Last week, we passed a milestone no one wanted to see: the national debt hit a whopping $16 trillion. And things are getting worse in a hurry; this year's annual budget deficit will exceed $1 trillion - for the fourth consecutive year. No matter where one falls on the political spectrum, this should be cause for alarm and flashing red lights.
Remarkably, there are some who don't feel the sense of urgency. The President sent a proposed budget to Congress earlier this year. It was rejected unanimously. After that, we heard no more about passing a budget, as though this was all perfectly normal. It is not.
The average spending for the past 40 years has been 20.8 percent of GDP. For the past two years, however, federal spending has been 24 percent of GDP; the year before that, it was 25 percent. Not since World War II has our government consumed one out of every four dollars produced by our economy.
This has led to a projected $1.2 trillion deficit for fiscal year 2012. In fiscal year 2011, the federal budget deficit was $1.3 trillion.
This has put us on the path to national bankruptcy. Unless we get our financial house in order, we won't be able to make good on the promises our society has made: Social Security and Medicare for senior citizens, jobs for working Americans, education and future opportunities for our children.
There is only one path out of this mess: a return to strong economic growth, accompanied by fiscal responsibility from Washington. Instead, we see resistance to responsible restraints on spending and calls for higher taxes on small businesses. This has predictable consequences. Businesses are discouraged from investing in new jobs and growth, and the 23 million Americans who are jobless or underemployed stay exactly where they are.
We cannot just stumble along, hoping it will get better. And the answer cannot be to continue to raise the debt ceiling. Two increases have taken it from $14.3 trillion in 2011 to $15.2 trillion in 2012 and now to $16.4 trillion. We will hit the current cap in just a few months. In fact, there isn't a debt limit; just continued requests from the White House to borrow more without addressing the core problem - spending.
We need a credible, comprehensive plan to rein in spending and balance the budget. Remarkably, Congress has not passed a budget in three years. The Democrats who control the Senate have not even offered one to vote on.
Along with long-term spending restraint, we must replace our complicated tax code, which has stifled growth by disproportionately burdening small businesses - the engines of our economy. Our corporate tax rate now holds the dubious honor of being the highest in the world, putting our companies at a global disadvantage. We can only energize our economy with tax reforms based on fairer, flatter, lower rates. But tax reform, too, has been put on the back burner in Washington.
There is disagreement between the two political parties about how to deal with our nation's finances. But we must come to an agreement to save the American economy. After this November's elections, before it is too late, Congress and the White House must act to get our fiscal house in order.