Weekly Columns

Apr 04 2011

Our Country at a Crossroad

Senator John Boozman's Column for the Week of April 4, 2011

The Senate has a number of unique customs and traditions.  For instance, since the early days of the body, new Senators have observed a tradition of abstaining from speaking on the Senate floor for a considerable amount of time.  When a Senator addresses the chamber for the first time, it is known as the maiden speech.

While many Senators used to wait over a year before giving their maiden speech, in current times, the traditional waiting period has been reduced from years to months.  This past week, I delivered my maiden speech.

My remarks focused on the challenge of our times, which is the desperate need to get our fiscal house in order.  The spending spree in Washington must come to an end.  Americans are tired of us putting off to tomorrow what needed to be done yesterday.

The longer we wait, the larger the crisis grows. Currently, 40 cents of every dollar we spend is borrowed, much of which is owed to countries that are not always friendly to us—countries like Saudi Arabia and China, the latter of which now owns more than $1 trillion of our debt.  This startling fact is what led Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to tell Congress last year that our national debt is the greatest threat to our sovereignty.  Admiral Mullen is right.  We simply cannot continue to put ourselves in this position, especially when we don’t have to.

While there are limited means at our disposal to control the actions of Iran, al-Qaida and radical Islam, we can control our spending.  We have to stop adding billions of borrowed dollars to our already staggering national debt.  This year alone, the federal government will spend $3.7 trillion while only collecting $2.2 trillion. The only people who think that makes sense are the foreign governments who are lending us that money.

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’s time we put mechanisms in place to stop the government from spending beyond its means.

This is why one of the first bills I signed my name onto after taking the oath of office was a balanced budget amendment introduced by Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL).  Senator Shelby has been a champion on this front for a number of years, introducing this bill every session of Congress since 1987. Imagine what the country would look like if it had passed when he first proposed it.

This is a catalyst for change.  A balanced budget amendment or similar spending cap holds us to limits, forces changes in the manner in which taxpayer money is allocated, and changes the way we think in terms of our priorities.  It is a long-term solution to a long-term problem.

We are at a crossroads in our country and going the right direction means recognizing where our priorities lie.  We must start putting of long-term needs over short-term wants.  Short-sighted thinking is only creating more debt for our children and grandchildren.

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