No objective is more important for the new Congress than putting America on course toward a balanced federal budget. We used to balance our budget regularly but, except for a short period during the late 1990’s, Congress has been unable to accomplish what should be a clear-cut mission. Americans understand that deficit spending may be unavoidable in wartime or in a Katrina-like emergency, but we also believe that in the absence of these events, there is no excuse for irresponsibly increasing our national debt.
Unfortunately, our national agenda no longer seems to include a balanced budget. President Obama established a national debt commission (whose report I will address in a future column), but that was only after cranking up federal expenditures and deficits to previously unseen levels.
We all know that the big enchiladas in the Federal budget are Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and national defense. That still leaves a lot of money to be saved elsewhere, yet even these opportunities are far too often belittled by elitists. For example, Jackie Calmes, a New York Times reporter, wrote that while there is general agreement on an earmark ban, “… [it] would hardly dent the projected annual deficits.” Paul Krugman, her colleague at the Times and the current economic guru of the left, routinely dismisses any savings at all, his most recent tantrum being Obama’s proposal for a two-year freeze on pay raises. He states “The actual savings, about $5 billion over two years, are chump change given the scale of the deficit.” These are two examples that occurred within days – and I could probably cite hundreds more, from both sides of the aisle.
The United States has a budget crisis that should be met by expenditure reductions, but our government has acted only with foolishness and cowardice. Let’s say your employer came to you and said “Look, the company is struggling, but I can keep you on if we reduce your annual salary from $80,000 to $70,000.” You would go home, sit down with your spouse, and figure out where you can start saving money. You could skip the Saturday night movies and join Netflix. You could learn to live without HBO. You could stop getting water delivered to the house. The bottom line is that you would adjust your expenditures because you have no choice; after all, you can’t print money or sell bonds to your neighbors. Not even to China.