September 2, 2015
Washington, DC, September 2, 2015 - The Heritage Foundation today unveiled a budget strategy for the last three months of the year that would set Congress on a 10-year course toward a balanced budget.
The “Blueprint for Congressional Fiscal Action in the Remainder of 2015” calls on lawmakers to extend Budget Control Act caps on non-defense discretionary spending for a full year and to bring so-called “mandatory” spending programs into the regular budgetary process.
“Congress has just a few weeks to agree on a spending plan for the next fiscal year,” noted Paul Winfree, director of the think tank’s Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies and a co-author of the plan. “It’s critical that lawmakers take this opportunity to stop runaway federal spending and steer us onto a sustainable fiscal path.”
Winfree notes that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects the national debt, already in excess of $18 trillion, will exceed $25 trillion within a decade if federal spending keeps on its currently planned trajectory. That, Winfree says, would be disastrous. “It’s a simply crushing level of debt. It will sap economic growth even as federal interest payments balloon, crowding out spending on necessary governmental functions like national defense.”
The Heritage plan recognizes that the need to reform the programs that drive federal debt has reached a critical point and identifies concrete steps that can be taken now to move toward a balanced budget by driving down spending without weakening national defense and without raising taxes that would further stifle growth.
Some of the nation’s most expensive federal programs—Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid—are not even part of the annual budgeting process. “Spending on these programs is on auto-pilot,” Winfree says, “and costs are going through the roof.”
“If Congress is to get this spending under control—and avoid draconian or arbitrary policies that would hurt the neediest the most—it must act now to bring them into the regular budget so that we can better manage our resources going forward.” Lawmakers should then adopt an overall limit on all non-interest spending, he added.
To help cement fiscal prudence in Washington, the Heritage plan also calls on lawmakers to advance a balanced budget amendment. But, Winfree cautioned, the amendment should be used “as a brake, not a crutch. Its sole purpose is to guarantee that the hard work of reforming programs cannot be easily undone in the future.
“With or without an amendment,” Winfree noted, “lawmakers are still responsible for mustering the self-discipline required to cap and cut spending and reform and reduce taxation.”
A Washington fixture since 1973, The Heritage Foundation is the world’s most broadly supported think tank, with more than a half-million members. Its “Blueprint for Congressional Fiscal Action in the Remainder of 2015,” is available at www.heritage.org.