Weatherford Democrat

Columns

August 10, 2011

Debt ceiling agreement: step in right direction, more steps needed to balance budget

WEATHERFORD — The debt ceiling agreement recently passed by Congress and signed into law by the President, while not perfect, is a step in the right direction. Sensible spending cuts, not tax increases, are the right path to a balanced budget. Here’s the quick outline of the plan:

The agreement will cut nearly $1 trillion in federal spending during the next ten years. It also sets up a joint Congressional committee to recommend between $1 and 2 trillion in additional cuts. The Committee’s recommendations must be finalized by November 23rd and must be approved or disapproved by Congress before December 23rd, or $1.2 trillion in across-the-board cuts would be triggered, starting in 2013. The only alternative to across-the-board spending cuts is Congressional approval of the Balanced Budget Amendment, which would require Congress and the White House to balance the federal budget.

I am a cosponsor of the Cut, Cap, and Balance legislation, which includes the Balanced Budget Amendment. It would reduce federal spending by as much as $6 trillion dollars over 10 years.  Unfortunately, it did not pass the Senate. I believe this legislation would have best served our Nation’s long-term economic and national security interests. The final debt limit agreement, although more limited in scope, is a step in the right direction. The agreement rejects the tax-and-spend policies advocated by the White House and Democrat-controlled Senate, and takes constructive steps in the direction of fiscal responsibility.

When the debt ceiling debate began several months ago, President Barack Obama called for a “clean” debt ceiling bill. This would have given the Obama administration a blank check to raise the national debt and increase spending by trillions of dollars. It would have enabled the administration to follow through on its stated intention to finance its continued spending spree by boosting taxes to the highest levels in modern American history. Fortunately, America’s common sense prevailed. Faced with a wave of opposition from across the county, the U.S. Senate unanimously rejected the Obama budget plan (97-0).

After months of political posturing and maneuvering aimed at increasing spending and taxes, the White House and its Congressional allies finally succumbed to fiscal responsibility on August 2nd, with approval of an historic new agreement. The new legislation marks the end of automatic debt limit increases. It has no tax increases. Instead, a new precedent has been created that will require the president and Congress to offset increased federal borrowing with spending cuts that are at least dollar-for-dollar match.

When President Obama was sworn into office, the national debt stood at $10.6 trillion – a stratospheric level. During only two and a half years of the Obama presidency, the national debt has risen to more than $14.3 trillion. This almost inconceivable level of national debt is a heavy anchor on the American economy. It has stalled the job creation engine of our country and brought us to the brink of a double-dip recession.

This mountain of debt, combined with a tidal wave of bureaucratic federal regulations and the impending multi-trillion dollar costs of implementing Obama health care reform, has stalled job creation and economic growth in our country. Instead of economic recovery, the Obama administration’s policies have increased unemployment by nearly one-fifth. Nearly one American in ten is unemployed today. The same policies have doubled the cost of gasoline, seen the number of Americans on food stamps swell to 45 million, and allowed home values to drop by 12 percent.

On August 2nd, the debt ceiling agreement signaled an end to the status quo in Washington, D.C. Calls for fiscal responsibility from across Texas and across America are being translated into action. The thinking in Congress and in the White House has begun to change from “how much can we spend, and how much can we raise taxes,” to “how much do we need to spend, and what should be cut.”

Kay Bailey Hutchison is the senior U.S. Senator from Texas.

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