Mar 16 2012
Originally printed in Politico, March 16th, 2012
The most important policy imperative in the world today is for the United States to balance its budget. Though the reasons we must do so are economic, the reasons we should are fundamentally moral.
Everything our republic means to our citizens, and everything America means to the world – friend and foe alike – depends on our ability to pay our bills and honor our debts.
The full faith and credit of the United States — on which depends our reputation and, ultimately, our security, prosperity and freedom — is at risk today as never before. In recent years, under presidents and Congresses of both parties, we have racked up yawning deficits and mushrooming debt that now pose a danger to America as we know it.
Without immediate action to control federal spending, deficits will continue to grow as a proportion of gross domestic product, and our accumulated national debt will soon reach world-destabilizing levels.
Washington can no longer afford to delude itself or the American people about the threat of the looming debt crisis. Our choice is no longer between a (seemingly) painless status quo and painful budget cuts. The status quo is crumbling.
Major credit agencies have already downgraded our once-untouchable credit rating. Europe, just a few years ahead of us on the path toward big government utopianism, is a fiscal basket case. Yet, even as our unreformed entitlement programs threaten our economic future, the Obama administration steams full speed ahead to implement another trillion-dollar entitlement we will never be able to afford: “Obamacare.”
Our course is unsustainable. The Congressional Budget Office has stated it can no longer make long-term budget estimates because our projected level of debt causes the computer models to break down somewhere in the 2040s. These trends aren’t those of a super power in decline, but a banana republic in the making – and a global economic anchor.
That’s why last year we co-sponsored a balanced budget amendment that would have, for the first time, not only forced Congress to get control of spending, but bound future Congresses to do the same.
We called on Congress to cut unnecessary, and unconstitutional, spending immediately, cap future spending in line with average historical revenues and send a balanced budget constitutional amendment to the states for ratification.
As Congress begins a new budget season, we stand by that call.
When confronting a fiscal crisis that could bring down our economy — and the world’s! — balancing the budget within 10 years seems a minimal threshold of fiscal seriousness. Eight-thousand new baby boomers turn 65 and qualify for Social Security and Medicare every day. Annual debt interest payments alone will soon be larger than the entire Greek economy — which by itself is bringing Europe to its knees.
We no longer have 30 or 40 years to solve this problem.
President Barack Obama disagrees. He thinks a 10-year balanced budget is unnecessary, impossible and extreme. As the author of the greatest spending binge in human history, he understandably prefers to change the subject to tax increases and income inequality.
But raising taxes on high earners has only accelerated and exacerbated fiscal problems everywhere from Sacramento to Athens. And everyone outside Washington knows that the true inequality crisis in America today is not between rich and poor, but between government and everyone else.
A balanced budget will encourage Congress to reorganize the federal government around principles of wealth creation rather than wealth redistribution, and force long-overdue reforms to long-outmoded policies.
We have known for decades which systems need reform — the tax code, our entitlement programs, corporate welfare, education, energy and the budget process itself. One generation of political leaders has already failed the meet this challenge – we literally cannot afford another.
The facts bearing down on the federal budget are economic — but our choice is moral. The federal government has already spent $15 trillion more than we gave it. What we have to show for it is a broken economy, manipulated by cronyism and oppressed by incompetent regulation. The middle class hanging by a thread.
Families and businesses that work hard, play by the rules and live within their means deserve better than to be forced by their own government to bail out the people who don’t.
They deserve a new approach that cuts, caps and balances the federal budget, to rescue our economy, restore our prosperity and preserve our freedom.
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) is on the Joint Economic Committee. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is on the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) serves on the Joint Economic Committee. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) serves on the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committees. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.