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On Government Spending: More Party of ‘No,’ Please

President Obama's offensive budget was just a bargaining position, callously introduced while the country is in peril. Will enough congressmen say "no"?

by
Chris Salcedo

Bio

February 22, 2011 - 12:01 pm

Just what part of “we don’t have the money” do they not understand?

The parade of liberal lawmakers and far-left pundits is tiresome — all of their protestations about GOP cuts deserve only one response, that which is evident to almost everyone else: “We don’t have the money.”

But women need abortion clinics funded by taxpayers … we don’t have the money. But medical costs continue to skyrocket and the poor will suffer … we don’t have the money. Children will suffer under draconian Republican cuts … we don’t have the money. To a liberal only one solution is acceptable: just tax the people more. Might I offer a suggestion? Stop spending money we don’t have.

You shall not spend more than you receive in taxes. I thought this was a simple concept for avoiding debt, until the 111th Congress — with the help of two presidents — more than doubled it.

Numbers are easy. You can add and you can subtract, or in government’s case, you may multiply. Our debt has been in an out-of-control spiral for over a decade. According to treasurydirect.gov, when President Bush took office the national debt sat at about $5.6 trillion. Oh, how I long for those days! At the end of his presidency the national debt was $10.02 trillion — Mr. Bush added roughly $4.5 trillion on his watch. The first bill that Mr. Bush vetoed was a stem cell funding bill in 2006 — five years into his presidency.

Whereas many conservatives certainly applauded that move, perhaps he should have used the ol’ veto pen on a few spending bills before his sixth year in office! At that point the conservative base already viewed the GOP as Democrat-lite — if President Bush had vetoed some more spending, he might have spared the Republicans huge losses in the ’06 midterms.

In Obama’s first two years in office the debt grew to $14.2 trillion. Mr. Obama has added roughly $4.2 trillion to the national debt.

Some left-wing folks herald Mr. Obama as the smartest man to ever occupy the White House. I don’t know about that. He is an overachiever. He managed to grow the national debt nearly as much as Bush did in two years, rather than eight. Though putting this at the feet of Obama exclusively is unfair — after all, Congress controls the purse strings. And who was in charge of the House for two years of the Bush presidency and all of Obama’s until last month? Under Nancy Pelosi’s tenure as the third most powerful person in the world, she oversaw a $5.5 trillion increase to our national debt.

I think we’ve outlined, quite clearly, our nation’s problem. Our government is spending more money than it takes in taxes. I believe now more than ever the American people want this practice to stop.

The top wage earners see 35% of every dollar they earn go to the feds. Depending on the state they reside in, an additional 10-25% goes to state and local taxes. I don’t think the case can be made that the productive people are not taxed enough — 60% going to the government should be enough for any liberal. But it isn’t! Liberals still cry for tax increases. Our corporate tax rate is due to become the highest in the world, making it impossible to compete in the world market.

The top 50% of wage earners pay 97% of the tax load, and nearly half the country doesn’t pay federal income taxes at all. The top 1% pays nearly 40% of the nation’s tax bill. Yet liberals want more! The danger, of course, is killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. If government continues to bleed our entrepreneurs and job creators dry, then our tax base will shrink, and there will be less money in the treasury. There’s only one effective way to cut our deficit.

Stop spending money we don’t have. It’s not a hard concept! This is why we hire and pay the salaries of our elected leaders. We send them to Washington to represent our interests and to be good stewards of our hard-earned money. This is their primary job. If there isn’t enough money for their pet projects, their bridges to nowhere, the post office with their name on it, or their latest attempt at social engineering, so be it. It is their job to know the amount of money brought in by taxes and to prioritize the national spending accordingly.

Now, some may think that federal funding of abortion clinics is needed more than defending our borders. Great, debate it and vote. Some might like to fund a study on the proper use of condoms while others would like to make sure our troops have the best technology in hand to defend our nation, another fine debate. But it’s clear now we can’t have it all. So our 535 lawmakers and one president must decide what’s important and spend the money where the majority can agree it’s needed. Congress must no longer be allowed to spend more money than the federal government has. Period. A balanced budget amendment is the only way to do that.

A balanced budget amendment should restrict Congress to spending 20% less than the amount of money brought in, through taxes, in the previous budget year. All surpluses would go into a rainy day fund. Congress shall not spend more than the allowed amount dictated by the balanced budget amendment. The only exception would be national emergencies, emergencies certified by the president, and a 2/3 majority vote in Congress. The needed funds would come from the rainy day fund. That fund could also sustain the government when tax revenue falls short for the current fiscal year.

In a sustained need for more funds, i.e. war, the Congress could only pass tax increases that were subject to annual renewal. Congressmen and senators must also be made responsible for all tax money allocated for federal spending. I’ll leave it to the party bosses to assign each lawmaker based on seniority or expertise. But all dollars spent by Congress should be accountable and traceable to a member of Congress. Congress as a whole would vote on the budget priorities, and assign tax dollars to be overseen by each member. I understand this would take a great deal of our elected officials’ time. That’s the point. If they have to spend time justifying every dollar spent, they’ll be less inclined or less able to spend recklessly.

President Obama’s $3.73 trillion budget is a joke — I don’t think he was serious in proposing it.  I believe he didn’t wish to start a negotiation with concessions. In truth, the Republicans’ tactics are similar. They don’t want to lead because they know they’ll be beaten up by the president and his cronies in Congress and the media. No one has pitched reform for our ballooning entitlement programs. Our nation is in real peril, but the president and many Democrats seem in denial and the Republicans seem timid.

Americans are ready to see our government stop spending money it doesn’t have. Will anyone say “no”?

Chris Salcedo is a former anchor, news reporter and current talk show host.
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