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The Hill - Congress Must Embrace Budget Challenges

Op-Ed

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By Rob Woodall

Today, President Obama submitted his budget proposal for FY2012. Now, the American people will be able to see just how serious Mr. Obama is about getting our federal spending under control. From what I can see, we have a long way to go.

As a Member of the Budget Committee, my colleagues and I welcome the difficult task of reining in spending and putting this nation back down a path to prosperity. Budget Chairman Ryan has worked diligently to lower spending and craft a budget that is in fidelity to many of our funding commitments, while being cognizant of this new age of austerity. I support his goals and look forward to working alongside him to achieve them.

Our national debt now stands at over $14 trillion and is the accumulation of decades of irresponsible spending by both Republicans and Democrats. It will take more than just a year to unilaterally cure our fiscal problems, but we must start today. What we can do today on the Budget Committee is honor our pledge to the American people to cut spending in measurable ways.

At a recent visit to high school students in my district, I shared the realities of the fiscal burdens their generation will face. According to data from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) for 2010, the Treasury took in only enough tax revenue to cover the costs of our mandatory spending programs (including Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security) and net interest on outstanding debt. Funding for every other program, including defense, environment and parks programs, we had to borrow.

With interest on our outstanding debt plus mandatory spending representing over 60% of 2010 federal spending it is clear that if Washington is to get serious about spending, we must look to entitlement reform. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke addressed the Budget Committee last week and spoke of the effects of an aging population and healthcare costs on federal spending.

Some of my colleagues have likened Washington's mess to being a "revenue problem" or the notion that if taxes are raised, deficits will be brought under control. As reflected in the bi-partisan tax agreement with President Obama, the Bush-era tax cuts were permitted to remain because the last thing our recovering economy and the American people need is more taxes.

Let's be clear on one point -- spending is what drives our need for tax revenue and Treasury borrowings. If Washington did not excessively spend, we would not need to borrow from other countries.

What was once only the talk of fiscal conservatives, federal spending is now a household discussion and top policy concern in Washington. The United States has been able to work through tremendous challenges before. Congress is serious. If the American people continue to stand with us, this Congress will work together to put our nation on a sustainable fiscal path and permit our children to live in the innovative and global leading nation that is the America we all know and love.

Rep. Rob Woodall represents Georgia's Seventh Congressional District. He serves on the House Budget and Rules Committees.


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