Balanced Budget & Federal Spending

Balanced Budget & Federal Spending

In testimony before Congress, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, said the greatest threat to our sovereignty is not Iran; not al-Qaeda; not radical Islam—it’s our national debt. Most people don’t think of spending in terms of a threat to our sovereignty; and those who do, are rarely so blunt. But Admiral Mullen was right. We simply cannot continue to operate at this pace.

While many in Washington talk about the need to rein in spending, little action has occurred. In fact, changes in spending have gone the wrong direction. Our national debt has risen 52 percent under President Obama. It now stands at a jaw-dropping $16.2 trillion. Each American’s share of that debt now eclipses $50,000.

Foreign holdings account for almost half of these obligations, and much of that is owed to countries that are not always friendly to us, such as China and Saudi Arabia. This puts our nation’s future in a very precarious position. It is why Admiral Mullen sounded the alarm when he came to Capitol Hill and it is the reason we find ourselves in our current predicament with sequestration.

Sequestration is a fancy Washington term for automatic across-the-board spending cuts. President Obama proposed and agreed to the 2.4 percent cut across the board in exchange for Congressional approval of his request to raise the country’s borrowing limit. The only option for avoiding these automatic cuts would be if members of the joint deficit reduction committee—commonly referred to as the supercommittee—were able to find more than $1 trillion in spending cuts. The committee failed to make the necessary cuts. After a two month delay, sequestration went into effect on March 1, 2013.

The problems with sequestration are obvious. Indiscriminately cutting everything is not the best policy. We don’t need to take a meat cleaver to our entire budget. We do need to dramatically decrease funding to programs that don’t work, hold the line on others, and increase the ones that are effective and actually save the government money. We can find smarter ways to cut 2.4 percent ($85 billion) of a $3.5 trillion budget.

However, instead of proposing ways to eliminate what amounts to essentially two cents for every dollar spent, President Obama and the Senate Majority propose raising taxes again. I voted against the Senate Majority’s plan, supported by the White House, which sought to replace the sequester cuts by eliminating agriculture support programs, cutting defense spending and increasing taxes. The Congressional Budget Office said that the Senate Majority’s plan actually increases the deficit by over $7 billion right out the gate.

Furthermore, we dealt with taxes when we addressed the expiring Bush tax cuts at the start of the year. Despite our best efforts, President Obama got his tax increase out of those negotiations. So taxes are off the table. It is time to address spending and since the President and the Senate Majority are unwilling to compromise on spending, sequestration is the only remaining option.

The reality is Arkansans have been forced to make difficult decisions in this tough economy. Many of them haven’t seen a raise in years, but their taxes, gas prices and even the price of food at the store have gone up. To tell them that Washington cannot tighten its belt a little as well would be disingenuous and completely out-of-touch.

More must be done. The $85 billion that will be cut by sequestration is the amount that Washington spends every 28 days. If we do not take additional action, all of our resources will be spent just servicing the debt. That is the path that will lead us the direction of Greece, Ireland and Portugal, each facing economic crises that have pushed them to brink of default.

The only way will we get a handle on this situation is to reform the manner in which we budget and allocate federal dollars. It is time we institute a mechanism, like a Balanced Budget Amendment, that will stop the government from spending beyond its means. This is the reason why one of the first pieces of legislation I cosponsored as a U.S. Senator was a Balanced Budget Amendment. If Arkansas can be required to balance our state’s budget, there is no reason that we shouldn’t be able to require Washington to do the same.

We are at a crossroads in our country. If Congress continues the reckless spending, rather than crafting an immediate solution to this crisis, we will inevitably end with an economic collapse. We have to act now. We can’t keep kicking the can down the road. In fact, it has been kicked so far down the road it is out of view. 

We owe it to the generations of Americans who’ve made sacrifices in order for our country to prosper and that means working together to solve our problems. I am committed to working with my colleagues to correct this course our nation is on by reining in the reckless spending in Washington and putting our nation back on a fiscally responsible path.

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