The federal government must learn to live within its means. That was the message delivered by a group of farmers convened by the American Farm Bureau Federation to analyze the national deficit.
“We must get control of federal borrowing before it consumes us, before other countries decide to stop lending, and while we can get control of the problem,” said Craig Lang, chairman of the AFBF Federal Deficit Task Force and president of the Iowa Farm Bureau.
The primary objective of the task force was to recommend ways to achieve a balanced federal budget by 2019. The task force is comprised of eight Farm Bureau members who began meeting last December. Among them is Scott Sink, president of the Franklin County, Va., Farm Bureau and an instructor of agricultural business management at Virginia Tech. The federal deficit “has a tremendous potential impact on farmers and rural communities,” Sink said. “It’s just like having any small business — you can’t continue spending beyond your means and stay in business.” That’s no secret to farmers, he noted.
“We all operate on a budget. We all have emergencies come up, but I think too often the federal government has been spending above the budget. … Eventually that’s going to be an insurmountable bill that we pass on” to future generations.
The task force cited increasing health care costs as a major impediment to balancing the budget. “The real 800-pound gorilla for future budgets is health care,” Lang said.
The group recommended the AFBF policy process look at cutting health care spending by implementing a centralized source to coordinate medical records; utilizing incentives for results — not procedures; focusing on preventive care; shortening hospital stays; and limiting government-sponsored coverage to necessary and cost-effective procedures. To accomplish the health care objectives the committee recommended policy discussions considering a program that would provide each citizen with a voucher sufficient to purchase a bare-bones, private health insurance policy. To encourage innovation, voucher financing would be determined on a regional basis, Lang noted.
The task force said there are really only two ways to balance the budget: Lower spending or raise revenues, or some combination of the two. Task force members asserted that all programs outside of national defense should be under serious review and that, after reductions are made, consideration should be turned to enhancing revenues, with any revenue generated going to lowering the deficit.