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'Doc' alarmed with numbers

If the American public were to spend at the rate the federal government is, people's phones would be ringing off the hook. The phone calls would be from bill collectors, knowing the debts owed in all likelihood could never be paid back.

Congressman Doc Hastings stopped off in Sunnyside this past Wednesday, echoing a similar message.

"The federal government is spending money we don't have," said Hastings (R-Pasco), who represents Central Washington residents in Washington D.C.

Hastings is quick to snap off a series of mind-boggling numbers, that when reflected upon are extremely sobering.

The Gross Domestic Product (GDP), in relation to the federal budget, is routinely used as standardized measurement tool. Hastings said since the mid-1950's the federal budget, on average, has totaled 20 percent of the GDP, which is the total value of all products produced in the United States. When George W. Bush's second four-year term ended in 2008, the federal budget had climbed to about 21 percent of the GDP. This year's projections, said Hastings, show that the federal budget will total 28 percent of the GDP, "...a one-third increase in one year."

Even more alarming, he said, is that the federal budget deficit totaled 3.2 percent of the GDP when Bush left the White House. Estimates by political insiders, says Hastings, have the federal deficit in 2009 topping out at 12.9 percent of the GDP.

"The deficit hasn't been in double-digits since World War II," Hastings said. "The debt we're leaving our children and grandchildren is staggering."

The Central Washington lawmaker points a finger at his own political party for the $400 billion deficit that was created with Bush at the helm. Hastings said that deficit was created as the result of American involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as beefing up homeland defense after the 9-11 attacks.

"I voted for that spending and take responsibility for the deficit we created," Hastings said, but by the same token he points to the figure of $100 billion, which the deficit was reduced to by 2007.

That's in stark contrast, he said, to the $1.8 trillion deficit that is projected by year's end.

To make matters worse, says Hastings, the current administration in the White House is proposing even more spending with its cap and trade energy plan and with efforts to provide health care coverage to all Americans.

"More governmental involvement will only add to the debt we already have," he said.

In terms of the nation's energy policy, Hastings said he is not opposed to Barack Obama's plan to take advantage of renewable resources like solar and wind power. But being overlooked, or cast aside, said Hastings, are hydropower, nuclear plants, domestic oil drilling and the nation's coal fields, which hold some of the world's largest coal reserves.

"The energy policy should be all of the above, not just renewables," Hastings said.

The plan being put forth by Obama's people to provide health insurance for all Americans will only sink the nation into even more debt, says Hastings. The answer, he said, is to give consumers more choices, more ways for individuals to purchase health care coverage.

Such a bill has been introduced by Hastings' party, which provides tax credits for people who purchase their own insurance plan.

Already in place, he said, is legislation that allows consumers to establish health savings accounts. That, he said, has already led to lower medical costs. As an example, he cited Lasik procedures, which used to cost about $2,000 per eye for each surgery. Since the advent of health savings accounts, that cost on average has been nearly sliced in half.

"With health care, the one constant is more choice. Ultimately, choice creates competition, which results in lower prices for the consumer," he said.

Hastings figures the shine of a new President taking over the White House is already starting to wear off with the general public. The government bailouts, stimulus monies and additional spending plans, he points out, have set off alarms throughout the country.

"The recent nationwide tea parties, two of them right here in Yakima, show that people aren't happy with what's going on.

"It illustrates that people are starting to get this," said Hastings.

The bottom line, Hastings continued, is that he doesn't know what the outcome will be. "But I do know that the numbers...the spending, the deficit, the national debt...are really concerning to me.

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