Rebecca Hagelin

Pence, Hensarling and Flake have taken a lot of heat since then. But when you consider the state of fiscal discipline in Washington these days (or, more precisely, the lack of it), you see why we should be grateful to them for doing so. A new book of charts by Heritage budget expert Brian Riedl, “Federal Spending -- By The Numbers,” shows just how bad things are.

Take overall spending. It’s up 33 percent since 2001, from $1,863 billion to $2,470 billion. In 2005, inflation-adjusted federal spending neared $22,000 per household, the highest level since World War II. For 2005, the government spent $21,956 per household, overall, taxed $19,147 per household, and ran a budget deficit of $2,809 per household, Riedl says.

Who out there thinks spending growth can grow at this pace forever? And what will we do when the bills come due?

You might think that increased defense spending and homeland-security funding since 9/11 are largely responsible. Sorry, no dice.
Riedl shows that from 2001 through 2003, spending expanded by $296 billion, of which $100 billion (34 percent) went for defense and $32 billion (11 percent) went for 9/11-related costs. That leaves $164 billion spent on items totally unrelated to defense and 9/11 -- more than half (55 percent) of the total amount.

So where does the increased spending go? To things like a 2002 farm bill estimated to cost $180 billion over 10 years. To a Medicare drug bill estimated to cost $724 billion in its first 10 years and as much as $2 trillion over the following decade. And so on. Nobody is refused, it seems, unless it’s someone calling for restraint and responsibility.

But that appears to be changing. GOP leaders are listening. And President Bush has signaled that he will help, too, noting at a recent news conference that “Congress needs to pay for as much of the hurricane relief as possible by cutting spending” and noting that he would “work with members of Congress to identify offsets.”

And why is this necessary? Because if we hope to leave a legacy of economic opportunity to our children -- rather than saddling them with incredible debt and high taxes -- then the bedrock conservative principle of limited government must be restored as the foundation of our nation.

As Pence noted in his Heritage speech, “Conservatives know that government that governs least governs best. Conservatives know that as government expands, freedom contracts. Conservatives know that government should never do for a man what he can and should do for himself.”

And if there’s one thing lawmakers should be able to do for themselves, it’s to be wise and frugal when spending the hard-earned tax dollars of their fellow Americans. Kudos to the brave souls willing to withstand the fire to make sure that happens.

Rebecca Hagelin

Rebecca Hagelin is a public speaker on the family and culture and the author of the new best seller, 30 Ways in 30 Days to Save Your Family.
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