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One Thousand Days


Location: Washington, DC

Let's say your first child had been born April 29, 2009. Having a child is a major life-changing event, especially for your wallet. According to the latest statistics from the Department of Agriculture, yearly expenses for a child are around $10,000, varying by income level. What if you had that child and then never changed your family budget? What if you just put everything on the credit card for 1,000 days?

Most Americans who did this would quickly find themselves in a financial hole with bankruptcy as the only option. If the federal government were a family, that family would make $65,400 a year, spend $105,600 a year, and have more than $435,000 in credit card debt.

April 29, 2009 was the last time that the United States Senate passed a budget. Since that time, General Motors declared bankruptcy, the massive Affordable Care Act rewrote health care law, and Apple introduced the iPad. Apple is now on the cusp of introducing the third version of this device.

Certainly, the government has continued to run for the past three years, so why do we need a budget? In 1974, Congress passed the Budget Act. This established a two-stage system for funding the federal government. At the beginning of the year, the House and Senate Budget Committees meet and introduce a budget resolution. This document lays out a plan for the upcoming fiscal year and at least the following four fiscal years.

After the House and Senate pass their respective resolutions, they are supposed to enter into a conference and then pass a unified budget to govern both chambers. This budget then sets boundaries for the Appropriations Committees as they perform the detailed work of spending taxpayer dollars.

For nearly three years now, Congress has been operating without a unified budget plan, even as spending and deficits have skyrocketed. In 2010, for the first time since passage of the Budget Act, neither the House nor the Senate passed a budget resolution. The deficit for fiscal year 2010 was more than $1.2 trillion.

The United States government finds itself in a very difficult situation. Imagine that you own an older house. Right now you can make the payments and pay for the maintenance. But what if knew that the roof would need new shingles next year? What if the entire electrical system would need to be refurbished the year after that? You would have to either make more money or find savings in order to pay for all these things.

Right now, we know that essential programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will cost more ten years from now than they cost today. We know that the taxes established to pay for these programs will not be able to pay for these increased costs.

Ignoring our budget problems won't make them go away. When Republicans took over the House last year, one of our top priorities was passing a budget that would plan for the long term.

We passed a fiscal year 2012 budget that established a plan to put us back on the path to a balanced budget and to paying down our national debt. This plan called for reforms to Medicare that would only affect individuals 55 or younger. The Democratic response to this plan was a cry that Republicans were "ending Medicare" and ads showing an actor who looked very much like House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan pushing an elderly woman off the cliff.

PolitiFact, the non-partisan fact-checking website, dubbed this claim the "Lie of the Year" for 2011. It might end of being the lie of the year for 2012 also. I fully expect that the claim will be repeated in Congressional campaigns across the country.

Why has there been no Senate Budget for 1,000 days? Because there are no easy solutions. A budget is supposed to plan past the next election, but too many Senators are only thinking about their next campaign. They want to avoid uncomfortable questions at town hall meetings.

We're putting a lot of our federal expenses on the credit card. That bill is going to come due. Unfortunately, there is no simple bankruptcy procedure for the world's largest economy. Fixing our problems will take courage, it will take honesty, and it will take cooperation.

House Republicans will again put a budget on paper this year. We need our Senate counterparts to do the same. We can only compromise and move forward when both chambers participate in the process.

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