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Getting America out of deep debt

By Tom Price and Paul Ryan

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Washington, Dec 12, 2011 | comments

For three straight years, the U.S. government has run trillion-dollar deficits. In total, the nation has recently surpassed $15 trillion in debt — a number that continues to rise. For nearly 1,000 days, the Democrat-led Senate has refused to write a budget while Washington continues to careen from one budget crisis to another. This is a stark reality for a nation already facing tremendous economic challenges, and it is the strongest argument and impetus for the series of budget-process reforms recently introduced by members of the House Budget Committee.

Earlier this year, House Republicans presented a budget to the Congress that would cut nearly $6 trillion in spending, reform the tax code and improve and strengthen programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. We drafted, debated and passed a plan to put our nation on a path to prosperity. President Barack Obama, along with Democrat leaders on Capitol Hill, responded with demagoguery while offering no credible plan of their own — no plan to pay off the debt and no plan to save and strengthen health and retirement programs for seniors.

Elected leaders should not be able to avoid their responsibilities in such a cavalier manner. And yet, under the broken budget process in Washington, they have been able to get away with doing nothing as the debt piles even higher.

Members of the House Budget Committee are now stepping in and stepping up with a package of reforms — 10 bills, recently introduced, that would make certain Congress has the tools to control spending and will be held accountable for practicing the necessary oversight.

Each proposal speaks to a weakness in the current budgeting process and provides a solution to fix the problem. Taken together, they present a path out of the current dysfunction and a way for lawmakers to confront our nation's challenges.

Among the bills being proposed is legislation we authored that would require the Congressional Budget Office to begin analyzing the macroeconomic impact of major pieces of legislation. The Pro-Growth Budgeting Act requires the CBO to provide a more dynamic assessment of how pending legislation would affect economic realities such as business investment, real gross domestic product and unemployment.

This would provide a more complete perspective on the real-world impact of legislation beyond the usual revenue, outlays and deficit accounting already relayed by the CBO. It would ensure that lawmakers are better informed and forced to consider the consequences of their actions on the economy as a whole, not just on Washington's bottom line.

The current broken budget process provides ample opportunity for Congress to overspend and underprioritize. The proposals put forward by members of the House Budget Committee take positive steps toward a more accountable and responsible budget process — one in which members are more cognizant of how best to promote growth in the economy while practicing sound fiscal management. In doing so, we would help lift the shadow of debt that is hanging over economic activity and limiting our prospects for a more prosperous future. Bills such as the Pro-Growth Budgeting Act will make it easier for leaders to do their jobs and harder for others to avoid the responsibility bestowed upon them by the American people.

U.S. Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., is chairman of the Republican Policy Committee in the House of Representatives. U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is chairman of the House Budget Committee.

View Online at the Chicago Tribune here.

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