As I’ve been working on immigration reform legislation, I’ve been asked why it should be Washington’s focus at a time when we have so many other pressing concerns, including stagnant economic growth that has left millions of unemployed and underemployed Americans, and the persistent threat of terrorism that recently manifested itself on our own soil.
There’s no doubt we have a broken immigration system and de facto amnesty that can’t continue because it threatens America’s sovereignty, security and economy. It’s a problem that needs to be solved, and the longer we put it off, the worse it’s going to get.
But it’s also absolutely true that our lack of robust economic growth, caused in part by Washington’s runaway debt, is the real defining issue of our time. These challenges should have been addressed a long time ago but, because Washington hasn’t made any meaningful attempt to do so, our debt has only gotten worse, and more of our people have suffered.
Two years ago, early in my term, we faced a vote on raising the debt ceiling. At the time, I said we should seize the moment to adopt fundamental reforms that would allow our economy to grow dynamically, including reforms to our tax code, entitlements, regulatory system, and spending practices that would actually put people back to work, reduce our debt, and end the Washington routine of raising the debt ceiling over and over. Instead, Washington failed to do any of this, raised the debt ceiling with minimal spending cuts, and kicked the can down the road.
In what has become a common Washington ritual, we are once again facing another situation where Washington’s spending insanity has pushed the limits of our legal borrowing limit. The last debt limit deal was supposed to mean we’d have until May 19 to deal with this issue. But because new debt projections suggest the new debt limit won’t be reached until October, some in Washington are now suggesting we wait until then to do anything about this crushing debt.
In other words, Washington will do nothing about our debt until it reaches the crisis level when the American people will be told they either have to take the bad, last-minute deal that’s been cut that won’t actually solve our problems, or we will have the doomsday and fiscal calamity of a debt default and government shutdown.