With each passing week, fresh warning signs from the markets, government reports or events overseas underscore the need to tackle our dire fiscal and economic picture. Yet, Congress stubbornly refuses to acknowledge this reality, as each week results in a fight over how much further we should expand the deficit and how much deeper we should fall into debt.
The starting point for tackling this challenge is the federal budget. For families, organizations and businesses, a budget sets priorities and forces tough decisions.
Governments are not exempt from the need to budget. Yet in a stunning abdication of responsibility, leaders in the House of Representatives have failed to even propose a budget — a feat never before “achieved” since the enactment of the 1974 Budget Act and unacceptable in the face of a looming debt crisis.
The Democrats’ budget collapse further erodes confidence in Washington, D.C.’s intent to get federal spending and debt under control — and creates even greater concern about impending tax increases that will further hinder the private sector job creation Americans desperately need. Washington’s failure to control spending undermines sustainable economic growth and job creation.
Democratic leaders have made the political calculation that it’s better to take a pass than to pass a budget. President Barack Obama’s “new era of responsibility” has hit a new low.
This year’s budget failure begs the question of how Congress is even allowed to continue to tax, spend and borrow without a budget. To address the breakdown in the budget process, House Republicans put forth the Spending, Deficit and Debt Control Act, requiring Congress — by law — to control its dangerous spending appetite.
Our proposal would create a legally binding federal budget, with enforceable limits on spending and deficits, force Congress to address our entitlement crisis and budget for our long-term liabilities, and it allows for budgetary oversight by moving from the frenetic annual calendar to a biennial budget and appropriation process.
Budget-process reforms can help limit the excesses of spendthrift lawmakers, but real restraint requires a commitment to get spending and deficits under control.
Republicans broke the trust of the American people with respect to spending — and paid a political price in recent elections. We must reclaim the mantle of fiscal sanity and change the culture of spending that grips Washington.
At the House Budget Committee, we have identified $1.3 trillion in savings to help get our fiscal house in order and spur job creation. Among the proposals:
Cancel unused bailout funds. The financial rescue package has morphed into a Washington slush fund for special interests. To prevent its continued abuses, we should terminate the Troubled Asset Relief Program.
Cancel unspent “stimulus” funds. We need more jobs, not more debt.
Reduce government employment and freeze government pay. We need to grow the economy, not government.
Cut and cap discretionary spending. After an 84 percent increase in discretionary spending, Washington has added trillions of dollars to our debt, yet failed to produce the jobs promised. We should return spending to pre-Obama levels and establish discretionary spending caps.
Reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. We need to phase out the federal control of these mortgage giants, limit taxpayer exposure and combat crony capitalism.
These specific proposals, offered as real legislation, would cut spending immediately. This is just a start. It’s clear that much more needs to be done to rein in government spending, spur private sector growth and set our nation on a sustainable fiscal and economic future. In Sunday’s piece, we will examine our plan to do just that.
Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is the ranking minority member of the House Budget Committee. Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, is the second-ranking minority member of the committee.