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No more can we hope for a 1936 New Deal or a 1964 Great Society renaissance. No, this must be fixed from the top down, and the bottom up. We will all share in its pain.

We have spent more money in the first decade of the 21st century than during all of the decades since this nation’s founding combined. And what do we have to show for it?

One in six Americans still faces hunger each day. One in eight lives in poverty, while the number of Americans living in extreme poverty (those with incomes below half the poverty line) is more than 17 million — the highest level on record since data first became available in 1975.

Despite these dire numbers, every year, Congress adds more programs in the War on Poverty. Are we any better? The numbers prove otherwise.

My point here is that no government program alone can ever hope to solve what ails us as a people. And until we stop putting our faith, and our dollars, into those hands, we will continue in this whirlpool of debt.

The nation’s governors will lead the way to austerity. Already, state CEOs such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, are squaring off against state bureaucrats and worker unions, worried their perennial salaries and bloated size are only exacerbating attempts to trim budgets.

There’s even talk from state Democrats of doing the same. Just look at New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is staring at the reality of unsustainable deficits and recognizing he, too, must trim the Empire State’s public work force.

Party labels don’t hold the same sway at the state level as they do in Washington, because at the end of the day, these office holders must clear their ledger books of the red ink. They can’t simply print more money, or move items “off-budget” and pledge to deal with them at a later date.

At the same time, governors are increasingly wary of heading to Washington with their hats in hand and asking for federal bailouts. They recognize additional “stimulus” funds such as enhanced Medicaid dollars and other federal infusions only tie the states to more mandates. Further, the federal dollars cloud the true fiscal health of each state, elevating baselines of budgets in one year and raising expectations from the state electorate those same dollars will be there again in subsequent years.

Simply put, we are entering a new reality — the Reality of Austerity. Our government must heed the call of the electorate from this past November and force itself to lay off the pork, decrease the bloat, stopping making promises it has no way to fund, get its checkbook balanced, and save for when the economy isn’t booming.

If we learned anything in the first decade of the new millennium, it’s that we truly can’t have our cake and eat it, too; we cannot spend as if tomorrow will be as fruitful as today. Instead of “whatever the cost” and “whatever it takes,” we must start planning and implementing long-term budgets and solutions and stick to them rather than falsely believing short-term growth is here to stay in perpetuity.

This second decade will be rougher than the first, much less the ‘80s and ‘90s, but if we can adhere to this rediscovered fiscal discipline, we will come out better and stronger than ever.

Armstrong Williams is on Sirius/XM Power 169, 7-8 p.m. and 4-5 a.m., Monday through Friday. Become a fan on Facebook at and follow him on Twitter at