The Journal Gazette
Monday, August 05, 2019 1:00 am

Spending solutions

It's not too late to avert disastrous budget deal

Jim Banks

Like an irresponsible spendthrift, the federal government spends more than it takes in each year, sending the country into an endless spiral of debt.

And Congress keeps letting it happen.

Envision someone who has a hefty mortgage, goes on extravagant vacations, eats at fancy restaurants and has expensive hobbies – but doesn't bring in enough income to cover his lifestyle. Each year, he says he will change. But when it comes to cutting any area of his lifestyle, he refuses. “I just have to have it,” he says.

He cites neighbors' spending habits as his justification.

Before long, this individual becomes worried. He is worried about missing payments on his bills – bills he could've easily paid if not for his rampant spending. So he goes to the bank to take out a loan.

Should the loan officer approve his request?

Absolutely not. It would be a breach of his duty to his employer. The loan officer would tell him to get out of debt and live within his means.

In this case, the spendthrift is the federal government, the loan officer is Congress and the American taxpayer is the poorly served bank.

The House recently missed an opportunity to tell the federal government to get out of debt and live within its means.

Instead, the House signaled it will green-light another loan funded by taxpayers and their children. The Senate did the same on Thursday.

According to the New York Times, the government's deficit is approaching $1 trillion a year. Net interest payments on the debt are estimated to be $393.5 billion this fiscal year, and in the next 10 years will surpass our nation's total defense spending ($738 billion). And the total national debt stands just above $22 trillion, which is larger than our country's gross domestic product.

But leaders in our Capitol do not seem to care. They have said it is OK for the government to keep borrowing for two more years, scheduling a showdown for after the 2020 elections.

It's not as if we are lacking anyone proposing solutions. As chairman of the Republican Study Committee Budget and Spending Task Force, I led a team of eight colleagues in writing the budget released by the Republican Study Committee in May. It is the fiscally conservative budget Americans have been demanding; it outlines how we can cut trillions in wasteful spending and start the overdue task of paying down our $22 trillion national debt. And of course, our national budget would be balanced by 2025, meaning we would spend as much as we take in.

Even the president's proposed budget restored fiscal sanity.

If President Donald Trump had his way, we'd have a balanced budget by 2035. But to pass that measure, it needed Democratic support, and ultimately his original plan got scrapped. The president is between a rock and a hard place deciding whether to sign this bill or hurt our military, but I appreciate that he gave me his word in the Oval Office recently that he will join us and fight the non-stop spending in year five.

While it's no fun giving up an accustomed lifestyle, it is part of being a responsible adult. Families across the country make tough budgetary decisions every day. Why should our government be any different?

It's not too late. Congress hasn't written the check yet. Passage of the budget deal is only the first step toward writing the check. The next fight is in September, when Congress will deliberate appropriations packages. Appropriations is the process of individually funding each federal agency. When Congress passes the appropriation packages, that's when the money is forked over. There is still time!

In June, I proposed an amendment that would implement 14% cuts to non-defense, discretionary spending in House appropriations bills. My amendments, eight in all, failed. But as the Senate considers appropriations, they can feel free to implement the 14% cuts.

Taxpayers should tell their representatives in Congress how they feel. Do you believe the federal government deserves another loan?

If they don't listen, it's time to fire the loan officer.

Jim Banks, a Republican, represents Indiana's 3rd District in the U.S. House.

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