COLUMN: Living within our means starts with the U.S. Congress

Most families I know, including mine, have a budget. My wife and I sit down at the kitchen table, and we talk about all the things we would like to do in any given month or year, and then we decide what we can do. It’s not always fun, it can be disappointing, but it’s how hard-working families in north Mississippi and nationwide make ends meet.
Now, it’s the government’s turn to sit down at the kitchen table. Earlier this spring, I cosponsored important legislation that would require the government to make the same kinds of tough choices that hard-working families make every day. This past week, I joined a majority of my colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives in passing this legislation. The Statutory Pay-As-You-Go (PAYGO) Act of 2009 (H.R. 2920) will help restore a balanced government budget, improve national security, and reduce the burden of our national debt on future generations.
Reinstating statutory PAYGO – similar legislation was previously in effect in the 1990s – has been a long-standing priority of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition, of which I’m a member. In passing H.R. 2920, we took an important step towards seeing this goal become a reality. Specifically, the bill requires that the net effect of all legislation enacted during a session of Congress be deficit neutral, effectively ensuring that a bill with net costs is offset by other legislation with net savings.
Restoring fiscal responsibility and a balanced budget to our government has been a top priority of mine since I took office just over a year ago. Along with cosponsoring and helping to pass statutory PAYGO in the House, I voted twice against the budget, helped successfully block the 2010 congressional pay raise, and voted twice against the $700 billion financial bailout. In our current debate over health care reform, the Blue Dogs are holding firm to make sure that we balance the need to reduce health care costs with the need for responsible spending.
Earlier this year, I voted for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Unemployment was soaring, North Mississippians were suffering, and inaction was not an option. The bill has since served to create jobs and save jobs that would otherwise be lost. We are now seeing early signs that the economy is starting to improve. We are not out of the woods yet, and job creation continues to be a priority. But, Congress did what it needed to do to protect our country and our economy in the face of a short-term crisis. Now it’s time for the government to get its house in order for the long-term.
Like so many hard-working north Mississippians, I’ve held a job since I was a teenager, put myself through college, and built a career from scratch. For all of us who know what it’s like to roll up our sleeves and get to work, spending well beyond our limits has never been an option. We know that we have a responsibility to future generations, that if we don’t pay our bills today, we’re merely passing on our debt – plus interest – to our children and grandchildren. The government should operate no differently, and statutory PAYGO will make sure it doesn’t.
This legislation will also prevent our government from continuing to put our economy and national security at risk by increasing our indebtedness to foreign countries. Right now, we rely on China, India, and other nations to pay for our own priorities. By restoring a balanced budget, we can reduce debt, as well as our dependence on foreign countries.
Additionally, statutory PAYGO will provide for needed investments, allowing us to redirect funds that would otherwise go towards paying off our national debt. Larger deficits mean a higher national debt, which in turn means that a greater proportion of the budget must be spent paying interest on this debt. The interest we already pay each year on our national debt is more than we spend on education and veterans combined. Enacting statutory PAYGO will help free up this money, so we can invest in policies that benefit the American people.
As things stand now, the president has pledged his support for reinstating statutory PAYGO, the House has passed this critical legislation, and now it’s time for the Senate to act. I urge the chamber to bring H.R. 2920 to the floor as swiftly as possible so that we can get back to the kitchen table and start balancing our budget once again.

U.S. Rep. Travis Childers, D-Booneville, represents the 1st Congressional District. Contact at his Tupelo office, 337A East Main St. 38804, telephone (662) 841-8808, or his Washington office,1708 Longworth HOB 20515, telephone (202) 225-4306, or go to his Website www.childers.house.gov.

U.S. Rep. Travis Childers