Over the last few months, the American people have endured the many ups and downs of an ever-changing debate in Congress over whether we should raise the debt ceiling for the eleventh time in the last decade. I, along with many of my colleagues, hoped we could use this moment in history to bring about significant change to the way business is conducted in Washington, D.C.
In fact, on March 22 of this year, I informed President Obama that I would not vote to raise the debt ceiling in the absence of substantial reductions in spending and structural changes to the way Washington spends taxpayer dollars. In my view, the plan that passed Congress this week failed on both accounts. This legislation might be considered a good ‘deal’ in Washington – but it is not good for the future of America.
The reality is the legislation did not offer a solution to the underlying problem of our financial crisis today: our government’s out-of-control spending. Even if fully enacted, the bill only slows the growth of spending – but just barely. Next year, this plan will reduce spending by $21 billion, and $21 billion may sound like a lot of money, because it is. But given the fact Washington spends $4 billion more than it takes in each day – those savings will disappear in less than a week.
This deal also ignores the stark warnings from credit rating agencies, which said a $4 trillion deficit reduction plan would be necessary to prevent a downgrade in the U.S. credit rating. Even if everything in this legislation is accomplished, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates it will only achieve $2.1 trillion in deficit reduction, so the threat of a downgrade to our credit rating is still very real.
The one positive result of the debt debate is that Washington is now talking about how much it should cut instead of how much it can spend. Even though significant cuts did not occur, the debate informed the American people of the magnitude of our spending problem – but that’s no reason to pat ourselves on the back. Can you imagine a family congratulating themselves for talking about their spending habits without ever changing the way they spend money? When Kansas families are in serious financial trouble, they don’t just slow down how quickly they spend borrowed money – they cut up their credit cards.
Our national debt now stands at more than $14 trillion, but under this plan, our debt will continue to grow and will reach $22 trillion in 10 years. Over the next three decades, our debt will become more than three times the size of our entire economy. This reality served as a wake-up call to Americans last November – and they called on Washington to come up with a responsible solution to this growing problem. Unfortunately, business as usual continued this week in our nation’s capital, and solving our fiscal problems was pushed off for yet another day.
Although members of the Kansas delegation ultimately came to different conclusions on the final deal, we remain unified in our commitment to rein in our staggering national debt and grow the economy. There is much work to be done in the months ahead, and I will redouble my efforts to bring common sense to Washington and put Kansans back to work. The revenues we need to balance our books are not tax increases, but revenues that come from a growing economy where Americans and Kansans are working. When our economy is strong, the federal government can pay down its debt, Americans can provide for their families, and we will all have the opportunity to see our children and grandchildren pursue the American dream.