For freshman Congressman Mick Mulvaney, federal spending is the giant elephant in the room.
The answer to the problem, as he sees it, is to cut everything, which will spur economic growth, said Mulvaney, R-S.C., as he toured York County on Tuesday.
At businesses and schools throughout the day, Mulvaney discussed his plans for closing out this fiscal year's budget and starting the debate on next year's spending.
His first stop was ArvinMeritor, a company of about 250 employees in York that manufactures brake pads, drums and related parts for military vehicles and semi trucks.
While there, a plant employee asked Mulvaney what Congress is doing about rising gas prices. Increasing domestic production is the answer, he said.
There's "oil all over Alaska" and enough natural gas and coal to last "couple hundred years," he said.
Mulvaney said he thought ArvinMeritor's operation was just mass production until he visited the plant.
"It's customized production on a mass scale which I didn't know existed," said Mulvaney, who found the plant's innovation and processes "fascinating."
"We can do manufacturing better than most people think," the Indian Land lawmaker said.
Buying parts out of refurbished or repurposed steel could save millions of dollars in the defense budget.
That's one idea Mulvaney picked up from ArvinMeritor and will carry back to Washington, he said.
Later to about 70 people at Winthrop University, Mulvaney returned to that example as one small way to avoid what he sees as an inevitable crisis if government doesn't balance the budget.
Other measures will include cutting everything - the only fair way to do it, he said.
The talk was part of a series of political lectures called the John C. West Forum on Politics and Policy. Last month, U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., spoke to a packed theater.
As budget talks continue in coming weeks, Mulvaney said he'll only vote for a budget that, for starters, ends support to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act the Congress passed last year. Cuts to defense and everything else are on the line too, he said.
Mulvaney's presentation of current federal spending figures of "where the money is going" was "dead on," said Karen Kedrowski, chair of political science at Winthrop and director of the West Forum.
But he "glossed over" the role raising taxes may have played in leading to balanced budgets of the past.
Mulvaney also made a "big jump" between reducing government spending and job creation, she said, and didn't discuss the "enormous human costs" that come with drastic cuts such as lost jobs and education grant opportunities."
Winthrop University leaders are still waiting to see whether federal grants programs will be cut and what impact cuts will have on the university. A loss of Pell grants for students this summer is almost certain, said Rebecca Masters, assistant to the president for public affairs.
Junior economics and theater student Sandy Redzikowski agreed with Mulvaney that "something has got to be done," but where to cut is a more difficult question, she said, adding that she doesn't want to see Winthrop professors furloughed again, or cuts to libraries and other services.