Forecaster Forum: 'It is time for serious adults in Congress'

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Our country faces a great decision. We can continue the wild, deficit spending until the wheels come off the economy and we plunge into fiscal chaos, or we can take the necessary steps to rein in spending and save our country from financial disaster.

Voters hold that decision in their hands. They can return to Congress the same people who have driven us towards national insolvency, or they can replace them with a new generation of Republicans sworn to fiscal responsibility.

We’ll know the answer on Nov. 2, but we have already seen evidence that primary election voters understand the gravity of our national debt crisis. They have booted out the jaded old-guard politicians in race after race, nominating fresh faces who are running not for personal glory, but to hand down to their children a country that is not hopelessly in debt. Regardless of all the other issues in this election, the debt is crisis central. If we don’t solve this intelligently, nothing else will matter.

As a candidate for Congress in Maine’s 1st District, I have spent months on the road presenting a detailed breakdown of our $13 trillion national debt and the impact of budget projections that forecast trillion-dollar deficits as far as the eye can see. An educated electorate is our best hope to reach a consensus about what needs to be done. In speaking to groups all over the district, I have watched the lights go on in the eyes of ordinary folks once they hear the facts.

My opponent, Rep. Chellie Pingree, is a career “progressive” who follows the lead of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. She votes the Pelosi line so faithfully that Maine voters could save a lot of money by just sending a rubber stamp to Washington.

These are the people who squandered more than $800 billion on a stimulus plan that did little more than keep unionized state government workers employed for another year or two. They promised that the biggest spending bill in American history would keep unemployment under 8 percent. But we have seen it shoot up to just below 10 percent. For the more than 50,000 Mainers who are out of work, this experiment in Keynesian economics must seem like a cruel joke. The spending package contained $71,000 to study the effects of cocaine addiction on monkeys and $390,000 to study the effects of malt liquor and marijuana on adults.

They followed that up with “Obamacare,” embodied in a 2,500-page bill that few Democrats even read. If they did read it, they didn’t understand it. They didn’t say a word about the massive cuts coming to Medicare. They didn’t tell us that the cost of the program during its first full 10 years (2014-2023) is now projected at a budget-crushing $2.4 trillion. In a word, they lied to get this disastrous program enacted.

There were much more reasonable and affordable fixes to our health insurance situation. But Pingree and her cohorts insisted on a program so costly and complicated that a strong majority of Americans now wants the whole thing repealed. In the process, the Democrats did nothing to control the cost of health care, the one thing that everyone wanted.

Meanwhile, the country drifts toward a Greek-style financial catastrophe. The publicly held debt as a share of Gross Domestic Product will exceed 60 percent this year. More than 40 cents of every dollar Washington spends is borrowed money. Your kids and mine will have to pay it back. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, debt will reach 90 percent of GDP by 2020. The interest on this debt alone will reach $916 billion annually – one in every five tax dollars will go for interest payments. By 2022, interest outlays will exceed defense spending. And by 2037 – when the Social Security trust funds will be exhausted – interest payments will be double the Pentagon’s budget.

In July, the CBO warned that the country faces major problems unless the wild spending is brought under control. The fast-growing debt, they said, combined with an unfavorable long-term budget outlook, “would increase the probability of a fiscal crisis for the United States. In such a crisis,” the report adds, “investors become unwilling to finance all of government’s borrowing needs unless they are compensated with very high interest rates.”

Exploding interest rates would ripple through our entire society, of course, with devastating economic effects. Such a poor fiscal situation, the CBO said, can spiral out of control, because the government would need to borrow more money, even at prohibitive interest rates, to continue functioning.

That is the future if the likes of Nancy Pelosi and Chellie Pingree are allowed to continue their absurd spending binge. It is time for them to go and leave the heavy lifting to people who understand the stakes. It is time for serious adults in Congress who know that our nation’s survival and our children’s future are on the line.

Dean Scontras of Eliot is the Republican candidate in Maine’s 1st Congressional District.