I have been critical of both Republicans and Democrats in Washington for avoiding the bold steps needed to stop the out-of-control borrowing and spending that has led our nation to the brink of a debt crisis.
How does Washington's vicious debt cycle happen? Think back to the last debt ceiling debate in July 2011 when President Obama asked Congress to raise the debt ceiling by more than $2 trillion. He wanted the additional borrowing authority with no strings attached because America has to borrow money to "pay its bills".
That sounded to me like an excuse to keep spending money we don't have, so I proposed a plan called "Cut, Cap and Balance" to cut current spending, cap future spending, and send a Balanced Budget Amendment to the states before the debt ceiling was raised. A CNN poll showed that two-thirds of Americans supported this as a plan to stop the out-of-control borrowing and spending once and for all, but Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) rejected it and instead cut an eleventh-hour deal with Congressional leaders and the White House.
The "deal" increased the debt ceiling by more than $2 trillion, created a Super Committee, and scheduled automatic across-the-board spending cuts if the Super Committee failed. This deal was a big hit inside the beltway, but Standard & Poor's downgraded the federal government's credit rating a few days after the deal was signed into law, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped by 1,300 points over the next week as well.
Today, 18 months later, we have reached the debt ceiling again but the promised cuts have still not happened. The Super Committee failed to reach an agreement, the subsequent "automatic" cuts were postponed by Congress, America is another $2 trillion in debt, and President Obama is asking for another increase in the debt ceiling with no strings attached because America has to borrow more money to pay its bills.
For too long, Washington politicians in both parties have acted like irresponsible teenagers, maxing out the nation's credit cards in this vicious cycle with no plan on how to pay the bill.
In FY 2012, Washington took in $2.5 trillion and spent $3.8 trillion. That is the same as a family making $50,000 and spending $77,000, putting the remaining $27,000 on their credit card. How long could your family sustain that reckless plan?
I have been working with my colleague Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and a handful of others over the past few months to build support for a plan that would once again try to end the madness. Step one in this plan would require both the House and Senate to pass a budget. If they don't pass a budget, they don't get paid.
"No Budget, No Pay" is a common sense idea with bipartisan support. Congress is already required by federal law to pass a budget, but the current law has no teeth, allowing the Senate to go the past four years without passing a budget. Back to the household analogy, if a family made $50,000 and spent $77,000 this year, and had no plan for what to spend next year, how will they ever get their spending problem under control? We must see Washington's spending plans before we can tackle its spending problem.
Step two requires immediate spending cuts to put us on a path to balance the budget in a few years. Washington has a bad habit of promising spending cuts but never following through. Those of us fighting for fiscal responsibility often feel like Charlie Brown trying to kick the football. We get "promises" of spending cuts in exchange for tax increases, and "promises" of cuts in exchange for debt ceiling increases, but the promised cuts never happen. Lucy always pulls the football away.
This agreement would be different. Cuts must happen first before a long term increase in the debt ceiling. Not ten years from now, but this year.
In exchange for those two steps toward fiscal responsibility, we conservatives will agree to raise the debt ceiling for a few months to give the Senate one last chance to pass a budget.
Had we adopted the Cut, Cap and Balance plan in August 2011, we would be on track to balance the budget in a year or two. But we missed that opportunity and instead, we have $2 trillion more in debt and zero spending cuts to boot.
We cannot continue down the same road that got us in this mess. We cannot continue allowing Washington to make excuses for not tightening its belt and ending its irresponsible spending policies.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Urbana) has represented Ohio's 4th district in Congress since 2007. He serves on the House Judiciary and House Oversight and Government Reform Committees.