A dubious milestone

Pete Hoekstra Shillman Senior Fellow, Investigative Project on Terrorism
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Around kitchen and boardroom tables across the state, Michigan families and businesses are figuring out their budgets for the year, deciding where to cut, where to grow and what should stay the same. Unlike these responsible Americans, Debbie Stabenow and Senate Democrats have decided to fly blind. In fact, today marks the 1,000th day since Senate Democrats passed a budget.

To put 1,000 days in perspective, there was no such thing as an iPad when Debbie Stabenow last passed a budget. General Motors had never declared bankruptcy, and our national debt was $4 trillion smaller.

A budget serves as a financial blueprint for the government and lets taxpayers and employers know how the government is going to impact their bottom lines. Knowing what the tax rates are going to be in the next 12 to 24 months is critical to small business owners as they look to expand. Will they have enough after-tax income to be able to grow or will the tax structure be changed in a way that makes job creation more difficult? This uncertainty discourages the risk-taking necessary for the American entrepreneurial spirit to flourish.

Moreover, without a budget, spending increases, as there is no restraint, no boundaries. By writing and passing a budget, we can identify the funding that must be prioritized, while separating out and eliminating the pet projects and irresponsible spending of our hard-earned tax dollars. As we begin to curb federal spending, we can work toward lower, more reasonable tax rates. Passing a balanced budget would also be the first step toward reducing our mountainous debt and putting our economy back on the path toward growth.

Senator Stabenow has only paid lip-service to the notion of fiscal discipline. While she sits on the Senate Budget Committee, Debbie Stabenow has failed to support or vote for the simplest form of fiscal restraint — a budget — since 2009.

Our country’s national debt has spiraled past the $15 trillion mark, but Stabenow and her colleagues have no roadmap for getting spending under control. Without an accurate and specific public plan that accounts for how much the government will collect in taxes — and how much more than that figure it will spend — our nation will be caught in a vicious cycle of fiscal irresponsibility that gives us more debt, fewer jobs, higher taxes and even more government spending.

Democrats like Debbie Stabenow and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid seem to believe there is no need for a budget. In fact, in a May 2011 interview, Reid stated, “There’s no need to have a Democratic budget in my opinion.” He went on to say creating a budget at this stage was “foolish.” Doing nothing, however, is not a strategy — despite what Stabenow and Reid believe.

Defaulting to Debbie Stabenow’s “do nothing” strategy might be the easy way out, but it’s not going to put our country and our economy back on track. I know it’s not a painless or simple process to pass a budget in Washington, but that isn’t an excuse for failed leadership.

For six years, I worked on the House Budget Committee, pinching pennies so taxpayers wouldn’t have to foot the bill for more wasteful spending. We laid out a roadmap that restrained the growth of spending, reformed welfare and cut taxes — a roadmap that led to balanced budgets and solid economic growth.

At this critical moment in our history when economic recovery is teetering and millions of Americans are unemployed, we just can’t afford the status quo. For over 33 months, Debbie Stabenow has allowed our government to operate without any framework for how it spends our tax dollars. For 142 weeks, she’s increased spending but failed to outline how we’re going to get our fiscal house in order and balance the budget. For 1,000 days, she’s done nothing to create or pass a budget.

Michiganders cannot afford another 1,000 days of an ineffective senator who shows no leadership and no urgency. The time to return fiscal discipline and responsibility to our government is long past due and the first step comes this November.

Pete Hoekstra, who is currently running for U.S. Senate, served in the U.S. Congress from 1993-2010.