And we will reinstate the pay-as-you-go rule that we followed during the 1990s — the rule that helped us start this new century with a $236 billion surplus. In recent years, we’ve strayed from this rule — and the results speak for themselves. The pay-go approach is based on a very simple concept: You don’t spend what you don’t have. So if we want to spend, we’ll need to find somewhere else to cut. This is the rule that families across this country follow every single day — and there’s no reason why their government shouldn’t do the same.
Now, I want to be very clear: While we are making important progress towards fiscal responsibility this year in this budget, this is just the beginning. In the coming years, we’ll be forced to make more tough choices and do much more to address our long-term challenges, from the rising cost of health care that Peter described, which is the single most pressing fiscal challenge we face by far, to the long-term solvency of Social Security.
In the end, however, if we want to rebuild our economy and restore discipline and honesty to our budget, we will need to change the way we do business here in Washington. We’re not going to be able to fall back into the same old habits, and make the same inexcusable mistakes: the repeated failure to act as our economy spiraled deeper into crisis; the casual dishonesty of hiding irresponsible spending with clever accounting tricks; the costly overruns, the fraud and abuse, the endless excuses. This is exactly what the American people rejected when they went to the polls.
They sent us here to usher in a new era of responsibility in Washington — to start living within our means again, and being straight with them about where their tax dollars are going, and empowering them with the information they need to hold all of us, their representatives, accountable.
So that’s why I have called this summit today, and why I have invited leaders from both sides of the aisle — because we all have a role to play in this work. I believe it is time for a frank conversation about the fiscal challenges we face. They’re challenges that concern every single one of us, no matter where we are on this political spectrum.
So today I want to — I hope that all of you will start talking with each other and exchanging ideas. I want you to question each other, challenge each other, question me and my team, challenge us, and work together not just to identify problems but to identify solutions.
And that’s the purpose of the breakout sessions that are starting right now. I know that each of you bring a wealth of experience and expertise on a broad range of topics. I appreciate your willingness to participate in these sessions. I expect that this process will be engaging and productive, and I look forward to hearing the results when you report back later this afternoon.
So thank you very much, all