I share the concerns that many Americans have about our country's financial future. With our debt at more than 13 trillion dollars, and growing, there is a legitimate concern about how we begin to correct our economic course. As a Blue Dog Democrat, I have always taken tackling our debt very seriously.
Economic experts from across the country have weighed in with suggestions and solutions, and their opinions should be heard and considered. But, as I've often found since coming to Congress, sometimes the best ideas come from home. Ohio's working families know how to manage their finances in tough economic times. They make common sense spending decisions; they trim the fat, and chip away at their debt. This is exactly the type of three pronged approach that Congress should adopt to tackle the national debt.
I recently announced that I backing a comprehensive package of legislation that includes 10 bills that I will shortly introduce or co-sponsor. Each of the ten bills would either enact common sense spending decisions, trim the fat, or chip away at the debt.
ENACT COMMON SENSE SPENDING
Working families must live within their means. They can't just put everything on a credit card. For too long, our government has been putting everything on the credit card and leaving it to the next generation to pay for it. This has got to stop and I am proud to take part in the following common sense efforts:
* I signed onto and voted for Statutory Pay Go, which is now law. If Congress wants to spend, it must figure out a way to pay for it.
* I signed onto the Government Efficiency, Effectiveness, and Performance Improvement Act. Each federal agency will take an annual look at all of its programs. If a program is not working, Congress could adjust the program or stop funding it.
* I signed onto the Balanced Budget Amendment. This would force Congress to balance our national budget each year. Ohio already does it. So should Uncle Sam.
TRIM THE FAT
During difficult times, working families make do with less. They do not stop spending altogether; they prioritize. For instance, they may not turn off the TV, but they may live without cable's premium channels, or cable altogether. That's the fat trimming our government should be doing. With that in mind, I have taken the following actions:
* I signed onto and voted for the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act that recently passed the U.S. House. This bill ensures that our federal agencies stop making payment errors while allowing them to recover overpayments. If enacted, this could save our country $98 billion annually.
* I signed onto the Spending Reduction Act, which will force the government to really tighten its belt over the next five years by reducing our non-security discretionary spending. This bill would save the American taxpayers $400 billion over three years.
* I co-authored an upcoming bill that would establish a bipartisan commission to determine which federal commissions should be continued and which should be allowed to fade into the sunset and no longer receive funding.
* I authored an upcoming bill to eliminate an $18 million federal program that has outlived its usefulness. This grant program should be eliminated because the 2009 conversion to digital television signals has made it completely unnecessary. It's just another example of wasteful spending that we need to cut.
CHIP AWAY AT THE DEBT
A working family must chip away at their debt, otherwise the interest payments eat them alive. The debt our country has built up over the last several decades will not go away overnight, but just like working families, we must start paying it down. Right now, we pay more in annual interest on our debt then we do on education and veterans programs each year. That is not right and I have taken the following steps to reduce our debt:
* I signed onto the Targeted Deficit Reduction Act which would require Congress to use procedural strategies to reduce the deficit each year during the Budget process.
* I signed onto a bill that pressured the Administration to create a bipartisan commission to focus on ways to lower our debt.
* FINALLY -- I Authored and will soon introduce- the Check the Debt Act. Many Ohioans have asked me what they can do to help get America's fiscal house in order. I'm touched that they want to help. That they believe in this country and want to help put us on the right path. My bill will allow Americans to play a part in paying down our national debt. The Federal Government already collects non-solicited donations to pay down the national debt through the Office of Public Debt in the Treasury Department. This bill would add a "Check the Debt" box to annual tax forms that would allow individuals to contribute $3 to pay down the debt, similar to the public financing of campaigns option that is already available. Nearly 33 million people each year opt to contribute to public campaign financing to the tune of almost $100 million. Just think if we could pay off that much of our debt every year. It wouldn't solve the problem, but every little bit helps.
I realize that we still have a long way to go in order to fully restore our country's financial well-being. But just like families all over Ohio, we need to work together and make the tough decisions that will get our country back on the right track. If we bring our Ohio values to Washington, together we can make a difference.