Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) has a radical alternative to raising the debt limit: spend less money. In an amendment introduced last week Senator Coburn proposed saving approximately $120 billion by, “consolidating more than 640 duplicative government programs, cutting wasteful Washington spending, and returning billions of dollars of unspent money.” The vast majority of the savings, $100 billion, would come from rescinding discretionary federal funding that has been unused for over two years and remains unassigned for a specific purpose. The remainder would result from the consolidation of hundreds of duplicative government programs and recessions to several government departments and agencies.
The total public debt outstanding is now $12.3 trillion, and public debt as a percentage of the economy is currently projected to exceed World War II levels. At some point Congress must say enough is enough. Debt has consequences; President Obama’s own figures see outlays for interest on the debt rising to levels greater than the all defense spending by 2018. Currently, a single month of interest payments on the national debt already exceed yearly spending on programs such as Child Nutrition, and International Assistance.
Although this amendment is not a cure all for the nations addiction to debt – entitlement spending alone is set to swamp the entire budget by 2052 – Senator Coburn’s amendment is certainly a good place to start. Any true solution must address Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid spending by including placing the program on long-term budgets and including the long-term obligations of these programs in the budget. In the meantime, actions such as consolidating duplicative programs and rescinding unobligated funds should be common sense.
The amendment needs 60 votes to pass. Will Congress finally choose the fiscally responsible solution?