Last week, I voted against the $3.5 trillion budget resolution. As with every vote, I approached this decision independently by asking whether it’s the best we can do for our district and our country, and I concluded that this budget failed that test. It took a substantial step towards fiscal sanity by cutting the deficit by more than half in five years, but I believe we must balance our books. While the liabilities left over from President Bush account for most of this year’s record deficit of $1.3 trillion, nothing exempts us from taking responsibility for balancing the budgets of future years.
Though I voted against it, I will acknowledge that this budget makes some progress towards getting the deficit under control and does a relatively good job of shifting the budget from expenditures to investments in America’s new competitive advantage. I joined with other fiscally conservative members of Congress to remove a $250 billion line-item in the budget for another possible bailout – that’s gone. We also successfully pushed for more than $200 billion of additional cuts from the original draft. Nevertheless, our treasury continues to hemorrhage money to Wall Street and spending too much to service the national debt.
I considered but voted against the two Republican alternatives. The primary alternative ran up similar deficits while sticking with many of the policies that got us into this mess. The second alternative that was even rejected by most in Republican leadership, gave tax cuts for Wall Street and cut benefits to seniors, one of the groups hardest hit by this economic downturn. Typically the minority party has more flexibility to produce a serious, responsible budget, but I was disappointed with the results.
In these first three months, I have voted against the bailout, for the economic recovery act, and against the budget. I supported the recovery act – which was also backed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – because it was responsible policy under extraordinary circumstances, and the benefits came to Main Street and the middle class. But part of the price of doing something unusual in tight times is to then balance those costs during better times. We must do something to jumpstart this economy, but we cannot afford to try everything. The bailout was just bad policy, and the budget just did not do enough on deficit reduction.
Many factors have caused the current economic crisis, but soaring debt is near the top of that list. We certainly have seen this from the federal government in recent years. If President Bush and the Congress of those years had simply stuck with the Clinton budgets, America would have paid off all publicly-held debt by now. Instead, they turned record surpluses into record deficits. But part of why this current recession is so scary is that we see similar levels of debt spending by households carrying mortgage and credit card debt and by the private sector through over-leveraging. Everyone has been spending, lending and borrowing money they simply do not have. It is time for that to end in all sectors, and I will continue to support the reforms that reward responsibility, and oppose the budgets that dig us deeper into debt.
Please feel free to contact me to share your concerns and ideas. You may write to 1520 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515; call 202.225.4711; or visit www.perriello.house.gov.
– Tom Perriello represents the Fifth District in the United States House of Representatives.