By Alan Nunnelee
The American people expect Washington to fix its spending addiction. Balancing the budget in a responsible way is the foundation of the House Republican budget introduced this week. Our proposal is a practical solution to a very difficult problem.
As chairman of the Appropriations Committee in the Mississippi Senate, I presented three budgets that were balanced. Our lawmakers in Jackson are making difficult decisions because the law requires a balanced budget, and because it is the responsible thing to do. Local governments, small businesses, and families do this every day. Until now, the only one not balancing its budget has been Washington.
The Senate Democrats introduced their budget this week as well. By their own admission, it calls for more in tax increases than it does in spending cuts and never balances. The Senate breaking its four-year streak of not even trying to pass a budget is a positive development. The American people can decide if they prefer our responsible plan or the Democrats’ business-as-usual approach.
During Budget Committee markup in the House this week, I sat and watched my friends on the other side of the aisle repeatedly propose to replace various spending cuts included in our budget plan with tax increases. We voted down their efforts to raise taxes because with government tax revenue at an all-time high, it never has been clearer Washington does not have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem.
The good news is we have begun to achieve some success cutting what is known as discretionary spending. I sit on the Appropriations Committee, responsible for the one-third of the federal budget that is discretionary. We have cut this side of the ledger 10 percent since Republicans took control of the House. It is a step in the right direction, but not near enough to get us to balance.
The bad news is mandatory spending is rising at an unsustainable rate and driving our nation’s debt crisis. This type of spending takes up two-thirds of the budget and includes vital programs like Medicare and Social Security. Welfare programs such as food stamps and Medicaid also fall into this category.
With thousands of baby boomers retiring every day and the population getting older overall, a primary goal of any serious budget proposal has to be saving Medicare and Social Security from going broke. The people who keep the books for these programs tell us Medicare will be insolvent in just 12 years and Social Security in 20 if we do nothing. In other words, anybody advocating for the status quo is advocating for bankruptcy.
Washington has to get its spending problem under control, not, as the president suggested, for its own sake, but because we want to pass on a strong economy full of opportunity to our children and grandchildren. Just like borrowing more money to spend today doesn’t create real wealth for a family; neither does it create a growing, durable national economy. The bill comes due eventually, and quality of life will decline until spending gets back in line with income. House Republicans have taken a step in the right direction this week by offering a responsible plan to balance the budget, strengthen the economy, and protect the most vulnerable among us.
ALAN NUNNELEE, a Republican from Tupelo, represents the 1st Congressional District in the U.S. Congress. Contact him at nunnelee.house.gov or 431 West Main Street, Suite 450, Tupelo, MS 38804.