In the early 1990s, I lost my job in a corporate merger. After 48 hours of feeling sorry for myself, I woke up, made a pot of coffee with my wife and drew a line down the middle of a piece of paper. On one side was the money we had coming in; on the other, how we were going to spend it.
At a time of chronically high unemployment and slow economic growth, there is no question in my mind that there are many families going through this exercise all across our region. Those families have every reason to expect their federal government to do the same.
Instead, Washington has spent like there is no tomorrow on the theory that government borrowing would make us rich. Starting with President Barack Obama's failed stimulus back in 2009, the federal government has borrowed over $1 trillion annually. The effects of that failed policy are all around us. On Thursday, House Republicans offered our solution by passing a budget that cuts spending, balances within 10 years, and does not raise taxes.
Some have questioned whether 10 years is too long. Why not balance the budget now? The short answer is that we are in too big a mess to immediately balance the budget. The federal government is borrowing almost 30 percent of what it spends annually. Balancing the budget immediately would require either 30 percent cuts to all areas of government spending, including Social Security and Medicare benefits, or a massive tax increase on everybody, not just "the rich." There is zero support in Congress or among the public for either of these actions.
Many congressional Democrats say it is impossible to balance the budget through spending cuts. They clamor for higher taxes even before the ink is dry on their last round of tax increases. Since January, income taxes have gone up for many of the small businesses that create jobs, every worker's paycheck has shrunk due to the payroll tax increase, and over $1 trillion in new taxes from the Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare," have begun to kick in.
Yet Senate Democrats have introduced a reckless, irresponsible budget that calls for another $1.5 trillion tax hike to pay for even more Washington spending; and it never balances.
Hard-working Americans are taxed enough already; it is the politicians spending the people's money who need to learn self-control.
Balancing the budget is much more than an accounting exercise; it is essential for a strong economy. The out-of-control debt we have now damages job creation and guarantees future tax hikes. In a weak economy saddled with high debt, job creators are hesitant to invest in their businesses, leading to fewer opportunities, particularly for young people entering the job market.
Seniors will also be harmed if we continue to spend so much money we do not have. In a debt crisis, the federal government would be hard pressed to keep commitments made to current and future retirees. Our plan protects Medicare and Social Security for those in or near retirement, and saves these programs from bankruptcy so they will be there for future generations.
The House Republican budget is a responsible proposal that takes seriously America's greatest challenge. I support it on behalf of my parents who depend on promises made by their government, my kids and their peers who are seeking jobs, and my grandkids who deserve to inherit a debt-free America.