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Chart a new direction

POSTED: January 16, 2012 7:00 a.m.

In many respects, Wednesday, January 18, 2012 will be like any other day. The federal government will borrow about 40 cents out of every dollar it spends. Washington bureaucrats will remain unaware of and unconcerned about the economic and cultural consequences of their rules and regulations. Millions of Americans will remain out of work because of the tax and regulatory uncertainty scaring small businesses from taking risks to invest and hire new employees. And yet, many politicians in Washington are apparently fine with all of this even though most of the Americans they represent are not.


January 18 will also be like the 993 other days before it in that the Senate leadership will have failed still to pass a budget. The following Tuesday will mark the 1,000th day since the Senate last passed a budget. It is little wonder why Congress has an 11 percent approval rating; one chamber cannot even manage to complete such a crucial task. On top of that, the Senate will likely continue to ignore more than two dozen House-passed measures to help spur private sector job creation.


Also on January 18, the House will vote on a “Resolution of Disapproval” to state its opposition to fulfilling the President’s most recent request for a $1.2 trillion increase in the nation’s debt limit. As a condition of the August 2011 debt deal, the President is automatically granted this additional debt unless majorities of both chambers object. If both chambers were to resist, then the President could veto the resolution and two-thirds of each chamber would have to override the veto.


Given the Senate’s unwillingness to pass a budget for nearly 1,000 days, it is unlikely the Senate will disapprove of this automatic debt limit increase either. Though the House likely will object to the debt increase, it is unfortunate that this is the only existing recourse to prevent the President from obtaining another $1.2 trillion in debt – debt to be repaid by our children and grandchildren. With this increase the President will have received $2.1 trillion in new debt since August and more than $5 trillion in his first three years, bringing the grand total America owes to $16.2 trillion. Yet, no substantial and meaningful cuts have come to fruition. Don’t hold your breath for them to manifest, either.


How can Congress fix this situation? First, we cannot back down from the planned spending reductions. The debt deal outlined cuts to take place over the course of the next decade. There are some who think those reductions need to be put on hold. Second, those spending cuts should be larger. The next decade is just cuts to growth in spending; we need to dig deeper and actually reduce the bottom line. Third, we need to address the problems with revenue. Our tax code is a mess. There is a problem when about half of Americans contribute nothing in income taxes whatsoever while 1% pay more than a third of the total income tax revenue.


January 18 will unfortunately be like most other days, but January 19 and every day after it can and should be different. Every man, woman, and child – each of whom shoulders more than $50,000 of the nation’s debt – can wait no longer for Washington to reduce spending and stop adding to the debt once and for all.


Tim Huelskamp represents the First Congressional District in Kansas. He serves on the House Budget, Agriculture, and Veterans’ Affairs Committees. His website is


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