While the debt-ceiling battle continues to rage in Washington, closed-door meetings and last-minute deadlines have become the hallmark of the debate. Congress is staring down an Aug. 2 deadline that would mark the first time the U.S. would not make good on its promise to pay the bills.
Since 1940, Congress has increased the debt ceiling 95 times. The last 10 times the U.S. borrowing limit has been raised, the average increase was $799 billion. It is clear this is an unsustainable pattern.
However, instead of continuing to increase our borrowing level, which we fail to pay back, we have the opportunity to pass systemic changes once and for all to make this the last debt-ceiling debate America will ever have.
By the end of this year, our national debt will overtake the size of the entire U.S. economy for the first time in history, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
In less than two years, President Obama has added more than $3.7 trillion to our national debt. It previously took the U.S. from the birth of our nation until 1992 to accumulate this much debt. In fact, under Mr. Obama’s proposed 2012 budget, our debt would increase to a record $25.7 trillion by 2021. Not only did Mr. Obama’s proposed budget fail to address entitlement reform, it was so fiscally irresponsible that it received zero votes in the Senate. This is not a serious approach, nor is it leadership.
It could not be clearer that our current fiscal path is a recipe for a debt catastrophe. Even Mr. Obama’s own debt commission has called the impending debt disaster “the most predictable economic crisis in history.” Our situation is too serious, and our time is too short to continue to play games, wring our hands or even protect our political careers.
In an effort to stem the tide of our impending crisis and ensure that this is the last time the U.S. breaches its borrowing limit, I have joined colleagues in both the House and Senate in advocating for a “cut, cap, balance” proposal.
The premise of this three-tier plan is simple.
First, we must cut spending immediately. The cuts should include both discretionary and mandatory spending reductions and reduce the deficit by half next year. According to projections from the CBO, this would require spending cuts around $380 billion in the 2012 fiscal year. However, one-time spending cuts are not enough. We must create a permanent solution to the spending curve.
Next, we must cap spending. We need statutory, enforceable caps to federal spending that decrease the amount we spend to match our average revenues of 18 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). Automatic spending reductions also must be in place, should government spending exceed the GDP. Washington does not have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem.
Third, not only do we need cuts, we need systemic changes. This is why I, along with Sen. Mike Lee, Utah Republican, have proposed an amendment to the Constitution that requires Congress to balance its budget every year. This balanced-budget amendment would limit federal spending to no more than 18 percent of GDP and would require a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress to increase taxes. Time and again, Congress has proved it cannot be trusted to spend less than our federal revenue each fiscal year. This is a bold step that must be included to hold government accountable to the people.
Mr. Obama and congressional Democrats seem to have given up on creating solutions to our debt crisis. While they continue to sit on the sidelines, we sink further and further into debt. We owe it to our children and future generations to quickly embrace a common-sense strategy of major spending cuts and budget reforms to save our country and our future.
We must oppose any debt-limit increase without substantial spending cuts, enforceable caps on spending and a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution.
This is our opportunity to send a message to the world: America is serious about our debt. We will not become Greece, Portugal, Ireland or Spain. We can avert this disaster if our rhetoric does not trump our reality. Our solutions must go beyond smoke and mirrors; they must be real and genuine.
If we enact a cut, cap, balance approach to solving our debt crisis, this will be the last time we allow out-of-control spending to remain our status quo. If we enact cut, cap, balance, this will be the final vote we will ever need to take on the debt ceiling.
Addressing our debt crisis will take sacrifice, but it is one I am willing to make to save this country so future generations don’t sacrifice even more. We need to fight to save our country, because America is worth fighting for.
Rep. David Schweikert is an Arizona Republican.