be axed entirely, or run by the states far more efficiently. Collectively, they probably don't add up to savings that could be realized from entitlement reform. But changing Medicare and Social Security by themselves won't close the deficit and other federal expenditures must be cut or eliminated if we are to get back to fiscal sanity.
It will be painful to make these cuts. But how much more painful will they be in 10 years when the crisis will be too far gone to save our economy? Better to take our medicine now and get spending under control rather than kick the can down the road only to go over the same arguments again and again.