Taking control of our fiscal future

Published 9:42 pm Monday, December 14, 2009

“Stimulus 3” sounds like a bad sequel to a string of movies. Instead, it’s the moniker being used to describe the new economic proposal announced by President Obama this week.

This new stimulus is aimed at accelerating job growth and laying a foundation for economic growth and funding “shovel-ready” projects. You may be asking — isn’t that what the first two economic stimulus packages passed under President Bush and Obama were for? The answer is yes.

Americans are not buying into the “third stimulus is a charm” mentality. Nor should they be when a host of new economic numbers proves otherwise.

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Despite repeated stimulus and bailout attempts, unemployment has climbed to 10 percent in the past several months. Our national debt hit another record high — $12 trillion — and Speaker Pelosi will seek legislation next week to increase our federal debt limit. Divided among the U.S. population, the debt amounts to $38,974.34 for every man, woman and child. The federal government will borrow 43 cents for every dollar that it spends this fiscal year.

And just a few weeks ago Americans saw that the U.S. government official website that tracks current stimulus spending included phantom congressional districts, like the 00th Congressional District of Virginia, and proved to have little oversight or accountability over where the money is actually going.

Considering that information, it’s no wonder the word “stimulus” has become so politically charged. Americans know that more stimulus spending means more deficit spending and another contribution to a ballooning federal debt that will be placed on the backs of our grandchildren and financed by countries like China.

As such, Americans have spent the past several months raising their voices against a job-threatening and deficit-bloating government takeover of health care, a “cap and trade” national energy tax, and an ever-increasing limit on the national credit card. Yet, Congress and the Administration keep spending money without setting priorities or reducing waste.

Americans are asking Washington a larger question today: When will this government listen to the voice of wisdom shouting for us to address the causes of a bad economy and not just the symptoms?

We need a paradigm shift in Washington. Our economy can recover, but not without a fundamental shift in how Washington views and manages taxpayer dollars. I’ve put together a simple three-step plan that would help us take control of our fiscal future:

First, cut the waste.

Slash funding for wasteful, abusive, and duplicative spending. The Commission on the Accountability and Review of Federal Agencies Act, H.R. 1802, would establish a bipartisan commission to review federal agencies and programs in an effort to eliminate wasteful spending on duplicative, inefficient or outdated programs. CARFA would make recommendations to Congress and to the President for changes to maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of taxpayer dollars.

Second, balance the budget.

Constitutionally require Congress to balance the federal budget each year. The Balanced Budget Amendment, H.J. Res 1, will force Congress to enact fiscally responsible spending measures, reduce the deficit, and ensure that the money our citizens work so hard to earn is not spent on wasteful spending and programs.

The bill requires that Congress not spend more than it receives in revenues, requires the President to submit a balanced budget to Congress, and requires a 3/5 majority vote to increase the debt limit. This common-sense solution is already implemented in many states across our country, including Virginia. A Constitutional amendment will force Congress to eliminate unnecessary and wasteful spending and make the decisions necessary to balance the budget and eliminate the federal deficit.

Third, reform the system.

Institute process and entitlement reforms that take a long-range budget view. The SAFE Commission Act, H.R. 1557, would establish a Commission that would review federal spending and develop legislation designed to address the unsustainable imbalance between long-term federal spending commitments and projected revenues; increases in net national savings to provide for domestic investment and economic growth; the implications of foreign ownership of federally issued debt instruments; and revision of the budget process to place greater emphasis on long-term fiscal issues.

Creating fiscal discipline in Washington is a first and necessary step on the road to economic recovery. Americans should demand nothing less from their government than a clear commitment to take control of our fiscal future.

Congressman J. Randy Forbes represents the 4th District in the U.S. House of Representatives. Contact him through his Web site, www.randyforbes.house.gov.