- - Thursday, May 7, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

This week, Congress approved its first balanced 10-year budget since 2001, which represented an important step toward putting our country on not just another course, but a better course. This balanced budget represents a “lean in” moment for a Congress under new management, to confront rapidly growing deficits borne from our government’s habitual overspending, which plagues America and its taxpayers.

Make no mistake, America faces difficult odds as we work to steer our ship of state to more sustainable and fiscally responsible waters. Even as we take in record revenues and taxes, our nation is still unable to live within its means. There is no question that balancing a budget is a daunting task — last year our nation overspent by $468 billion, which if left unchecked is set to rise to almost $1 trillion in a single year.

Yet in his most recent budget released earlier this year, President Obama proposed a plan that never balances, includes a $2.1 trillion tax increase and still adds $8.5 trillion to the national debt. The Senate recently voted on his budget and rejected it 99 to 1, because this is an unsustainable financial path. If Congress did what every American family has to do — live within our means — we would have to cut our annual discretionary spending in half.

The new leadership in the United States Senate is committed to getting back to work, which will allow us to begin rebuilding the trust of hardworking Americans. Instead of allowing political points and partisan gridlock to take precedence over responsible governing, we are once again doing the people’s business.

Americans, who work everyday to provide for their families and pay their taxes, understand that it’s time for the federal government to live within its means, just like they do.

Just imagine if these families spent and borrowed like the federal government. This would mean a family with a median family income of $52,000 would spend $61,000 a year. The family would then add an additional $9,000 to the $311,000 they already owe on their credit cards.

American families know they can’t live on borrowed money, and neither can the federal government. This balanced budget shows these families that if they can do it, so can we.

It is important to note that a balanced budget will also help make our government more efficient, effective and accountable. If government programs are not delivering results, they should be improved, and if they are not needed, they should be eliminated. This agreement between the Senate and House will help Congress prioritize and demand results from our government programs.

There is no doubt that this will be challenging for every single member of Congress. I believe we are up to the task, because the American people are counting on us. But they will not wait forever.

Currently, lawmakers in 27 states have passed applications for a convention to approve a balanced budget amendment and new applications in nine other states are close behind.

If just seven of these nine states move forward on the balanced budget issue, it would bring the total number of applications to 34 states. This would meet the two-thirds requirement under Article V of the Constitution and force Congress to take action.

Our budget is not perfect, but it is a start. It provides Congress and the nation with a fiscal blueprint that challenges lawmakers to examine every dollar we spend. These important steps, and others still to come, show Congress is back working for the American people to deliver on the promise of a government that is more accountable. This is something each and every American expects and deserves from its leaders here in Washington.

Mike Enzi is a Republican member of the U.S. Senate from Wyoming and chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.


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