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Weekly Column: Uncle Sam's Credit Card


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President Obama said in his 2010 State of the Union address that, "if we don't take meaningful steps to rein in our debt, it could damage our markets, increase the cost of borrowing, and jeopardize our recovery - all of which would have an even worse effect on our job growth and family incomes."

I agree with that sentiment. The President and Congressional leaders should be talking every day, multiple times per day, trying to resolve this fiscal situation. But fortunately those conversations have been slow to happen. It wasn't until last week, when the government had been shut down for nearly two weeks, that President Obama began sitting down with Congressional leaders to help solve some of the fiscal issues we are facing as a nation.

Last Friday I participated in a meeting with President Obama and Senate Republicans. We discussed two of the most pressing fiscal issues facing Congress right now. The first is finding a way to fund the federal government and the second is dealing with our nation's debt limit.

News coverage has focused on the government shutdown, but another deadline -- one that could have more serious consequences -- is approaching. The U.S. Treasury is expected to exhaust its borrowing capacity this month. Once that happens, America will no longer be able to borrow more money to pay our bills on time unless Congress acts to increase our nation's debt limit, the amount of debt we can legally hold.

Respected economists predict that a failure to increase that limit would harm our markets and economy. I'd like to avoid a default and the consequences that come with it, but I know that we are on an unsustainable fiscal path right now. Our debt is around $17 trillion, and the nation has been running record annual budget deficits. This past year was the first time during President Obama's tenure that we have not surpassed a trillion dollar deficit. One reason 2013 broke that abysmal trend was because of the Budget Control Act, which I supported.

It's important to note that the Budget Control Act was part of a debt limit increase, so the idea of including reform initiatives with a debt limit change is certainly not a new concept.

The only way to get out of this death spiral is through immediate spending reform. Then we can finally stop continually raising Uncle Sam's credit card limit.

At one point, the President apparently agreed. Then-Senator Obama said raising the debt limit "weakens us domestically and internationally." That was in 2006 when the debt was under $9 trillion dollars compared to almost $17 trillion today. I wonder what Senator Obama would say about President Obama's fiscal record.

Like many Americans, I'm sick and tired of the last minute budget brinksmanship. Also, like most Americans, I'm sick and tired of the government spending beyond its means.

There is no reason we cannot solve both of these problems -- ending the fiscal stalemate, while also curtailing the government's excessive borrowing and spending spree.

The debt limit has been raised more than 50 times since 1978 and roughly half of those debt limit increases were paired with reforms. Just this past weekend the Senate rejected a plan to increase the debt limit without making any reforms.

It's hogwash to say insisting upon having a discussion about fixing our nation's fiscal house is out-of-line. The only thing that is out-of-line is federal spending and our nation's debt.

We should not fail on our debt obligations and we should not fail the next generation by refusing to address the way the government spends beyond its means.

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