On The Road

February 13th, 2012

Latham: Debt is Our Greatest National Security Issue

Iowa Congressman Tom Latham did not provide a rosy prognosis for the country’s massive debt problems when he met with a group of 25 Des Moines area business leaders on Friday. Latham says the current makeup of Congress prevents serious problems from being addressed.

“Dealing with the Senate today is virtually impossible,” Latham said. “They won’t even pass a budget this year for the third year in a row because they would have to take tough votes. I’m sorry, but that’s what the hell we get paid for. It’s all politics. They don’t want to have to be held accountable for anything.”

The roundtable discussion with Tom Latham was sponsored by Americans for a Balanced Budget. ABB is a national organization of 20,000 members that advocates for a budget amendment, modernized tax code and solutions to the country’s deficit. Latham told the attendees that he agrees with the assessment of Admiral Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Mullen testified to Congress that the national debt is America’s greatest national security issue.

“He understands that undermines our national security and our defense,” Latham said. “But certainly if our economy goes down, which this debt will cause us over time, that will destroy our economy. We will be a third-level country and that’s simply not acceptable. We’re Americans. He understands that. We’ve got to get a handle on the spending.”

President Obama unveils his fiscal year 2013 budget on Monday. It does little to address entitlement spending, the biggest burden on the national debt. It also does little to reduce the deficit. When Obama took office he promised to cut the $1.4 trillion deficit in half within four years. The projected deficit for 2012 is $1.3 trillion. Tom Latham says the country’s financial situation is even graver than those numbers show.

“The part people don’t talk about is there was another $5.2 trillion of liabilities that are not funded,” Latham said. “In total, the federal government at a minimum has about $65 billion of liabilities. Those are pensions for federal workers. They are pensions for military, obligations that there is no money in the bank for. At least Social Security and Medicare people are paying into the fund. These are just promises and these unfunded liabilities will have to be paid out over time. And that’s something that’s missed when we talk about this whole budget debate.”

The group Latham met with on Friday is called Entrepreneurs’ Organization Iowa (EO). They peppered the nine-term congressman with questions about what can be done to solve the debt crisis. He offered this common refrain: “Elections have consequences.” In particular, the United States needs a new chief executive.

“It is absolutely critical that we have a change,” Latham told the group. “They’re not only philosophically so far left like I’ve never seen, but they’re incompetent too. They really have no clue.”

The budget to be released Monday by the Obama administration on Monday is essentially the same plan that was rejected by the Senate last year with a 97-0 vote. Congressman Latham sits on the influential House Ways and Means Committee. He and fellow House Republicans will release their own budget next month. Unlike the president’s plan, the House budget will address entitlement spending. Senate Democrats are practically guaranteed to reject that plan.

“If you’re a big spending liberal, cutting your money that you’re getting out to folks is like cutting your tongue out or cutting your leg off,” Latham said. He added that there is plenty of blame on both sides of the aisle.

Last year, Congressman Latham offered his own bill aimed at reducing government spending. It’s called the LESS Government Act. Using Lean Six Sigma practices, the bill would require each federal department to eliminate waste and improve effectiveness. The heads of the federal agencies would have to submit reports to Congress each year. He says the plan would save massive amounts of taxpayer dollars.

“People would actually be rewarded for savings,” Latham said. “It’s inherent in government that if we don’t spend everything we have in our budget, then we’ll get less next year. That’s got to stop.”

Congressman Latham welcomed his fifth grandchild into the world last month. “That grandson of mine is not going to have an opportunity to have any kind of success in the future if we don’t do something now,” Latham said. “He’s not going to have an opportunity for that American dream.”

Unfortunately, no serious steps are likely to be taken to address the debt and deficit. The Congressional Budget Act requires the federal government to pass a budget each year and operate under it. The Democrat-controlled Senate, in violation of the law, has not passed a budget in more than 1,000 days. Majority Leader Harry Reid made it clear that the Senate will continue that practice this year. Washington gridlock will continue until Washington is dramatically changed.

Photo by Dave Davidson, Prezography.com

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About the Author

Kevin Hall

Kevin Hall brings almost two decades of journalistic experience to TheIowaRepublican. Starting in college as a radio broadcaster, Hall eventually became a television anchor/reporter for stations in North Carolina, Missouri, and Iowa. During the 2007 caucus cycle, Hall changed careers and joined the political realm. He was the northwest Iowa field director for Fred Thompson’s presidential campaign. Hall helped Terry Branstad return to the governor’s office by organizing southwest Iowa for Branstad’s 2010 campaign. Hall serves as a reporter/columnist for TheIowaRepublican.com.

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