The U.S. government is broke — a concept the American people understand, but is lost on many of our representatives.
Let’s review the math. Our federal budget (estimated) is made up of incoming tax revenue ($2.2 trillion), spending ($3.5 trillion), deficit, aka the yearly credit card ($1.3 trillion), and current national debt (more than $14 trillion). Basically, debt per taxpayer is now $128K.
The budget is similar to a family crisis created by spending too much on cars, luxury items and vacations at the risk of losing your house and not being able to feed your children. In response, most logical Americans get rid of the expensive car, sell the lavish items and cancel that vacation if they don’t have the money. As a family, they make the right decision and sacrifice together.
Unfortunately the congressional approach is not so simple, since you must consider the all-powerful god for the D.C. politician — self-preservation. Like addicts waiting for their next fix, they need just enough power to keep them alive. For that reason we are mired in a debate more concerned with scoring political points than actually fixing the problem.
Take Sen. Chuck Schumer as an example — he willingly admitted he is playing a political game with regards to spending cuts. He wants to use language like “extreme” to put House Speaker John Boehner in a “box.” Not to fix the problem, not to the help the American people, but to score political points.
Lately, Tea Party leaders haven’t used the friendliest words for my congressmen, John Boehner, and his colleagues in the House who are drafting a new budget. However, at no point in my conversations with him or his staff have I ever felt they were entering into the budget with the sole motivation of scoring political points.
The American voters were clear in 2010 that political points should never trump the well-being of the republic. The election of 2010 mandated that Congress fundamentally limit government. The America people never worry about politicians being in a “box.” They want the box destroyed, and business as usual to end.
These “extreme” positions of the Tea Party Sen. Schumer so mockingly references are things like “don’t spend more than you take in” and “increasing debt doesn’t bring prosperity.” Or take this really “extreme” position — “I know better than government how to run my life.”
So, my advice to Congress: be leaders who will stand on principle in the midst of political theater. Like many Americans over the last few years, we are simply asking Congress to create a federal budget in line with financial realities.
With this in mind, we are proposing a “Tea Party budget.” It was quite easy to draft, since we used the Clinton budget from Fiscal Year 2000. Adjusting that budget for inflation to match 2011 levels, an increase of 33 percent since 2000, the final number would be $2.3 trillion. The Clinton years were fraught with hardcore budget-busting procedures and red-hot rhetoric, yet Bill Clinton ran a $230 billion surplus in Fiscal Year 1999/2000. In 2010, the Federal Budget exceeded $3.5 trillion, a 58 percent increase over the inflation-adjusted 2000 budget.
It would require trimming, but we could live on the same personal income we had a few years ago. That is exactly what we are demanding from Congress. They must take a very serious look at where our money really goes: Medicare/Medicaid, Social Security, defense and the Treasury (mostly payment on the debt). These 4 areas of expenditure eclipse all federal tax revenue before we even consider any other departments that make up the remainder of the budget.
The battle isn’t over continuing resolutions, which perpetuate Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) extended budget. If the Republicans in Congress are serious about a new direction, focusing on these key areas is the only path. Leaders will make tough decisions: eligibility and benefit criteria for Social Security and Medicare, reduction and block granting of Medicaid funds to the states while at the same time eliminating the extortion process that ties their hands through federal mandating, reductions in defense spending (foreign and domestic) and significant cuts in every single other federal department.
Across-the-board cuts are needed to keep a roof over our families’ heads. Kicking the can down the road never helped a family stay in their home, and will not help the current Republican crop in the 2012 election. Foreclosure is on the horizon and it’s time to get serious about protecting the family by reducing spending, and in that, most Americans find nothing “extreme.”
Littleton and Lillback are Tea Party leaders in Ohio and work with the Ohio Liberty Council, a statewide coalition of more than 65 liberty-minded organizations.