Control Spending and Restrain Government

America’s massive, ever-accumulating debts are the symptom of a problem we can—if we choose to do so—get under control: growth in government. Smart budget cuts and reforms now will enable the economy to grow faster in the future than if Congress continues to procrastinate. But the window for making those decisions is closing quickly even as our national debt goes in only one direction: up.

Too many in positions of leadership willfully neglect the mounting danger. As President Obama said in 2012 of the debt, “we don’t have to worry about it short term.” Washington will worry about the cost of government only when it’s too late to do anything about it.

The nation is $17.6 trillion in debt and counting. If the average American family spent like the federal government, it would be over $300,000 in debt and still spending as if the credit card would never catch up. Just as a family’s high debt limits opportunities, excessive federal spending and high debt slow the economy and shrink opportunity for all Americans.

The federal government has taken on too many priorities that appeal to too many constituencies, making it extremely difficult for policymakers to muster the political will that is needed for reform.

The waste is obvious. According to the Government Accountability Office, approximately 80 education programs designed to help improve teacher quality are administered across 10 federal agencies. The federal government also funds about 80 programs in eight different agencies to provide transportation services to disadvantaged individuals. About 45 federal job training programs administered by nine different federal agencies have a questionable impact on preparing Americans for the workforce. By some estimates, the federal government is wasting hundreds of billions each year on these improper and duplicative payments. And yet, despite frequent bipartisan consensus on the need for reforms, these programs persist year after year.

Congress even fails to abide by its own laws to make and pass a budget every year. And when Congress and the Administration run into laws that impose inconvenient controls on their spending authority—like the debt limit—Members try to do away with them entirely. It is common sense that our nation should raise its debt limit only if that is tied to spending cuts that put us on a path to balancing our budget, but this is hardly conventional wisdom in Washington.

We can’t merely trim a few million or billion here or there on the margins in the discretionary budget if we want to keep our children from experiencing many of the hardships we’ve witnessed in Europe over the past several years. But rooting out waste wherever possible—even on a small scale—is essential. It gives us the moral high ground to address the main drivers of our debt: major government programs that are running on autopilot.

Congress overpromised for decades on popular programs like Social Security and Medicare that will soon devour nearly two-thirds of all tax dollars. Congress has procrastinated, avoiding the necessary reforms that will ensure that these programs are around for us and for our children’s generation. As it stands, they are on course to consume the entire federal budget, leaving our nation in even greater debt. If they are to survive and meet the needs of the truly vulnerable in society, we need to make common-sense reforms that modernize these outdated entitlement programs and enable people to exercise more choice with their own health care and retirement dollars.

It’s time for America to take control of its own destiny. This will require elected officials with the moral fortitude to do the hard but incredibly important work of paring down the size of our government and setting it on track to fiscal health. Doing this now will swing wide the doors of opportunity in the future—and avoiding it will only set us up for fiscal disaster.

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