January 31, 2011

January 31, 2011 | Commentary on Budget and Spending, Deficits

Rand Paul's Budget

A Specious ‘Sputnik Moment’

President Barack Obama, Rep. Paul Ryan (R.-Wis.) and Rep Michele Bachmann (R.-Minn.) all made presentations to America as part of last week’s State of the Union festivities. The one-two punch of Ryan and Bachmann was a strong counter to the flurry of new spending proposed by the President. 

The President pitched yet another massive new government spending program as “our generation’s Sputnik moment.”  Obama bragged that he will send a budget to Congress with increased spending in “biomedical research, information technology and especially clean-energy technology.”  The President’s Sputnik reference sent many of his younger supporters to the history books and left many analysts scratching their heads.

Many expected a reprise of President Bill Clinton’s “the era of big government is over” or some other acknowledgment that Obama needs to change the course of his presidency.  Others yearned for an admission of guilt on the part of the President for his role in the devastating losses Democrats suffered last November.  Ryan argued that the President’s ideas have led to policies that have hampered economic growth.  He said that our economy can’t “sustain such high levels of debt and taxation.  The next generation will inherit a stagnant economy and a diminished country.”

Bachmann repeated a plea from the Tea Party that “after the $700 billion bailout, the trillion-dollar stimulus, and the massive budget bill with over 9,000 earmarks that the President signed, many of you implored Washington to please stop spending money we don’t have.”  Well, the next year will be a moment of truth for President Obama to see if his Sputnik moment becomes the “read my lips” moment of the Obama presidency.

Record Deficit

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reports that spending is rising, as is the annual deficit.  Obama can brag during his  reelection run that he has set a new record for Washington: $1.480 trillion in debt for fiscal year 2011.  That number shatters his prior record from 2009: $1.416 trillion.

Ryan’s House Budget Committee staff crunched the numbers and found that “budget deficits are projected to be $1.48 trillion for fiscal year 2011 (the current year), or 9.8%GDP.  The deficit is $186 billion higher than that of 2010, entirely due to a $252 billion increase in spending.  Even with the two-year extension of existing tax rates and other provisions enacted in December, tax revenue increases by $66 billion from 2010 to 2011.”  This would indicate that the President’s statement in the State of the Union address that “I am proposing that starting this year, we freeze annual domestic spending for the next five years” just isn’t enough.  If we freeze in record debt, then this nation will be on pace to default on our debt obligations, not on pace to shrink the $14 trillion national debt.

That promise to freeze spending, coupled with the President’s new “investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet and create countless new jobs for our people,” will bankrupt our nation.

Debt Limit Increase

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) has rolled out an idea to make sure that the United States doesn’t default on debt if the debt limit is not increased in March of this year.  His legislation, the Full Faith and Credit Act, will prioritize payments of the debt if the debt limit is not raised from the current level of $14.3 trillion.  The first priority will be to pay off the principal and interest on debt held by the public.

In a letter to Toomey, James Valvo of Americans for Prosperity writes, “As you have skillfully articulated, the country has more than enough tax revenue coming in to cover the interest on the national debt.  We will not default, period. The United States’ credit rating is far too important for administration officials, the media or elected officials to use it for political purposes.”  This legislation shows that lawmakers are not forced into a vote either on raising the debt limit or defaulting.  Toomey is providing a third way to make sure that senators and representatives have an opportunity to use the debt-limit increase to force some real cuts on this free-spending administration.

Rand Paul’s Budget

Sen. Rand Paul (R.-Ky.) has a proposal to slash $500 billion from the budget this year.  His legislation, (S.162), would terminate federal funding for education and housing, not constitutional functions of the federal government.  Paul eliminates the Government Printing Office, cuts the food stamp program’s “erroneous and fraudulent” payments, eliminates Amtrak subsidies, eliminates the National Endowment for the Arts, shutters the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and ends the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Brian Darling is a senior fellow at The Heritage Foundation.

About the Author

Brian Darling Senior Fellow for Government Studies
Government Studies

Related Issues: Budget and Spending, Deficits

First appeared in Human Events