Every American family has a budget. Each of us must account for what we spend—for our apartment or home, groceries, utilities, clothes, transportation, medical and child care—and our savings for the future. We have to prioritize—and often this requires difficult trade-offs. But if you spend without priorities, you can quickly find yourself in big trouble, with mounting credit card debt or unpaid bills burdening you and those who depend on you for their livelihood.
The federal government needs a budget just as you do—although the government’s “income” is made up entirely of what businesses and households send to Washington in the form of your taxes. Under both parties’ watch, our government has not budgeted carefully. Washington consistently spends more than it collects in taxes, and we’ve become entirely too dependent on borrowed money.
Washington’s budget deficit has eclipsed $1 trillion in each of the past two years, and our national debt is threatening to spiral out of control. We have left ourselves and future generations far too dependent on our creditors, 40 percent of whom are foreign governments. Simply put, we are running the risk of national bankruptcy. This cannot continue.
By definition, a trend that’s not sustainable cannot continue—and we know that the current course is simply not sustainable. The housing market collapsed because too many borrowed beyond their means to buy homes they could not afford. Wall Street, too, irresponsibly built a house of cards with borrowed money and nearly brought the economy to a halt.
But now, massive spending bills and legislative overreach are recklessly transferring this risk and debt to Washington. Our government is setting itself up for yet another panic with painful economic consequences for all Americans.
The numbers are practically incomprehensible—trillion-dollar deficits, a $10 trillion debt, and tens of trillions of dollars in unfunded promises—but we all understand that the budget is in bad shape, and we need look no further than our television screens to see vivid, real-life examples of what will happen if we don’t act. In Europe, generations of welfare-dependent citizens are hurling Molotov cocktails because their governments can no longer fund their entitlement programs.
We can’t let that happen here. Both parties share the blame for our current mess, and both parties must work together to restore trust in Washington. That trust isn’t there now, and understandably so. It will take a dedicated effort to rebuild and recover it.
Next year, I will have the honor of serving as chairman of the House Budget Committee, which makes our government’s budget plan. I will be soliciting input from those I serve in Wisconsin, as well as my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, to find ways to put our government back on the road to solvency and prosperity.
We face a great challenge, but we also have a unique opportunity to restore the values of our exceptional nation.
This article available online here.