A Breath of Fresh Air: Bringing Fiscal Restraint to the Federal Budget Process
By Representative Marsha Blackburn
One of the annual rites of spring for Congress is the debate and passage of a federal budget.
While the debate is spirited and robust, all too often the focus is on spending increases rather than reductions. There are a million causes and an equal number of organizations dedicated to procuring more Federal dollars for their issue of concern.
Fortunately, a committed network of fiscal conservatives like me strongly support a budget that imposes across the board cuts in discretionary spending. This year I offered three bills to speed the process to balanced budgets and require a government-wide reevaluation of spending practices. My proposals included one percent, two percent, and five percent across the board reductions in all non-defense, non-homeland security discretionary spending. The five percent cut would save us $20 billion in a single year. This would be a great start. I believe every member of Congress should be able to support at least some level of spending reduction. After all, it is your money that is being spent.
These cuts would not have affected Social Security and Medicare, nor would they have targeted defense, but we would have asked agency after agency to do with less.
My proposals have helped move debate towards a question of how much to cut rather than whether to cut at all. The September 11th attacks, the war on terror, the costs of creating and implementing a homeland security plan largely from scratch, and a recession have all contributed to a budget crunch, but we have the power to balance America's budget by tightening our belt and consistently reducing what we spend.
Over the course of the past year, I have held hearing after hearing in which agencies reported to Congress that they were over budget or that their accounting system was incapable of tracking the taxpayer dollars they had been appropriated. We have heard, time after time, that several agencies are performing the same tasks and all with little to no measurable results.
There is enormous waste, fraud, and abuse in the system. Developing an orderly process where Congress appropriates less, implements performance-based outcome requirements, and accounts for every dollar beginning with the first dollar is the way we will get this problem under control. Reducing the amount of money appropriated sends the most powerful message possible.
Our state has reduced spending and it has not brought about the end of the world as some argued. Proposals such as one, two, and five percent spending reductions are good for Tennessee and they are good for America.