Opinion Pieces

Fiscal discipline can’t wait

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Washington, April 19, 2016 | Darin Miller (202-225-2676) | comments

In life, the sooner you get about fixing a problem, the easier it is to solve. The longer you put it off, the more dramatic and drastic measures you have to take.

The same holds true for problems facing the country. That’s why a number of us conservatives in Congress oppose the current budget plan being proposed in the House of Representatives.

Since the beginning of the year, conservatives have called for a budget that reflects the will of the American people. This means a budget that begins to address the problem of Washington’s out-of-control borrowing and spending.

Congressional leaders and the White House have continually asked us to instead support a bloated budget level of $1.07 trillion for discretionary spending. This unsustainable spending level was pushed through by President Obama and then-Speaker John Boehner last year, over the objections of a majority of Republicans in the House and Senate.

Since the irresponsible Obama-Boehner agreement last year, our national debt has passed the $19 trillion mark. Additionally, the Congressional Budget Office has reported that the federal deficit will increase by over $100 billion this year. With these crises in mind, conservatives are even more motivated to get spending back under control.

As a first step, we asked House leadership to forgo this newly-added spending and scale back the budget to the level previously agreed to in the bipartisan Budget Control Act of 2011.

Some in Washington call this a “hard-line” position. God forbid someone says no to some deficit spending in that town!

Every family, every business, every government (except the federal government) has to balance its budget, or it will fail. But the broken culture in Washington seeks to punish those who refuse to borrow and spend like there’s no tomorrow.

We are past the point of tinkering around the edges of the federal government. We need to make significant changes to the way we operate.

The U.S. currently pays about $200 billion in interest a year to service our national debt, and that is at record-low interest rates. If interest rates return to a normal level, that debt service number quickly increases to about $600 billion a year, which is roughly what we are spending on national defense. This begs the obvious question: Can you remain a great country if you are spending as much to service debt as you are to defend yourself and fund your military?

That is where we are headed. This is the problem we face. And the best time to start addressing a problem is now.

Conservatives are asking for a modest first step to get our fiscal house in order by forgoing the additional and unnecessary $30 billion in spending added to the budget late last year. This one change won’t fix Washington’s spending problem, but it will show the politicians and the entrenched special interests that the world won’t end if we start to show a little fiscal responsibility.

But we need to do more than simply reduce spending to get the budget back on track. We also need to reform the culture that encourages irresponsible behavior.

That’s why conservatives also support commonsense ideas like zero-based budgeting, which requires federal agencies to reexamine the need for, and the mission of, federal programs each and every year. The culture in Washington is to continue all federal programs in perpetuity, forever increasing their budgets, but never asking whether the programs are still necessary.

Make no mistake: Conservatives understand that changing Washington will make some waves, and we are ready to take the heat. But we strongly believe it is time for Washington to do what families, local businesses, school districts, and states have to do every year: exercise some fiscal discipline. To avoid catastrophe and drastic measures, we need to start today. Tomorrow may be too late.

This op-ed appeared on March 19, 2016 in the Lima News.

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