SUPREME COURT REVIEWS VERMONT CAMPAIGN SPENDING LIMITS
Jason Torchinsky, a Senior Associate in the Holtzman Vogel law firm and a former Deputy Counsel to Bush-Cheney 2004, described the case before the U.S. Supreme Court challenging Vermont's campaign laws. Vermont passed a law in 1997 that limited campaign spending and political contributions to state political office seekers. Candidates for Governors were limited to spending $300,000 and contributors to state legislative candidates had to be no more than $200. These are the strictest state campaign spending and contributions limits. The Vermont Republican State Committee and Vermont Right to Life Committee challenge this law as a unconstitutional limit of First Amendment rights. A previous U.S. Supreme Court decision Buckley v. Valeo allowed state law to limit campaign contributions but not campaign expenditures.
The Supreme Court has ruled that the law cannot limit free speech on elections, including limiting it by allowing a maximum amount that can be spent on voicing that opinion, unless there is an exchange for this limit with public financing of a campaign. Vermont will need to show there is a compelling interest on corruption or upon the appearance of corruption in order to make its case that it can pass a law limiting campaign expenditures, according to Mr. Torchinsky. He notes there has been no prosecution of any current Vermont politician which weakens the argument of a need for this law. This law includes a $400 limit that a party organization can contribute to a statewide candidate, which has caused the Republican National Committee to challenge this law. The law was signed by Governor Howard Dean, who is now Democratic National Chairman, and the Democratic National Committee has come out in favor of this as a law that increases public confidence in politicians and a law that weakens the influence of interest groups. During oral arguments, Justice Kennedy noted that the solution to public dissatisfaction with politics would be to elect others. Justices Breyer, Scalia, Roberts, Breyer, and Ginsburg all asked probing questions regarding the need for this law. Mr. Torchinsky expects the campaign expenditure limits will be struck down and there are questions on how the Supreme Court will rule on other sections and how the decision will read.
OVERHAUL THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE?
Rob Richie, Executive Director of Fair Vote, spoke about the proposal for state legislatures to approve joining an interstate compact where all member states would agree to cast their electoral votes for the winner of the national popular vote, regardless of who carried the member state. This would not require Congressional approval, although Congressional approval of a Constitutional amendment to be approved by three fourths of states would be another method to switch to a popular vote to elect the President. The Constitution leaves the process of selecting electors to state governments, and courts have even stated that states need not hold popular elections to elect electors. In the first contested election of 1796, only two states elected electors by statewide vote. Eight states elected their electors directly by state legislators, one state indirectly elected electors by state legislatures, and five elected electors on regional votes. This remained the dominant model of electing electors until the 1830s when states switched to direct election of electors. States could agree to elect the electors pledged to the national popular vote winner by state law, according to Mr. Richie. He proposes that states form a compact that would deliver a majority of electors to the popular vote winner.
He criticizes the electoral college as driving Presidential candidates to concentrate on states with close contests. The rest of the nation tends to be ignored by Presidential candidates. In 1960, there were 23 swing states with 319 electoral votes. In 2004, there were 13 swing states with 159 electoral votes. In 1960, there were 9 uncontested states and 20 uncontested states in 2004. In the peak season, there was no Presidential campaigning by the 2004 candidates in 45 states and D.C. This impacts voter turnout, according to Mr. Richie. In competitive states in 2004, turnout was 63% compared to 53% voter turnout in noncompetitive races. There was a 17 percent gap in turnout among voters under age 30, which is feared could lead to long term low turnout by young people who are failing to be drawn into political interest.
Electing the President by popular vote has been supported by the editors of the New York Times, Chicago Sun Times, and the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Legislation for a popular vote interstate compact has been proposed in Illinois, California, Missouri, Colorado, and Louisiana. His group aims to have legislation introduced in all states which would begin raising this issue on a national level. He points out the current electoral college presents potential problems, and that a shift of a total of 21,000 votes in New Mexico, New Hampshire, and Iowa could have resulted in a tie election in 2004.
DoJ SUES NEW YORK FOR HAVA NON-COMPLIANCE
Sean Greene, Research Director of electionline.org, told how the U.S. Justice Department has charged that the State of New York has failed to make its voting systems fully accessible to people with disabilities and with failing to establish a statewide voter registration database that is computer accessible. The lawsuit claims that New York is not even close to complying with Federal law requiring both of these. New York could lose $270 million in Federal funds if it is found to be in noncompliance with these laws.
Federal law requires New York to replace its lever voting machines and has provided $50 million to New York for this purpose. New York has indicated it will miss the deadline and will not have new machines available for elections this year. New York is the state furthest behind in all the Help American Vote law deadlines. About half the states have missed deadlines, but many were close to completion of required tasks. New York appears to be the furthest behind and has thus drawn the first Justice Department action to take away Federal elections funds.
Pennsylvania is potentially in line to be sanctioned as some counties have not replaced their voting machines as required by law in time for its May primary. He agreed that the counties may have a basis to fear purchasing electronic machines that have been shown can have their vote totals manipulated by an outside source such the counties may decide to turn around and soon repurchase different machines.
Jeff Wice, Special Counsel to the New York Senate Democratic Leader, told how an academic study rated New York as the most dysfunctional legislature. It traditionally has split control between the braches and has only once passed a budget on time in 24 years. He described the New York legislative process as lethargy in decision making. He blames the inability of legislative leaders and the Governor to reach agreements on how to implement the Help America Vote provisions for New York's slowness.
THE 2006 NATIONAL AGENDA
Sen. Hillary Clinton appeared earlier at an unaffiliated event. She has called for strengthening the United Nations and increasing its role in combating poverty, disease, and fighting for human rights and calls for modernizing its peacekeeping abilities to respond to internal warfare and terrorism. On American military issues, Sen. Clinton has called on increasing the size of the Army to reduce dependence on Reserves and National Guard units. She has also expressed concern that military health personnel have not received proper health care. She observes the military work involves exposure to health hazards, including exposure to oil fires, and has called for regular health screenings and subsequent tracking of soldiers for developing health problems. She notes that National Guard and Reserve soldiers have higher than average rates of lacking health care insurance coverage for themselves and their families than the national average and has proposed that they be allowed to purchase Tricare health insurance. She has also proposed lowering the retirement age for soldiers who serve long military careers.
U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer, the House Minority Whip, spoke in place of Senator Clinton at this event as she had to vote on the Senate floor. He stated that the Federal government is pursuing the most fiscally irresponsible budget in history. He warned that the Bush Administration has added $3 trillion to the Federal debt. Congressional Democrats are proposing a baseline budget that will balance the Federal budget in seven years and that will include a Pay Go provision that will implement fiscal discipline.
Rep. Hoyer also told of the importance of America educating students to become global leaders in a high technology future. He called for greater accountability with No Child Left Behind laws which has proven to be one of the largest unfunded mandates ever imposed on states. He further criticized the Bush Administration to the slowness in repairing damages from Hurricane Katrina, including leaving some people homeless still six months after the hurricane struck.
George Reid, the Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament, spoke. He ran successfully for Parliament as a member of the Scottish Nationalist Party yet serves as Presiding Officer without party affiliation. In Scotland, the Presiding Officer is expected to act impartially to politics in deciding which votes and amendments are to be considered, ruling on points of order, and determining the length and order of Parliamentarian speeches. He has been active on human rights issues in Iraq and with international affairs as Director of Public Affairs for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent and as a BBC journalist.
In Scotland, any resident may seek redress to Parliament and anyone may recommend legislation. Parliamentary sessions are broadcast live and available archived on the Internet. Parliamentary expenses are available for review online.
Mr. Reid told how the U.S. Declaration of Independence has basis in the Scottish Declaration of Independence written in 1320. The concept of power originating in the people began with this Scottish declaration. Several drafters and signers of the Declaration of Independence were of Scottish descent including John Witherspoon, who was born in Scotland.
NATIONAL LABOR CAUCUS OF STATE LEGISLATURES
The National Labor Caucus of State Legislatures urged NCSL and legislatures across the nation to support the right of employees to form unions through signing authorizations and for states to increase their minimum wages above the Federal minimum wage, and to do so in a fashion that also helps tipped employees earn higher wages.
THE ADMINISTRATION’S DOMESTIC PRIORITIES
U.S. Health and Services Secretary Michael Leavitt warned that Medicaid costs are rising faster than other costs and is crowding out public spending in other areas. 16% of our Gross Domestic Product, double the percent spent in most other countries, is spent on health care. He urged that more focus be made on keeping people well and in avoiding chronic diseases, as treating chronic diseases is the fastest increasing component of health care costs. He urged that people be made more aware of how much health care costs and that they become better informed about the quality of health care they receive. He also called for improving the efficiency of health care information technologies.
Secretary Leavitt called for more flexibility in health care, recommending that states create benchmark packages that created more health care alternatives for citizens, such as allowing all of the state's children receive the same health care as its public employees' children. He called for Health Opportunity Accounts to make people more conscious of health care costs. He called for providing more health care services that allow people to stay at home rather than in a facility. He called for more cost sharing and creating waivers for the empowerment innovative. He further told about pandemic readiness and the possibility of 90 million people becoming sick with the Avian flu.
Secretary Leavitt has called for increasing the interoperable electronic system that allows patients and health care providers to better relay health care information, improving the dissemination of information regarding newly approved pharmaceuticals, reducing medical liability suits to lower health care insurance costs, creating a Drug Safety Board to review negative reactions to drugs after they’ve been approved, creating state insurance pools, providing low income tax credits for health care insurance, encouraging greater use of preventive health care, increase allowing senior citizens and people with disabilities to receive home treatments rather than in health care facilities, encourage greater use of interdisciplinary research that combines knowledge from different fields when researching cures to diseases, prepare for the potential Avian flu, improving the delivery of health care services by the Commissioned Corps, increasing faith based and community based grants, and reauthorizing the Ryan White Care Act.
WILL TEXAS RE-REDISTRICTING STAND?
State Sen. (and Governor for one day) Jeff Wentworth of Texas, explained the Texas re-redistricting process. Texas undertook the unusual action of having a second redistricting within a decade. A court case LULAC v. Perry challenges the right of Texas to do so. In addition, those filing the suit argue that there was excessive gerrymandering used in this redistricting designed to benefit the chances of Republicans running for office in Texas. The redistricting appears to increase the number of seats that would be held by African Americans and Hispanic representatives, and thus defenders of the redistricting claims this increases representation of racial minorities, yet by concentrating Democratic voters in these districts Republicans should gain more seats
Sen. Wentworth argued that Democrats had gerrymandered Texas for decades and continued drawing Congressional districts so a majority of Texas's seats would be Democratic after Texas began having a majority of voters vote Republican. He stated Republicans continued serving as the loyal opposition and it never occurred to them to leave the state to shut down legislative action. He had proposed a redistricting proposal that he thought was fair to both sides that would have shifted Texas from 15 Democratic and 15 Republican members of Congress to one that represented the voting strengths of the parties at approximately 18 Republican seats and 14 Democratic seats. He criticized Democrats for opposing the plan and refusing to yield seats and Republicans who wanted his plan to die as they thought they could ultimately get 22 Republican seats. Democrats Senators then fled to New Mexico in protest and to prevent further action in the Senate.
Sen. Wentworth bristled at the re-redistricting being termed a mid-decade redistricting, noting that it would still be eight years until an election under the new redistricting.
Dale Oldman, an attorney representing the Texas Republicans, claimed the re-redistricted map is the fairest map that has been drawn in Texas in decades. He stated Democratic Congressional candidates received about 39% of vote statewide in Texas. He states this plan is projected to give Republicans about 21 seats when they should be receiving about 24 seats. He noted a previous court case resulting from Pennsylvania declared it was unconstitutional for a state to vote majority for one political party and the results to be a majority for the other party.
Sam Hirsch, an attorney representing the Texas Democrats, warned that allowing mid-decade re-redistricting could develop into a new political tool if it is permitted. He noted there has been three mid-decade re-redistrictings in the past four decades yet they were to make small corrections. Re-redistricting will sever the bond between members of Congress and their constituents if their constituencies are constantly changing, he argued. He observed that the district drawn for Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett connects portion of two unrelated urban areas with vast rural space in between. He believes the Supreme Court will declare the Texas plan unconstitutionally gerrymanders on race.
FEDERAL LEGISLATION WOULD MANDATE THAT “INDEPENDENT” COMMISSIONS DRAW U.S. HOUSE DISTRICTS
Randy Ford, Communications Director for U.S. John Tanner (Tn.), told how Rep. Tanner has proposed creating independent redistricting commissions. He argues this independence will craft redistricting with less political concern and with less gerrymandering. He stated there is concern that political pundits believe there are from 25 to 28 competitive Congressional races out of 435 seats. He notes that 95% of Congressional incumbents who seek reelection are reelected. He believes democracy should require greater competition. He also stated Rep. Tanner is concerned that the current system is leaving out representation of the political middle, where he believes most Americans are, with a lack of Congressional representation. As Congressional victors tend to be determined in primaries, mostly liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans are elected. This is having a negative effect on Congress where the extremes are unable to reach agreement on tax and other issues and are unwilling to seek compromises with each other.
The Congressional Research Service has concluded that it is constitutional for Congress to require states to have independent redistricting commissions. He notes the bill has 48 cosponsors but the Senate companion bill introduced by Sen. Tim Johnson has no cosponsors. Only two Congressional cosponsors are Republicans.
REDISTRICTING AND ELECTIONS COMMITTEE BUSINESS MEETING
This committee had no resolutions before it.
REAUTHORIZATION OF THE 1965 VOTING RIGHTS ACT PROVISIONS
Kim Betz, Majority Counsel for the U.S House Judiciary Committee, told how temporary provisions of the Voting Rights Act face being reauthorized in 2007. She emphasized that the permanent provisions of the Act are not affected and that laws concerning discrimination on voting will remain in tact. What faces reauthorization and the provisions that trigger a political division to be covered and how these political divisions may remove themselves from such covered status. Nine Congressional hearings have been held. The hearings seek to learn if these temporary provisions are accomplishing what Congress intended.
The hearings are being used to create a strong record for reauthorization of the temporary provisions, according to Ms. Betz. She stated the speakers can not yet discuss what the language will look like, but that they wish to create a reauthorization that can withstand Constitutional challenge. She stated there are people who are planning to challenge the Voting Right Act as a law they believed has outlived its usefulness.
Stephanie Moore, Democratic Counsel for the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, stated that Democrats such as Rep. Mel Watt and Rep. John Conyers are working with the Republican Judiciary Committee on a reauthorization bill. They are in the bill drafting stage.
PLANS FOR 2010 HEADCOUNT
Lindsay Clark of the Brookings Institution told of the importance of educating the public on how census data is used. It is important to be educating the public beginning now rather than waiting until 2010. Briefings have even been held for members of Congress who are often unaware how the figures used for reapportionment are calculated. The U.S. Census Bureau is determining whether non-citizens should be considered in census figures when used for redistricting purposes and how prisoners should be counted. Local officials, especially in communities with rapid migratory turnover in population and with subdivided housing units and multiunit housing need to be informed on how the census operates to combat problems with undercounts.
Clark Benson of Polidata stated that forecasts are that the 2010 census will mean that New York and Ohio will lose two members of Congress while Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Missouri, Indiana, and Michigan will each lose one member. Florida is rapidly gaining in population and may surpass New York in total population. California's growth has stagnated and for the first time in decades California may remain with the same number of members of Congress.
There is a bill in Congress that would only count citizens when computing reapportionment. Mr. Benson noted that several members of Congress thought this was already how it was done.
Several employees of the Census Bureau told of their preparations for the 2010 census and for trial runs in two parts of the country. The TIGER program may be ending its usefulness although the Census Bureau would still use another product with GIS and census information. It was noted that states needing this information would need to use whatever type of data that vendors provide and that the Census Bureau needs to work with the vendors.
SMITHSONIAN’S NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAN INDIAN
U.S. Daniel Akaka (Hi.) welcomed guests. Sen. Akaka was a leader in getting Congress to approve the establishment of the National Museum of the American India. This museum presents the history through present day activities of Native populations in North and South America. Among presentations are art works, sculptures, weaved baskets, and gold art pieces, beads, clothing, and dolls made by Native Americans along with information on the language, life, and customs of Native Americans. Included is a bombardier used by ice fishers to stay warm while fishing.
Among issues presented at the museum are the legal enforcement of treaties made with Indian Nations and how courts have upheld them even when they have been ignored for many years. This has allowed some tribes to regain access to hunting and fishing areas promised in the treaties yet ignored. In addition, members of tribal nations have been able to cross national boundaries for employment, as a court upheld the right of a tribal member located in Canada to work in the United States and to use tribal identification rather than a Canadian passport. Also, tribe members belonging to a tribe divided by the Mexican and U.S. border are permitted to freely cross within their tribal nation.
The museum is designed to be surrounded by crops, forest land, wetlands, meadows, and rocks. The building itself was designed to have an appearance as if winds and rains shaped how it looks. This museum is an offspring from the Museum of the American Indian which opened in New York City in 1922. Congress passed a law to establish a National Museum of the American Indian within the Smithsonian Institution in 1989. The Washington, D.C. Smithsonian museum opened in 2004.
CENTER FOR POLICY ALTERNATIVES
The Center for Policy Alternatives seeks to strengthen progressive legislation. It was mentioned that Kellog's is a major financial supporter of the Center. Several members urged for NCSL Delegates to approve adoption of proposals that NCSL endorse increasing the minimum wage and for making it easier for employees to form unions. The Center is also studying ways to reduce the costs of pharmaceuticals and is studying juvenile justice issues. Legislators are urged to discuss strategies that their states are taking and to comment on how successful these are. The Center has Leadership Circles for progressive state legislators who participate on peer discussions on issues.
THE STATE AND GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE
Stephen Eule, Director of the Climate Change Technology Program at the U.S. Energy Department, presented the Federal government's position on climate change. It is the Bush Administration's position that the scientific evidence on the results from gashouse emission is complex and uncertain. They recommend developing flexible responses that meet possible outcomes. President Bush has proposes reducing greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 18% (while factoring in economic growth) in ten years. This would be achieved through clean energy tax incentives, transferable credits for emissions reductions, farm and forest land conservation, and other programs.
Mr. Eule stated the Administration seeks to harness the marketplace to encourage energy efficiency and to develop technological innovations on increasing energy efficiencies. This would be done in a manner that maintains our economic growth while encouraging global participation. Voluntary actions have been agreed to by 15 trade associations to improve their energy efficiencies.
$11 billion will be provided to coal facilities over the next ten years. The long term goal is to create zero emission coal energy plants. There is more coal in the United States than there are worldwide oil reserves.
Tax incentives will be provided to accelerate the commercial deployment of advance energy technologies. There is a goal to increase the amount of the renewable content of gasoline from 4.0 billion gallons in 2006 to 7.5 billion gallons in 2010. A new technology is being developed that would use the entire corn stalk in ethanol gas.
The United States is spending $2 billion a year to study climate change, which Mr. Eule states is more than any other country is spending.
The worldwide demand for energy is expected to triple by the end of this century, Mr, Eule forecast. The long term goals are to increase the use of hydrogen fuel by researching developing hydrogen fuel cars. A decision will be made in 2015 if such cars are feasible. If so, they would be offered on the marketplace in 2020.
The use of coal is being studied with field evaluation tests through 2009. This information will be studied through 2013. India has joined the United States in researching developing zero emission coal power plants.
The use of nuclear energy is forecast to increase significantly by 2030, according to Mr, Eule. Nuclear power plants would be used to develop hydrogen for fuel cells during their off-peak hours. There are also programs to build more plants at more reasonable costs and to protect the plants against terrorism as well as find better ways to handle nuclear waste.
A Fusion Energy Project is underway with the United States, China, European Union, Japan, Russia, India, and Korea jointly involved. It is hoped that fusion energy technologies may be developed by 2050.
The Administration opposes policies that will cost American jobs or will drive American businesses to other countries. The Administration favors encouraging international partnerships that will see that developing nations use energy efficiencies in their developing economies.
Mr. Eule stated the private sector has been engaged on the issue of climate control. $52 million is provided to American renewable projects, yet Australia spends twice that. The U.S. needs to assist other nations, as Mr. Eule noted that India has five Energy Ministers and sometimes it is important just to get various branches of governments within the same country to work effectively with each other.
Jonathan Black, Legislative Assistant to the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Minority staff, stated many Senators do not wish to do anything that might hurt the American economy. Thus, they are not anxious to see American action on climate control issues and they prefer to offer American assistance to other countries on reducing their emissions. The Kyoto Protocol called for the United States to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions and then never exceed around 5,500 millions of metric tons annually. The U.S. produces over 7,000 million tons of such emissions and this continues to annually increase. Senators McCain and Lieberman proposed reductions, but more than allowed by the Kyoto Protocol, and this was defeated in the 108th Congress by 43-55 and by 38-60 in the 109th Congress. In the later vote, some Senators previously favorable to emissions reductions had left the Senate and some previous supporters objected to new language that would increase nuclear energy.
The Senate has passed a Sense of the Senate Resolution that the Senate needs to more forward on this issue at some point by 53-44. The Senate is considering issuing permits for emissions and linking these to the international situation. A company unable to reduce its emissions would be able to buy additional permits either from another company that reduces its emissions beyond set goals or from the government.
Rep. Tim Solobay faithfully led the Pennsylvania delegation as the only legislator from Pennsylvania present.
The Consent Calendar was adopted. This consisted of one resolution on THE HOMELESS. This resolution calls for Federal funds under TANF, Family Preservation, and Family Support Services to prevent people from becoming homeless. It also calls for more adequate funding of McKinney Act programs and allowing more state flexibility in tailoring programs to local needs to better assist more homeless people. The resolution further faults the Federal government for failing to make known its homeless programs and application procedures for applying for its programs.
There were three items on the Debate Calendar. A policy on VIDEO FRANCHISE REFORM opposes Federal preemption of states' rights-of-way telecommunications laws. Several states have passed laws to encourage greater competition and more consumer choices in telecommunications. The resolution encourages more states to pass similar laws and it is recommended that franchises be statewide rather than having multiple franchises. State fees should reflect actual costs of the use of public rights of ways. The resolution passed by a unanimous voice vote.
A policy on EMPLOYEE FREE CHOICE ACT failed to achieve the necessary three fourths approval to be adopted. It has become difficult under laws enacted in 1935 for employees today to form unions. This resolution calls for supporting the creation of a union upon a majority of employees signing to authorize a union. The resolution passed the Labor and Workforce Development Committee by 9 to 1 and received favorable votes from 17 states and negative votes from 8 states, which prevented it from being adopted.
A resolution on the MINIMUM WAGE passed. It calls for increasing the minimum wage, which has not been raised since 1997. It also opposes a tip credit for employers with tipped employees in states that have minimum wages higher than the Federal minimum wage. This passed by 21 to 5.
There were five policies on the Action Calendar that were all approved. A policy on the BROADBAND UNIVERSAL SERVICE FUND calls for merging call data stream components of facilities based broadband telecommunications carriers for easing the settlement process, allowing carriers with open network architecture to collect Universal Service Funds, make such funds based upon actual investments by carriers rather than costs to competitors or a formula, and spread Broadband Universal Service Fund contributions amongst broadband network users. This passed by a unanimous voice vote.
A resolution that NCSL OPPOSES CONGRESSIONAL EFFORTS TO PREEMPT STATE LAWSW WITH REGARD TO MUNICIPAL BROADBAND NETWORKS passed by a unanimous voice vote.
A resolution that NCSL SUPPORTS AND URGES ENACTMENT OF S. 2152, THE SALES TAX SIMPLIFICATION AND FAIRNESS ACT passed by a divided voice vote. An attempt to amend this resolution to allow a state to exempt its businesses from collecting sales taxes from out of state purchases was defeated by a divided voice vote.
A resolution calling for STATE SOVEREIGNTY TO USE TAX POLICY FOR ECONOMIC GROWTH passed by a unanimous voice vote.
A resolution calling for RETAINING STATE FLEXIBILITY IN TANF REGULATIONS AND TECHNICAL CORRECTIONS passed by a unanimous voice vote.
AMERICA’S FISCAL FUTURE
U.S. Comptroller General David Walker is concerned about the large size of the Federal budget deficit. He blamed increased government spending and tax cuts. He notes that long term liabilities and net commitments, including Social Security and Medicare, rose from $20 trillion in Fiscal Year 2000 to $43 trillion in Fiscal Year 2004, which averages $156,000 per person or $375000 per full time employee.
Comptroller General Walker notes that 19% of the population is over age 65 and is drawing benefits from government social programs. Unfortunately, people are entering their senior years with fewer savings than before which is making senior citizens more dependent upon these programs. He calls for fiscal spending discipline yet notes that Federal spending has been increasing in recent years. He projects that, from 2005 to 2030, Gross Domestic Product will increase by 72% while social security spending will increase by 147%, Medicaid spending will increase by 166%, and Medicare spending will increase by 331%. He forecasts that Federal revenues will be unable to make expected payments by 2040.
He notes that discretionary spending is becoming a smaller portion of the Federal budget, as it represented 66% of the 1965 Federal budget and 39% of the 2005 Federal budget. A growing part of the budget is obligated spending. Liabilities have escaled in a few years, from $20.4 trillion to 2000 to $46.4 trillion in 2005. Much of these liabilities are for Medicare, Medicaid, and social security, with obligations for pharmaceutical contributing to recent significant liability increases. We have become the world's largest debtor nation. Should foreign banks ever decide to stop loaning at our current level of borrowing or should their interest rates ever escalate, our national economy could be in trouble. The growth rate of our debt could make our debt greater than our level of economic activity.
Comptroller General Walker calls for curtailing health care expenses by reducing government spending on health care, limiting litigation of health care delivery, improve preventive and wellness care, allowing government bulk purchasing to reduce the costs of purchasing health care services and pharmaceuticals, and creating health care insurance risk pools. He calls for fiscal discipline on spending and taxes and observes that Americans have the third lowest tax burden among developed countries.