A Tangible Step to Economic Recovery

John Thune

10/13/2010 12:01:00 AM - John Thune

When President Obama took office 20 months ago, America faced a tough economy. But rather than put forward policies that would grow the economy, the president and his Democrat allies in Congress chose instead to grow the government. They have wasted billions of dollars, increased the national debt and pushed one job-killing policy after another.

Enough is enough. It is time to turn things around, and to do that we need to change not just those failed policies, but the very way Washington does business.

Since the start of this administration, our debt has grown by more than $2.8 trillion. It is slated to top $20 trillion in just five years. By then, every household in America will owe an average of nearly $163,000 as its share of the government debt.

President Obama does not seem to realize what is plain as day to millions of Americans, which is that our economic recovery and lack of job creation are linked to wasteful Washington spending and record debt. The president and the Democrats who control Congress have failed to recognize the threat this massive borrowing and spending poses to our long term economic recovery as well as our national security.

Under this administration, federal discretionary spending for the fiscal year that just ended was a staggering 21 percent higher than it was just two years before. How many middle class families or small businesses in America have been able to boost their spending by 21 percent over the past two years? These levels of spending and debt will continue to weigh on our economic growth until we take serious steps to rein in our budget.

The American people know better and they are angry that Washington does not get it. Families across the country are spending less, saving more, and reducing debt. Yet their elected representatives continue to spend borrowed money at historic levels. It’s time for the president and Congress to reverse course and start following the example of the American people.

I recently introduced legislation that would take the first necessary steps to get us back on the road to recovery. My plan is a three-pronged approach that would cut federal spending, reform the budget process and reduce the deficit.

First, my bill would freeze all non-national security discretionary spending for 10 years, adjusted only for inflation. And the cap would be set at the 2008 level, before the Democrats’ recent spending explosion began.

With my plan, we would finally end the failed stimulus experiment and redirect billions of unspent dollars to reducing the deficit. The stimulus has not worked; let’s stop throwing good money after bad.

Second, I am proposing serious reforms to our flawed budget process. As things stand now, the budget is not binding, which means Congress can spend more than they budgeted. My plan would add teeth to the budget by making it a binding resolution that the president would have to sign into law.

My bill would also change this broken system by requiring Congress to pass a two year budget. This would allow Congress to set spending priorities the year after an election and focus on oversight and finding savings during the year leading up to an election. This would fundamentally change the way Washington works because members would begin to campaign on the amount of federal dollars they saved rather than how much they secured and spent for their state or district.

Third, in order to make sure spending cuts are not just a one-time deal, my bill would establish a permanent, bipartisan joint committee of Congress for Budget Deficit Reduction with the sole responsibility of cutting the deficit. This bipartisan committee would be required to introduce legislation to eliminate spending and cut the previous year’s deficit by at least 10 percent, without raising taxes on the American people.

Today, Congress has 26 committees and subcommittees drumming up new ways to spend money. We ought to have at least one committee devoted to finding ways to save money. This would not be yet another instance of passing the buck to a special commission with no authority as we saw with the president’s latest budget commission. This joint committee would consist of members of Congress, from both the House and Senate, and both parties. Congress could finally begin to make the tough choices so desperately needed.

No reform, including my plan, will work overnight to get us back to where we should be. But it is a good first step toward changing the way Washington works by imposing common sense solutions that will force Congress to get our fiscal house in order.