Opinion Pieces

Longview Daily News Guest Column: Congress needs to rein in spending

Last year, for the first time in history, Congress failed to pass a budget. That means Americans had no way of knowing how much of our money Congress intended to spend or where they intended to spend it. Taxpaying citizens, many of them unemployed or underemployed, were financially responsible for what basically amounted to a blank check for Washington, DC.

Even more troubling was that Congress perpetrated this lack of fiscal planning after years of overspending. Americans have been losing jobs by the tens of thousands and our country has remained in the worst economic slump in 70 years. Families in Longview, Kelso, Castle Rock and Cathlamet know the difficulties posed by the lack of jobs in our region. Many have been tightening the family budget to feed their families until they can find work. Meanwhile, the federal government has continued to engage in credit card spending and to accumulate mountains of debt.

America needs jobs, but Congress spending money it doesn't have is not a jobs plan — it's a job-killer. If Congress keeps up this level of spending, struggling families and small businesses that have had to lay people off will be forced to foot the bill through more and higher taxes.

For the past two years, it seemed as though Congress couldn't spend the money fast enough; $2.6 trillion on a government-led health care overhaul, $800 billion on a failed stimulus program, $700 billion to bail out banks. For the third year in a row, the federal government has pledged to spend more than $1 trillion of money it doesn't have. To keep up with this breakneck level of spending, it is now borrowing 40 cents for every dollar it spends.

Adding to the deficit is hurting the job creators and residents of our region. I believe that Congress must step forward and provide real leadership to break this habit of overspending. It's time to make difficult decisions, and establish a framework for responsible budgeting. In doing so, we'll remove barriers to economic growth and the creation of new, good-paying jobs.

A few weeks ago, I drove around Southwest Washington to talk with residents about the threat our debt poses on economic recovery. What I encountered was surprising. Many folks were traveling to our town hall meetings to share their deficit concerns with me. Some were concerned with the futures of their children and grandchildren, others were folks who have spent months seeking work.

By and large, most were aware of the need for tough decisions from Congress. Over and over I heard, "Jaime, please go back to Washington and tell them to spend less of our money."

When I ran for this office, I pledged to stop the overspending that is such a steep barrier to private sector job creation. From day one, I have been working to keep this pledge. My first vote as a Member of Congress was to cut my own office budget, along with the budgets for every other congressional office. The $35 million we saved taxpayers didn't eliminate the deficit overnight, but it was a start.

In my first month, I also co-sponsored a U.S. Constitutional Amendment that would require Congress not spend more than it receives in revenues each year. If families carefully establish budgets that they must live within, why shouldn't government?

The hard work is just beginning. Just last week, Congress debated whether we should make $100 billion in cuts to federal spending. These were real cuts, and some popular programs will get less money than expected. Some projects will be scaled down and put on hold and political attacks will be made against those making the tough decisions.

But Americans are aware that we cannot stay on the path of overspending and achieve economic recovery. Our country's fiscal crisis is one of the greatest challenges facing our nation today, but we can overcome it if we put a stop to the overspending and force the federal government to live within its means. Once we do, we will be much closer to sustained economic recovery and new jobs.

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