On Tuesday, the national debt reached an ominous milestone by exceeding $16 trillion for the first time in our nation’s history. That is $50,950 for every man, woman, and child in the United States.
It is hard to comprehend exactly the size of a trillion. It is a million millions or a thousand, thousand, thousand, thousands.
At $16 trillion, the national debt is now larger than the size of the entire American economy. Just think about that. It is more than the value of all the goods and services produced in our country last year.
How did we get here?
Our national debt is the result of Washington’s inability to make the tough decisions necessary and kicking the can down the road. It is a crushing burden on future generations and, without action, could leave them a lifetime of indebtedness to China.
Not only is this a debt that must one day be paid, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office found it actually leads to more economic hardship and less opportunity, harming the ability of future generations to achieve success.
Neither party can claim innocence and both sides have their fingerprints all over the national debt.
Spending was out of control under President George W. Bush. The national debt increased $4.89 trillion during his eight years in the White House. Under the current administration, however, spending has gone on overdrive.
While he promised to halve the deficit in his first term, President Obama has increased the national debt by $5.38 trillion, or 51 percent, in just three and a half years. Already, he has exceeded the Bush Administration by nearly $500 billion. Moreover, he has already added more to the national debt than the first 42 presidents, from George Washington to Bill Clinton, combined.
As a result of this reckless spending, we face the most predictable economic crisis in our nation’s history. We need only to look to Greece, Italy, and the rest of Europe to see what failure to act could mean.
To get our fiscal house in order, our government needs a budget. For the past two years, the House has passed a budget that addresses the drivers of our debt, cuts wasteful government spending, and puts us on a path to pay down the debt.
To his credit, President Obama introduced his own budget. Unfortunately, it calls for more spending and debt and was so widely panned that it did not receive a single vote in either the House or Senate.
The Senate on the other hand has refused to even offer its own proposal and has not passed a budget in over three years, ignoring a fundamental duty of governance. It is irresponsible and unacceptable.
That is why I sponsored the “No Budget, No Pay” Act that would refuse pay to members of Congress if a budget has not been passed by the beginning of a fiscal year.
It is also why I introduced a plan that would force government to live within its means — just like families and small businesses — by taking spending off auto pilot and tying it to historic revenues.
My proposal provides government with the necessary resources to operate while placing strict limits on expansion and spending. Once implemented, it will begin making cuts immediately. It brings the federal budget into balance and begins paying down the national debt in less than five years.
The American way has always been to leave the country better for the next. While the challenges today are great, we can still turn the ship around and lay the groundwork renewed prosperity. Delaying action will only make the task that much harder.
U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., serves the 1st Congressional District of Georgia, which includes Bryan County.