March 22, 2019
There a few things these days that unite congressional Republicans and Democrats alike, but common ground can almost always be found in a shared addiction to out-of-control spending.
Having served on the U.S. House Committee on the Budget, I’ve seen firsthand how quickly members from both parties forget that every dollar spent isn’t their dollar earned. It’s an all-too-familiar story that ends up with America in a deeper deficit or being forced to accept fresh taxes that dampen our economy.
The pervasive attitude on Capitol Hill and state capitals alike is that everything is a “must have” expenditure – and the knee-jerk reaction to pay for that spending is to raise taxes. Wash, rinse, repeat. It’s wrong, it’s intellectually lazy, and it demonstrates a lack of creativity and respect for taxpayers.
Raising taxes should be the last resort to paying for spending that truly is necessary. Because the money doesn’t belong to politicians. It belongs to entrepreneurs, construction workers, teachers, investors and moms and dads who cut coupons to make ends meet. Politicians are entrusted with making good decisions with our money, and unfortunately, from Columbus to Washington, and all points in between, there is little evidence that trust is warranted.
Our country’s debt and deficits have been rapidly growing for more than a decade. Earlier this month, the federal government hit the debt ceiling at a whopping $22 trillion. We can only hope to chip away at that for generations to come, but only if we acknowledge that the problem is spending. The U.S. Treasury Department announced last week that the federal deficit totaled over $310 billion in just the first four months of the fiscal year – a 77 percent increase from the same time last year – and the Congressional Budget Office projects that the federal deficit will reach nearly $900 billion for this year alone.
To be clear: We have insufficient funds to cover our bill. Our credit card should be revoked.
With our country now saddled with trillions in debt, significant efforts must be made to radically reduce government spending – and to engage business leaders who can help develop alternatives that deliver results more efficiently than government, reduce taxpayer exposure and unleash economic growth for all.
Over the past few weeks and months, I have traveled throughout Ohio, and one thing I’ve heard consistently is anger and frustration with state and federal officials that are complicit in a bipartisan epidemic of tax-and-spend policies. The debate here centers around a proposal to repair the state’s crumbling infrastructure with, of course, higher taxes. And predictably, the people are upset. They’re being asked to pay top dollar to lock in the status quo and accept bargain basement results.
Easing the growing mistrust between the public and policymakers should not be difficult. Spend less. And when we truly must spend, spend wisely. Consult with experts, consider alternatives and limit taxpayer exposure.
The last point is critical. Keeping taxes low is the biggest driver of economic growth – and the condition of our national economy today is proof. I was proud to play a role in President Trump’s massive overhaul of our tax code that allowed millions of hardworking families keep more of their paychecks. We are on the cusp of entering into the longest economic expansion in history. Unemployment, which was at 5.2 percent in Ohio when the president took office, is now at 4.6 percent, according to the latest data available. Nationally, unemployment recently touched its lowest level in 49 years.
We can lower the debt and shrink the deficit. We can make our state and country more competitive. We can rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and continue down the road of economic prosperity. All of it starts with a firm commitment from politicians to spend public dollars as if they were their own, and by demonstrating creativity, cutting better deals and reducing the burden on taxpayers.
That’s how state and federal governments can show results and ensure all Americans have greater economic opportunities than what will be left if lawmakers continue to spend as if it’s business as usual. It’s time to stop, reset and re-imagine the full scope of potential solutions because the old ways just aren’t working anymore.