Nearly two-thirds of Americans polled by Bloomberg answered that “it is right to require spending cuts when the debt ceiling is raised…because Congress lacks discipline on spending.” Their voices were not heard by Congress as it signed its terms of surrender.
In the final hours before October 17—the alleged day of reckoning when the Treasury Department said it would run out of borrowing authority using its extraordinary measures—Congress hashed together another short-term fix. The so-called deal fixes nothing but continues the damaging status quo of out-of-control spending and increasing amounts of debt.
Instead of making meaningful and deliberate changes to how the government spends and accumulates debt, the bill allowed lawmakers to procrastinate on fixing the national spending and debt crisis. It lifts the debt limit until February 7 and funds the government at the fiscal year 2013 sequester level until January 15—putting off necessary reforms and ensuring that Washington repeats the “Groundhog Day” cycle in a mere couple of months.
Echoing Heritage’s concerns about the manner in which the debt ceiling was lifted—by suspension with no dollar limit enforcing fiscal restraint—John Crudele of the New York Post emphasizes why spending vigilance is especially important in the coming months:
Let’s say there’s a bar full of drunken sailors. Someone says he’s going to cap the drinking—not after a certain level of drinking, but only at a certain time. Say 11 p.m.
With no set limit, the sailors are likely to drink as much as they want until closing time.
Without a debt limit, Washington is going to spend and borrow as much as it possibly can before the bar closes on Feb. 7.
The deal sets up another inevitable confrontation in early January, as lawmakers are already gearing up for an attempt to increase discretionary spending—the one-third of the budget Congress must actively authorize. In doing so, Congress fails to convince its frustrated constituents that lawmakers are capable of exercising fiscal discipline, eschewing their responsibility to effectively manage the federal budget.
Even worse, two-thirds of federal spending grows on autopilot with no regular congressional review. After net interest costs, entitlements are the largest and fastest growing element of government spending and debt, and as such, any path to balancing the budget must reform the biggest spending programs—Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Many of these reforms have bipartisan support. Congress only needs to act on them.
Furthermore, Congress should better prioritize taxpayer dollars by eliminating inappropriate non-defense discretionary spending programs while ensuring full funding for national defense, the federal government’s core constitutional function.
This time, Congress chose to take the easy way out and yet again neglect an opportunity to make meaningful decisions about ravenous spending and the country’s ballooning obligations. Americans understand that procrastination means putting off until tomorrow what you can do today. They expect solutions—not procrastination—from their elected officials.
Michael Sargent, a member of Heritage’s Young Leaders Program, and Joshua Shepherd, Marketing Associate, also contributed to this blog.