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COLUMN: You Balance Your Family’s Budget – The Federal Budget Should Balance Too

February 27, 2015
Weekly Column and Op-Ed
By Rep. Dan Newhouse

Imagine if someone used a credit card, but instead of their own name, your children’s names were on the card.

It sounds absurd: no right thinking person would consign their children to pay debts they had no choice in incurring.

Yet that is how the federal government operates when it comes to borrowing money from your children and grandchildren to spend today.

Our national debt has grown to $18 trillion. To put that number in perspective, the total U.S. economic output last year was $17.7 trillion. That's roughly $56,000 of debt for every man, woman, and child living in the country at this moment.

Earlier this year, President Obama offered a budget proposal to Congress that never balances. Ever.

The fiscal situation may look grim, but does that mean we should throw in the towel and give up on spending restraint and fiscal responsibility? No, it is our obligation to ensure we do not leave the next generation straddled in debt.

I am optimistic that we can make progress, but the biggest challenge will be to change the mindset that the national debt is insurmountable and efforts to put our fiscal house in order are impossible.

Reining in the federal debt is not a partisan issue. A broad majority of Americans are united in consistently supporting a requirement to balance the federal budget.

Americans understand that the stakes are simply too high not to try to rein in federal spending.

In 2011, then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Admiral Mike Mullen said, “I believe the single, biggest threat to our national security is our debt, so I also believe we have every responsibility to help eliminate that threat.”

The ever-expanding national debt threatens to swamp Social Security and Medicare. High levels of debt also risk our nation's credit rating and economic growth.

We must start somewhere.

As the ancient proverb reads, 'a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.'

It may be a long road, but the near success of previous efforts has shown that progress is far from impossible. Almost 20 years ago on March 2nd, 1995, a balanced budget amendment failed by a single vote in the U.S. Senate - when the federal deficit was a paltry $5 trillion.

Congress must take positive steps forward. That's why I co-sponsored resolutions requiring a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution that would prohibit Congress from spending more than it receives in revenue, place a cap on annual federal spending, and impose a three-fifths supermajority vote requirement to increase the debt limit or raise taxes.

A Balanced Budget Amendment would be a single step in the right direction. Additional steps include prioritizing federal spending, promoting efficiency through reform, and keeping the government operating within its proper role.

Common sense may not come easily in Washington, D.C., and it may take time and some convincing, but I am confident that rational people of goodwill can come together to begin to turn the tide of debt.