Total federal debt is nearly six times the government’s annual revenue, yet Congress continues to spend more than it collects. The debt is projected to increase by another $10 trillion over the next decade, to $29 trillion. At that point, interest payments alone will surpass national defense or non-defense discretionary spending as the government’s third-largest expense category.
“These aren’t just numbers on a page,” House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, R-Ga., noted in a recent meeting. “All the things the American people say they want from government are harmed by higher interest costs.”
The Congressional Budget Office, for example, now projects Social Security will be insolvent by 2030, barring any changes in benefits or payroll deductions.
After spending three months in Washington earlier this year, Congress’ inability to get a handle on spending went from being a kind of cynical joke for me to being a serious concern. What I saw there scared me.
It’s not just that lawmakers can’t agree on how to fix the problem – it’s that they no longer believe they can fix it. They know their own nature too well.
This can’t-do attitude developed over the past 40 years, as Congress passed law after law after law demanding greater fiscal discipline, yet found ways to sidestep them all. Lawmakers adopted deficit reduction targets, spending caps, offset requirements. They tried shaming themselves with proposals to slash their own salaries or automatically cut spending if they don’t meet statutory budget deadlines.
But nothing sticks. They’ve made promise after promise, and broken them time and again.
This goes beyond irresponsibility. It is addictive behavior. Congress is literally addicted to spending, and needs professional help.
Time for a Balanced Budget Amendment with no escape clause.