Feb 09 2012
We have a problem: The United States government spends too much money. For decades in Washington, members of Congress and presidents from both parties have spent more money than the government took in – leaving us with a national debt of more than $15.3 trillion today.
In the last three years alone, the national debt has grown by nearly $4.5 trillion and each American taxpayer’s portion now stands at more than $135,000. This crippling amount of debt has slowed our nation’s economic growth and threatens the prosperity of future generations who will have to pay for our irresponsibility.
Last year, the American people endured a painful debate in Congress about whether the debt ceiling should be raised. I had hoped this debate would lead to substantial reductions in government spending and structural reforms to the way Washington does business.
Unfortunately, neither of those objectives were achieved. In fact, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office recently announced that the government will run a deficit this year of more than $1 trillion for the fourth year in a row. Over the next three decades, our debt is expected to become three times the size of the entire U.S. economy. Clearly this pattern is not sustainable.
The debate about whether to raise the debt ceiling is really a symptom of a much larger problem: Our government’s failure to produce a budget. Traditionally, the Congressional budget process begins on the first Monday of February when the President is required to submit his budget request to Congress. But this year, the Obama Administration announced they would miss this legally required deadline for the second year in a row.
My hope is that when the President does submit his request, Congress will be presented with a commonsense budget that reduces our deficit this year, next year, and well into the future. But the President’s track record is not promising; last year, he proposed $8.7 trillion in new spending and $1.6 trillion in new taxes.
Congress is failing to do its job as well. One of the basic responsibilities of Congress is to produce an annual budget using the President’s request as a framework, yet Senate Democrats have not put forth a budget in more than 1,000 days – which is 1,000 days too long without a plan to control spending.
Majority Leader Reid announced last week that he will not even allow the Senate to vote on a budget this year. This decision lacks common sense. In this case Republicans cannot be blamed for obstruction when the leadership of the Senate has not produced a budget and won’t even let one be considered.
American families and small businesses have to live within a budget. When they have spent too much money, they have no choice but to cut back. Our government should do the same. Instead, Congress and the President continue to ignore our fiscal reality.
The truth is our country is broke; what is happening in Europe should serve as a wake-up call to our nation’s leaders. It is time for Congress and the President to make the hard decisions necessary to get our economy back on track. When we continue to fail to balance the budget, it means increasing inflation, higher interest rates, and uncertainty in the economy, which results in less business investment and fewer jobs.
The first step should be to pass a responsible budget, but we must also tackle our national debt. A good starting point would be the recommendations put forth by the Bowles-Simpson Commission, a bipartisan debt commission created by presidential Executive Order in 2010. The Commission’s proposals recognize that real reforms and real cuts must take place across the board to get our fiscal house in order. Given the magnitude of the problem and the bipartisan support for many of their proposals, their recommendations cannot continue to be ignored.
Congress and the President were not elected to ignore these problems, but rather to confront them. In 2012, whether we have the willingness to tackle our fiscal crisis will determine the course of our country for the next generation. Our economy can and will recover when we begin to live within our means.