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2010-06-18 digital edition

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2010-06-18 / General Stories

We Must Budget and Pay for Priorities & Stop the Deficit Spending

National Debt Hits a Staggering $13 Trillion
By U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison

In a June 8 letter to the leaders of the federal agencies, top White House officials wrote, “The American people deserve a government that spends every taxpayer dollar with as much care as taxpayers spend their own dollars.” Few would disagree that the federal government owes it to the public to be fiscally responsible. However, if taxpayers actually followed the budget-busting example being set by Congress, American families would be living far beyond their means. This year alone, the federal government is borrowing 40 cents out of every dollar it spends, and it is spending 67 percent more than it is earning. If Americans followed suit, a household with an income of $62,000 would spend as if it were earning $105,000. Adopting the government’s habits, it would not take Americans long to become perilously buried in debt and facing financial ruin.

Out-of-control spending has put the United States in a tenuous economic position. The national public debt hit an historical $13 trillion dollars in May. In pursuit of its costly and damaging big government agenda, the Obama administration has increased the total public debt by $2 trillion - an increase of 23 percent - in just 16 months. If the spending continues at its present rate, at the end of Obama’s first term, he will have added an additional $6 trillion to the public debt.

In an effort to staunch the deficit spending, Congress passed a “pay as you go” mandate in January, requiring lawmakers to pay for what they spend. However, since the enactment of “pay as you go,” Congressional leaders have skirted their own rule by designating spending projects as “emergency” and allowing them to be added to the deficit, rather than backed up by existing assets. A whopping $1.094 trillion in “emergency” spending has been pushed through this Congress, including the so-called Stimulus bill. This is on top of a new report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office stating the health care bill is expected to cost $115 billion more than the administration initially claimed.

And there is no end in sight. Congress is now considering legislation that will add even more to our growing debt. Many of the initiatives in this bill are important, such as increasing physicians’ reimbursement for treating Medicare patients. But if there are truly national priorities that need to be addressed, we should find a way to budget and pay for them by cutting back in other areas - just as American families must budget and pay for their priority spending items.

As the bill stands now, it will add almost $79 billion to our deficit over the next ten years and includes provisions that are job-killing tax increases on small businesses. Republicans are seeking fiscally responsible solutions to extend critical programs in a way that will not add to our country’s $13 trillion national debt.

We must get our financial house in order - even if that means tough choices - before we do far-reaching and long-term damage to our nation’s economic security. We need only to look across the Atlantic to see the effects of protracted deficit spending. European countries like Greece, Spain, Ireland, and Portugal that have long lived beyond their means are in such states of debt that the value of the euro is plunging and threatening the stability of global markets.

It is foolish to think that America can continue to borrow at this accelerated rate and not face the same fiscal consequences. It is time for common sense to be introduced to the President and Congressional leaders. What’s most unfortunate is that, even as so many Americans keep a close rein on their finances, they will still be on the hook for the federal government’s spending spree. At our present debt level, every man, woman, and child would have to pay $42,000 each to pay off our nation’s financial obligations - that is a burden that Americans do not deserve.

Kay Bailey Hutchison is the senior U.S. Senator from Texas and is the Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

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