The fight for spending cuts

Tim Phillips President, Americans for Prosperity
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In the coming weeks, you’ll continue to hear the same carefully poll-tested line from President Obama: We need a “balanced, responsible” approach to dealing with our debt problem. Unfortunately, what President Obama means by “balanced and responsible” is neither balanced nor responsible: He wants Washington to raise taxes immediately and propose long-term spending cuts, the type that have been proposed in the past but never seem to take effect. This “balanced, responsible” approach championed by President Obama, the left and sadly some Republicans is a major reason we’re $16.4 trillion in debt.

In his press conference last week, the president claimed that he had cut $1.4 trillion from the federal budget. Investor’s Business Daily crunched the numbers and found Obama’s math doesn’t add up. The spending cuts just aren’t there. Yet taxpayers have seen a reduction in their take-home pay from the increase in the payroll tax, and many Americans, including a large number of small business owners, will see their income taxes go up as well. At least another 12 tax increases will take effect this year, many as part of the looming Obamacare debacle. Vacuuming cash out of Americans’ paychecks while continuing to overspend is neither fair nor balanced.

In fact, government overspending is the greatest threat to our economic prosperity, and stopping it is the only way to address our skyrocketing national debt.

Congress’s upcoming debt-ceiling vote is the first of three fights — the other two being the sequester and the continuing resolution — over the next two months where Republicans and Democrats have an opportunity to rein in spending.

After the debt-ceiling vote, the automatic spending cuts (dubbed “the sequester”) that are scheduled to take effect this year will be up for debate and vote. In the real world, where American families live, this would be a no-brainer. But Washington politicians live not just in a different world, but in an alternative universe. A quick look at the facts makes this clear.

The federal budget is projected to top $3.8 trillion in 2013, with a deficit of over $1 trillion. Yet the president and many politicians from both parties are already saying the rest of the $85 billion in sequestration cuts are too deep, even though $85 billion is less than one-half of one percent of the total federal budget. To put those numbers in perspective, that’s like a family making $40,000 a year having to cut $7 from its monthly budget. The equivalent of skipping two lattes from Starbucks each month hardly justifies the howls coming from Capitol Hill.

Remember, these sequestration cuts, which came about as part of the 2011 debt-ceiling grand bargain, were promised by the president and Congress. Frankly, they are a small but imperative first step to reining in out-of-control government spending.

But before Congress can vote on the sequester, it will need to deal with the debt limit. The president is trying to intimidate Republicans into giving him a clean, no-strings-attached debt limit increase. Republicans and responsible Democrats should do no such thing. They should demand serious, verifiable spending cuts and a clear path to a balanced budget in exchange for an increase in the debt limit.

The American people are with us on this. A recent Gallup survey shows that 72% of Americans think it is extremely important that President Obama make major cuts to federal spending in his second term. Such a resounding majority is especially significant given how out-of-sync Mr. Obama sounded when he recently told Speaker John Boehner, “We don’t have a spending problem.”

That stubborn mentality together with years of unrestrained spending has combined to create the fiscal crisis we find ourselves in today. Much of this money has been spent in outlandish ways. The Department of the Interior, for instance, spent $222,000 renovating a bathroom. And don’t forget the failed green energy boondoggles like Solyndra that have cost taxpayers billions.

So as we once again approach the debt limit, understand that the debt-limit controversy is only a symptom of our overspending problem. Raising the debt ceiling without addressing the underlying cause would be irresponsible. Whitewashing the problem with cozy but meaningless rhetoric like Obama’s would also be irresponsible. But if Republicans are going to be able to fight the debt-limit fight with any credibility, they must make it clear that they’re committed to letting the modest sequestration spending cuts — cuts that they approved last year — take effect.

Tim Phillips is the president of Americans for Prosperity.