The discussion in Congress has once again turned to the debt limit. Unfortunately, because of continued out-of-control spending, we are facing a situation where Congress is being asked to increase the amount of debt the federal government can incur in order to avoid default. To be certain, allowing the U.S. to default on its creditors would result in severe economic consequences for the United States and its citizens. However, this is also an appropriate time to talk about the culture of runaway spending that exists in Washington and why we must remedy it.
This debt discussion is not confined just to the United States. Over the last several years, there has been an ongoing debate in Europe regarding the financial crisis in Greece and other countries. Since 2010, Greece has been the subject of two “bailouts” by fellow European nations. However, instead of just throwing money at the problem in Greece and raising their “debt limit” without question, European leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have required Greece to take concrete steps to address overspending and make tough fiscal reforms.
Chancellor Merkel has been a proponent for requiring the Greek government to cut the budget, including entitlement programs, as a condition of any bailout. At a 2012 conference, Merkel said: “We’re not saying that saving solves all problems. [But] you can’t spend more than you take in. You can’t live your whole life this way. Everybody knows this.”
If that sounds familiar, it is because I and many House Republicans have been making the same point about fiscal discipline here in the United States. Reining in spending is not the entire solution, economic growth is also very important, but it is the immediate starting point toward deficit reduction in the United States. Taking serious steps to restrain spending, putting us on the path to a balanced budget, and coupling with real reforms to our tax system, would help guide this nation out of the shadows of debt and spur greater economic growth and job creation.
While the fiscal problems of the United States are not yet on the scale of Greece, the projected $750 billion dollar budget deficit for 2013 and nearly $17 trillion dollar national debt are proof enough that we are headed in the wrong direction. We have to ask ourselves — do we want the United States to continue spending and ignore ballooning debt? Or, do we want to take control of spending, and stop letting it control us?
The answer is clear and unambiguous. Continuing down the same path that put us in this situation is simply unsustainable. Something must change, and this is a conversation we must have now. I urge President Obama to continue this dialogue with Congress on the debt limit and deficit reduction. With the lessons of Greece as an example, we must take real steps to find a fiscally responsible and sustainable solution for the American people. A legacy of debt is not what we want to leave for the next generation.