By Eric Cantor and John Boehner
Standard & Poor's decision to downgrade our creditworthiness is a clarion call to get America's fiscal house in order. The jobs and savings of too many Americans are at stake for Washington to continue ducking the toughest choices.
The American people elected the new House Republican majority with orders to stop Washington from spending money it doesn't have, and we listened. This spring, the House passed a budget that would cut spending by trillions of dollars and encourage private-sector job creation through economic growth -- without raising taxes. Among its key components are tax reforms that broaden the base and lower the rates for everyone, while making the tax code more fair by closing loopholes.
Our budget also included real reforms that preserve and strengthen our insolvent entitlement programs, which are the biggest drivers of our debt. These kinds of reforms are "key to long-term fiscal sustainability," according to S&P's report. Unfortunately, the Democrats running Washington rejected both our budget and a "cut, cap and balance" plan the House passed recently that would also save trillions.
Over the last few months, we tried to persuade President Obama to do something significant to address our debt crisis, on the scale achieved in the House Republican budget. Yet time and again, he and his allies demanded tax increases on families and small businesses, tax increases that would destroy jobs. With nervous markets, unemployment at more than 9% and millions of Americans asking, "Where are the jobs?," the worst thing Washington can do for our economy is raise taxes on the people we need to start hiring again.
The Budget Control Act, recently signed into law after months of hard work, represents a step toward fiscal sanity in Washington, but only a step. It includes spending cuts larger than the increase in the debt limit, real caps to restrain future spending, and no tax increases.
There's certainly no victory lap to be taken, especially when more could have been done. Our hope is S&P's wake-up call will show President Obama and his allies that they can no longer afford to tinker around the edges when it comes to our debt crisis.
Over the next few months, as a result of the Budget Control Act, lawmakers of both parties on the newly formed joint select committee will be in a position to make tough choices to rein in the mandatory and entitlement spending that is driving our long-term debt. We believe this work can be done without imposing job-crushing tax increases. We should be able to move forward on the areas in which we agree on the former, without tying them to areas of disagreement -- such as the latter.
The House and Senate will also consider a constitutional amendment requiring the federal government to balance its budget. Ratification of a balanced-budget amendment would provide greater certainty about our nation's fiscal trajectory over the long haul, helping private sector small-business people -- who are being overwhelmed with uncertainty from Washington -- to plan, invest and get back to creating jobs. That is the type of commitment to fiscal responsibility that S&P and other rating services are looking for.
Of course, out-of-control spending isn't the only Washington-imposed roadblock to job creation. That's why we must dedicate ourselves to pro-growth policies that help create middle-class jobs, make it easier for existing businesses to thrive and allow more start-up companies to flourish. This means easing the tax burden on small businesses and removing burdensome, redundant regulations that impede private sector investment and job creation. It's past time to harness our abundant supply of natural resources in America, develop new sources of energy and create jobs here at home. And we should increase competitiveness for American manufacturers by passing job-creating free trade agreements that would open new markets for American-made goods. All told, at least 10 House-passed jobs bills reflecting some of these reforms are awaiting action in the Democratic-led Senate.
The American people understand that Washington can't keep spending money it doesn't have. They want to see less government -- not more taxes. The Republican majority in the House continues to listen, which is why despite being outnumbered in Washington, these changes are happening incrementally.
Time and again, we have reached out to President Obama in the hope that he would finally be ready to do what is needed to solve our debt crisis and tackle America's job crisis. The offer still stands. Let's get to work.