Someone defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. Clearly, this is not the technical definition of insanity but it sure doesn’t seem far from the practical truth. In reality doing the same thing continuously while expecting a different result is rather irresponsible to say the least.
For decades Congress has been doing the same thing when it comes to finances and apparently it seems to be fine with the same results. The United States debt is hovering around $19.5 trillion. That is $19,500,000,000,000 to represent the number of times zero and a comma is used. According to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget the U.S. “debt grew from $10.6 trillion on Inauguration Day 2009 to $19.4 trillion” in 2016. When folks say that our debt nearly doubled under President Obama, they are correct. President Obama is not the only one responsible. Reckless spending has been a part of Washington, D.C. for decades and under many administrations. President Bush saw fit to add $5.85 trillion to the national debt during his administration. President Clinton added $1.4 trillion which is conservative compared to Bush and Obama. It is important to note that Congress is equally responsible for adding this amount of debt over the past few decades. After all, Congress holds the power of the purse according to the Constitution.
To paint a simple picture, the American economy is growing and government is growing with it at a faster rate than the economy. This is what makes our debt continue to increase. How can Congress begin to fix our debt problem? There is no quick fix or short term solution but there is a long term solution.
First, a morally and fiscally responsible Congress would balance the budget. This would mean that the revenue and expenditures would equal out. A balanced budget would freeze the debt limit. An even more responsible Congress would operate under a surplus. Meaning that the government would collect more in taxes than it spends on government operations. By operating on a surplus they could begin reducing our national debt.
Second, Congress must get back to “regular order.” What is regular order? It is when Congress passes twelve appropriation bills that fund all parts of government. The negative effect of avoiding regular order and passing one massive spending bill every few months is the lack of vetting the spending bills receive. What’s called an omnibus or continuing resolution is what Congress passes to fund the government when they fail to go through the appropriation process. If Congress were to get back to regular order it would possibly mean cuts in wasteful spending and Americans could hold their representatives more accountable for their spending votes. By Congressional leadership bringing up these jumbo spending bills, it puts representatives in a bad position. There’s no room for negotiation and deliberation.
Who determines whether congress begins passing appropriation bills? House Speaker Paul Ryan. He controls the legislative agenda and he is responsible for Congress not going through the proper spending process.
If Congress were to get back to regular order then it could balance the budget each year and possibly have a surplus in tax revenue. A surplus would enable the government to use that money to pay off the national debt.
As it stands today, America is recklessly irresponsible with its finances and Congress is to blame. Voters send representatives to Congress to handle our tax dollars wisely but they continue to do the opposite. Not only does Congress spend our money on wasteful projects, it often sends our money to organizations who oppose basic American values.
The next budget is set to come up for debate in mid-September. I don’t expect Congress to initially send President Trump a responsible budget. This is why President Trump must be prepared to veto any bill that has wasteful spending included. The president must demand that his agenda be funded. A government shutdown might be necessary to get Congress to return to regular order.