Jul 01 2011

No Borrowing without Balance

President Obama's warning to Republicans that he will take the debt limit debate to the American people is music to my ears.

Mr. President, I do not fear such a debate. Quite frankly, I welcome it.

While I disagree with President Obama on many issues regarding our current fiscal situation, I do agree with him we should give the American people a voice in this matter. It's their voices that are missing and through their voices Congress and the President will get the direction we sorely need.

Do Americans really want to pass onto future generations ever increasing loads of debt, much of it owed to creditors in China? Or do Americans want us to begin making the tough choices needed to get our financial house in order?

Piling new stacks of debt on top of the mountain-sized piles we already have serves nobody's interests. There is only one change that would overhaul the dynamics of Washington spending. Congress must pass a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution and send it to the states for ratification.

While President Obama does not believe we need the discipline of a Balanced Budget Amendment, I do. Our nation is now borrowing 40 cents of every dollar we spend. What rational person could ever think Congress will do the hard things required to balance the budget given our history for the last forty years?

Through my years in the House of Representatives and Senate I have consistently voted for and worked toward the passage of a Balanced Budget Amendment.

In 1995, I took to the House floor to ask, "What does it mean when you are $4.5 trillion-plus in debt? The honest answer is I cannot even imagine that money in real terms. The real serious consequences of spending that much money more than you have is that over time you ruin the character of your people. Over time, everybody in the country begins to look to the Federal Government to solve every problem they have."

Four years ago, when our nation was $9 trillion in debt, I introduced a Balanced Budget Amendment with my South Carolina colleague Senator Jim DeMint. And this year, with our nation over $14 trillion in debt, I'm working with Senator Mike Lee of Utah in another effort to pass this much-needed and long-overdue reform.

From my experience, I do not believe either party has the will to bring about a balanced budget. Forty-nine states already have requirements to produce a balanced budget. These states all know that the only way to sustain a balanced budget each year is put tough rules in place. Balanced budget requirements work in the states, the great laboratories of our democracy, and it will work in Washington.

It is clear special interest politics on both the left and right grow stronger every year. Balancing the budget will require both parties to make hard choices such as controlling the growth of entitlements, reforming an out-of-control tax code, putting defense spending under a microscope, and finally having to say no to people when it comes to federal spending.

The reason Congress and the President are never able to achieve consensus on the hard choices is that under the present construct, we're not required to do so. Every hard issue is looked at through the prism of how it affects the next election, not how it affects the country. That dynamic must change.

Last Friday, I was encouraged when the House decided to consider the Cut, Cap, and Balance legislation. This week, the House vote will build momentum behind a plan that will set our country on the right path. All elected officials should rally behind this concept as it raises the debt limit while beginning to address the problems posed by our long-term structural debt. Passage of Cut, Cap and Balance into law is a winning strategy for our nation.

However, since President Obama refuses to support Cut, Cap and Balance he should present his own plan. Thus far, the President has only spoken in generalities, not specifics. He tells us what he's against, not what he supports. Democrats in the Senate refuse to introduce a budget resolution and its been more than 800 days since one actually passed. Instead, they spend their time demagogueing the House-passed budget of Chairman Paul Ryan. This too must end.

Because of our debt, we are in jeopardy of losing the American Dream where children are able to do better than their parents.

It's time we bring discipline to the way Congress spends. Now is the time to insist on a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution before our country becomes Greece.

Simply stated, no more borrowing until we agree to balance.