QUEENSBURY - In delivering a speech this week to area business leaders, U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson (R-Kinderhook) warned that the nation will be swamped in debt if legislators don't cut government spending and work tirelessly toward a balanced budget.
He said that to assure a healthy economy, the U.S. must slash spending, cut taxes and regulations, and increase production of domestic oil.
He identified job growth and government debt reduction as top priorities, as he expressed support for the Republican budget proposal passed in the House of Representatives several weeks ago.
That measure, opposed by every Democrat voting, calls for overhauling Medicare for future beneficiaries, imposing spending cuts on food stamps and Medicaid. $3.5 trillion next year, cuts $6.2 trillion in estimated expenditures over the next 10 years, when contrasted with the budget submitted earlier this year by President Barack Obama.
"The status quo is unacceptable - we need to get back to work and address our nation's fiscal health," Gibson said, as he addressed area leaders Friday May 6 at the annual luncheon of the Economic Development Corp. of Warren County. The event was held at the Great Escape Lodge in Queensbury.
The level of government spending, now at 26 percent of the gross national product, needs to be reduced to below 20 percent, he said.
"We have to move back toward a balanced budget, because we're facing a tidal wave of debt." he said, adding that ongoing costs of pending government programs are likely to push government spending to 28 times its present level. He suggested a five-year spending cap as a partial solution.
"By 2050, We'll be 125 trillion in debt under Obama's proposed budget," he said.
The first place to cut spending he suggested, might have surprised a few in the audience. Gibson, a former Army colonel who served in four combat tours in Iraq, said Pentagon cuts were in order.
He said that deploying soldiers to 100 nations as the U.S. is now doing, was excessive. He suggested that the U.S. is overextending itself in policing the world like an empire, noting that the U.S. should back off from its involvement in the Libyan civil war.
"The track record of empires is not good," he said, prompting hearty laughter and applause from the assembled business leaders.
He said that rather than flexing military might to influence others to adopt freedom, the U.S. should put more emphasis on diplomacy, commerce and trade.
Both in the Pentagon and elsewhere, the federal workforce should be reduced by 10 percent, and various functions could be performed as needed by local governments, he said.
Responding to questions from the audience, Gibson said that U.S. government standards for education should be replaced with guidelines, giving more power to local schools to devise curriculum and programs.
Lake Luzerne Supervisor Gene Merlino asked Gibson about his opinion on the 99-week federal unemployment payments. he said such lengthy payouts provided a disincentive for citizens to work, if they were guaranteed such a substantial income. These benefits reduce the number of local people available to work in Warren County businesses, he said, forcing many enterprises to hire foreign labor. Merlino operates a bed and breakfast in Lake Luzerne.
"These unemployment benefits may be making a generation of people lazy," Merlino said.
Gibson responded that his father, who was a worker for Otis Elevator, was a hard worker but he was laid off repeatedly and spent a good portion of his working years off work.
"It's important to leave a safety net for our workers," Gibson replied, noting he supported establishing incentives for businesses to hire workers.