Curing Lawmakers' Addiction to Spending
Congress is at it again. The budget train is about to leave the station, and guess what's on board?
Almost $60 billion more than what House Republicans proposed in last year's budget.
And this is happening in a Congress controlled by Republicans, the party that claims to be for limited government and fiscal discipline. This is a departure from the GOP's rightful move five years ago in which they put the brakes on spending by passing something called the Budget Control Act.
The problem? You have to do more than pass such measures - you have to live by them. And in this case, Congress chose not to.
Just last year, outgoing House Speaker John Boehner negotiated a deal with President Barack Obama to bust the budget by almost $80 billion. That is one reason Boehner is no longer speaker. Conservatives rightly revolted at such reckless behavior.
But changing speakers has, of this writing, not changed Congress' addiction to spending. Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and other GOP leaders, in hopes of producing a House budget this year, are pressuring rank-and-file members to agree to the same budget number as the Boehner-Obama deal.
Once again, they are promising to make cuts in the future if we'll just go along with allowing them to spend more today.
This is why our national debt now amounts to more than $19 trillion. If we had to set aside enough money today to pay that debt along with all the promises we've made via Social Security and Medicare, each person in America, including children, would owe more than $200,000.
Republican leaders say they just can't do any better as long as Obama is in office - that he'll veto a budget that spends less. And it is true that the budget Obama released in February, just like all his previous budgets, ignores the reality that most of us have to face: You can't spend more than you have.
But, note to Congress: You are an equal branch of government. Do your job. Force the president to either approve a budget that tackles our mounting debt or answer to the American people for pulling out his veto pen.
The reality is that the majority of lawmakers in both parties in Washington are addicted to spending. And nothing will change if the American people do not demand our elected officials do what we as individuals and families must do - live within our means.
As opposed to continuing Washington's spending spree, Republicans in Congress should put forward a budget that begins to remake the government so that it can be responsive to what we need as well as what we can afford.
To get America's budget on a path to balance will be a big job. It will require reforming entitlements, the tax code and the whole budget process. But we've got to start somewhere. At a minimum, the current Congress should cut spending and go back to the budget caps it passed under the Budget Control Act. That will help stop the bleeding.
For those who think such a budget isn't possible, I would encourage them to check out The Heritage Foundation's Blueprint for Balance. It would balance the nation's budget within seven years and it would do so without raising taxes.
Indeed, it reduces taxes by getting rid of over $1.3 trillion of Obamacare tax revenues, i.e., Obamacare taxes. It slows the growth in spending, while fully funding our national security needs. It lays out principles to guide entitlement and tax reform. It reduces the national debt by $9.3 trillion over the next decade. And it eliminates budget gimmicks that lawmakers and bureaucrats regularly use to increase spending for favored programs while putting a stop to their attempts to circumvent budget caps.
The first step to breaking an addiction is admitting it exists. Washington is addicted to spending. We are going in the wrong direction. Congress should cut spending and balance the budget now.
- Genevieve Wood is a senior fellow in communications
Originally distributed by the Tribune New Service