To state the obvious, federal spending matters.
It drives the need for federal taxes. When federal taxes don’t pay for all the government we use, deficits occur. And a deficit is nothing more than a deferred tax – the bill will get paid, it’s just handed to the next generation.
Our nation’s debt is the cumulative total of these deficits and now stands at more than $20 trillion.
I raise these points because we just took a big vote on the budget. Certainly this budget was a different one, given that it was in many respects nothing more than a vehicle to get us to tax reform, but it was still a budget. It had real significance in signaling which way Congress intends to go on the larger issue of spending. So allow me to delve down on this issue, since I voted no on this budget, and because I believe it’s important to people here at home in the First District.
Process matters. The Founding Fathers recognized that there was accountability with elections – the more frequently they occurred, the greater the accountability. It’s for this reason that all bills raising taxes have to originate in the House. Given this, why would it make sense to simply defer to the Senate on the budget? It spends your money and ultimately drives the need for more taxes.
Normally, we would negotiate between the House and Senate versions – in this case, we simply took the Senate budget. Could we have not tried for one week to include some of the taxpayer savings the House included? One week wouldn’t doom tax reform.
We shouldn’t abandon what we believe to get what we want. Many of us want tax reform, but does financial discipline have to be sacrificed in getting there? I thought Republicans were the party of lower taxes … and less spending.
We may certainly delay things we believe in getting to things we want, but there is a point beyond which deferral becomes inaction. And I think that the Senate budget represented that tipping point.
Numbers matter. Republicans and conservatives have always talked about government living within its means – but actions speak louder than words.
The House budget at least attempted movement in that direction with, for instance, $203 billion in mandatory spending cuts. This type of cut would have represented the first such effort in the last 13 years.
The Senate budget reduced that number to $1 billion. In a proposed federal budget of about $53 trillion over the next decade, $1 billion is less than two one-thousandths of a percent of $53 trillion, which is hardly a serious attempt to cut spending.
The House’s cuts were not as robust as I would have liked … but at least represented a small start to addressing that which is unaddressed in Washington.
Balance matters. The House budget balanced over 10 years. In contrast, the Senate budget proposed never balancing. Never. Ever. Is that conservative? On that proposition alone, you have to ask yourself what is the principle we stand for here on financial matters?
Republicans decried former President Obama’s budget and its proposal to never balance, and accordingly, we can’t say one thing and do another on the importance of balance in our federal books.
Deficits matter. The Senate budget proposed raising the deficit next year by $147 billion. Watch that number closely. I fear you will see a December budget deal numbers that include this new guide slope.
We are moving on tax reform and I have worked to that end, but this budget represented a missed opportunity on spending restraint. We could have insisted on something here rather than continuing the well-worn track of deferral on spending restraint.
The old saying is “if not now, then when” – and so it goes with curbing Washington’s plans to get into your checkbook.
Rep. Mark Sanford represents the First District of South Carolina in Congress.