It’s past time to balance the federal budget

Published 8:16 am Wednesday, April 8, 2015

By U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne

Every month, American families and small business owners sit down and balance their budgets. They make sure they aren’t spending more than they bring in. The same is true for state and local governments. When I was in the Alabama state Senate, each year we were required by law to pass a balanced budget.

Unfortunately, the federal government doesn’t have to play by the same rules. Right now the national debt in the United States is over $18 trillion. We did not arrive at this point because of the actions of one party or one administration. In reality, both parties enacted programs that increased our debt over decades.

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Ultimately, this current path of bloated budgets and reckless spending is unsustainable. The Congressional Budget Office projects real economic output per person will be 7 percent lower by 2040, if we do not rein in our spending policies. That means less take home pay and smaller paychecks for American families.

Many people only think of debt as an economic threat, but that’s simply not the case. Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullin said in 2011, “the single, biggest threat to our national security is our debt.”

Given these real threats posed by out-of-control spending, I was really disappointed when President Obama released his budget proposal earlier this year. His proposal continues the same failed “tax and spend” strategy that got us into this mess in the first place. Despite calling for $2.1 trillion in new taxes, the president’s budget never achieves balance. In fact, the president’s budget plan would add $8.5 trillion to the debt.

The good news is that there is another way forward. I recently supported “A Balanced Budget for a Stronger America.” This commonsense Budget Resolution charts a path forward for the United States focused on reining in waste and reforming auto-pilot spending programs. Under this blueprint, the United States balances the federal budget in less than 10 years.

The House Budget Resolution doesn’t achieve balance by raising taxes, but instead focuses on growing the economy, making government more efficient and cutting $5.5 billion in spending. Our budget plan repeals Obamacare and calls for a new, simpler tax code. The budget strengthens Social Security and Medicare to ensure these programs are still around for future generations. Finally, our budget cuts waste and abuse of welfare programs and gives more power over welfare programs to the states.

Our House-passed budget also prioritizes spending to direct funds toward areas that need them most, like national defense. At a time when there are so many different conflicts all around the world, the United States must prioritize defense spending and cut back on wasteful programs. I was proud to work with a number of my Armed Services Committee colleagues to ensure the budget has adequate funding for a strong national defense.

So, for the first time in years, both the House and the Senate have now passed a budget resolution. The House and Senate passed slightly different budget proposals, so we will need to work out the differences between our two bills. Ultimately, I am confident Congress will operate under a budget this year for the first time since 2009.

This shouldn’t be a foreign idea, but it should become the new normal. If we are going to finally get our fiscal house in order, then we must get serious about the real issues caused by out-of-control spending. Congress has now charted a path toward a balanced budget. I hope the president will join us in our efforts to balance the budget, and in turn, ensure a stronger America.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne represents the 1st Congressional District of Alabama, which includes Escambia County.