Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Voting Against the Budget

by U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford (AR-01): A vote against the budget isn't simply a vote against the budget, which in itself was well intentioned. It is a vote against the current way Washington spends money, an expression of my level of mistrust for Congress' ability to set a level of spending and hold itself accountable to that level. Congress has blown past budget levels before, and it will again, which begs the question, "what do these budgets actually accomplish?"

The budget itself is a non-binding resolution, a blueprint. Because they carry no legal authority, budgets can be forgotten and ignored, as they often are. So as Americans we are tasked with the problem of how to control our spending. So far, the answer has been to entrust Congress to be responsible in a position as both lender and borrower. With our national debt currently tipping past $18 trillion, I don't believe that answer is a good one.

The culture of Washington simply isn't one of fiscal responsibility. When Arkansas went broke in 1933, Arkansans never forgot. The disaster fundamentally changed the culture of the Arkansas legislature. Ever since, our state has been cautious about how much money it spends and is very careful never to live beyond its means. But such a disaster at the federal level has never come to pass, and that's a good thing. However, it also means that the federal government never learned the important lesson that Arkansas did.

When the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) offered its long-term budget projections in July of last year, it predicted that the United States is currently on an unsustainable trend. A debt the size of the federal government's, which is only supposed to keep increasing, can hinder long-term economic growth and restrict our ability to navigate unforeseeable future challenges or crises.

The interest payments our massive debt demands will continue to create bigger and bigger problems as we continue into this new century. The CBO has projected interest payments on our debt this year alone to be $227 billion. However, current interest rates are artificially low. As they begin to rise, and with our debt climbing higher and higher, by 2024 payments are forecasted to triple to $722 billion, a growth rate which doesn't come close to matching our economy's projected growth. Interest will be the third largest spending category behind medicare and social security at that point. That means that our debt's interest will crowd out other spending, money that could be spent on roads, schools, defense, emergencies, and other unforeseeable challenges.

So how can we reign in spending when a culture of fiscal responsibility isn't strong enough in Washington to mandate adherence to budgets Congress itself passes? We need a serious, lawful, and binding solution to our debt crisis, a Constitutional Amendment mandating monetary responsibility. We must fundamentally change the way Washington can spend money, and if Washington itself can't get it done, then the states themselves have the ability to intervene.

Under Article V of our Constitution, once two-thirds of the states petition Congress to call a constitutional convention, 38 states can ratify any amendment proposed at the convention. There is a serious push by many states to hold such a convention, and if that's what it takes to curb Federal spending, then I fully support their efforts. As of now, 27 of the needed 34 states have called for a convention in the hopes of amending our Constitution to include a balanced budget provision at the federal level. I have also supported numerous balanced budget Amendments in Congress and am working on my own spending limitation Amendment. Our nation needs true spending reform, and whether it comes from Washington or the states themselves, we need to act now before the weight of our nation's debt endangers our future and our children's future.

We can keep passing budgets year after year, hoping that eventually Congress will sort itself out. But I can't accept that as a solution. Since being elected to Congress it has been my top priority to raise awareness of our debt crisis, and voting for a status quo budget only reinforces the notion that it's O.K. for Washington to continue operating as it has in the past, when it's absolutely not.

Tags: Rep. Rick Crawford, Voting Against, the House Budget To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

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