Lakeland Ledger - Americans Deserve Real Solutions

Op-Ed

By:  Dennis Ross
Date: Feb. 25, 2013
Location: Lakeland, FL

By Dennis Ross

In just a few days, mandatory, across-the-board federal-government spending cuts will take effect. These cuts are often referred to as the sequester.

The president initially proposed the sequester in 2011. Congress voted on the legislation. I voted no because the bill tasked a "super committee" with finding the cuts and I didn't want to leave these major cuts up to just a few people.

After the bill unfortunately passed, I voted twice to replace the sequester and also introduced a bill that would get our spending under control. Americans deserve the simple truth, real facts, real solutions and genuine accountability.

These across-the-board cuts will affect all agencies, including the Department of Defense. A lot of entitlement spending such as Social Security and Medicaid will not be cut.

The sequester will eliminate $85 billion from our budget for 2013 and $1.1 trillion throughout the next decade. While this sounds like a lot of money (and it is a lot of money), it is only 2 percent of the annual bloated federal budget.

I don't think the question is whether or not we should cut spending. Rather, I think the question is, "What do we cut?"

As the sequester stands, we are allowing many important programs to be on the same chopping block alongside duplicative-and-wasteful programs.

Across-the-board cuts are both inefficient and irresponsible. It's time politicians did their job. I believe in carefully targeted cuts, starting with the billions of dollars of waste. Let's go through the budget line-by-line, dollar-by-dollar and make real cuts.

Our government is oozing with waste. Our good tax dollars are being thrown at projects with little known benefits.

Did you know that we spent $750,000 to build a soccer field in Guantanamo Bay for terrorists? Or that we spent $27 million on Moroccan pottery classes to improve the economic competitiveness of Morocco, in which the instructor used materials not available locally, and the translator for the classes was not fluent in English? Or that more than $115 billion was improperly paid to those who weren't entitled to the benefits or who didn't provide proper documentation for it from this government in just one year?

All of this money comes from our pockets.

While we're allowing this waste to continue unchecked, many workers have already been given notice that they will be furloughed. The Department of Defense projects that 31,000 Floridian civilians will be furloughed because of the sequester. These workers could include first responders, medical employees and teachers. This is disastrous for families and bad for Florida.

Let's rectify this situation. The House has passed legislation that would make targeted cuts to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse so that important, essential government programs will not lose funding.

I also introduced a bill that would require every department and agency of the federal government to start from zero each year and justify each item on their budget. Families are frequently reassessing their spending. The government should too.

If a program is only needed for one year, we should not be funding it for any longer than that. This is a bipartisan idea that was suggested by the president's Bowles-Simpson Commission.

Once we target waste and inefficient spending to alleviate the ill effects of the sequester that will take effect Friday, we should implement my Zero-Based Budgeting Act.

We should not jeopardize our national security and our children's education in order to preserve programs that are wasteful-and-duplicative. While making necessary cuts is never easy, we must act to preserve our future.

The American people not only demand and deserve transparency in the appropriation process, but they also demand and deserve that we be prudent and fiscally responsible in making sure we operate and appropriate within our means.