Monday, March 7, 2011

Marco Rubio's Thoughts on a Balanced Budget Amendment

Marco Rubio published the following op-ed on today (cross-posted on his Facebook page):

Townhall | Marco Rubio | "Washington Needs a Balanced Budget Amendment"
In my two short months in office, it has become clear to me that the spending problem in Washington is far worse than many of us feared. For years, politicians have blindly poured more and more borrowed money into ineffective government programs, leaving us with trillion dollar deficits and a crippling debt burden that threatens prosperity and economic growth.

In the Florida House of Representatives, where a balanced budget is a requirement, we had to make the tough choices to cut spending where necessary because it was required by state law. By no means was this an easy process, but it was our duty as elected officials to be accountable to our constituents and to future generations of Floridians. In Washington, a balanced budget amendment is not just a fiscally-responsible proposal, it’s a necessary step to curb politicians’ decades-long penchant for overspending.

Several senators have proposed balanced budget amendments that ensure Congress will not spend a penny more than we take in, while setting a high hurdle for future tax hikes. I am a co-sponsor of two balanced budget amendments, since it is clear that these measures would go a long way to reversing the spending gusher we’ve seen from Washington in recent years.

During my Senate campaign, while surrounded by the employees of Jacksonville’s Meridian Technologies, I proposed 12 simple ways to cut spending in Washington. That company, founded 13 years ago, has grown into a 200-employee, high-tech business, and the ideas I proposed would help ensure that similar companies have the opportunity to start or expand just like Meridian did.

To be clear, our unsustainable debt and deficits are threatening companies like Meridian and impeding job creation. In addition to proposing a balanced budget amendment, I recommended canceling unspent “stimulus” funds, banning all earmarks and returning discretionary spending to 2008 levels.

Fortunately, some of my ideas have found their way to the Senate chamber. The first bill I co-sponsored in the Senate was to repeal ObamaCare, the costly overhaul of our nation’s health care system that destroys jobs and impedes our economic recovery. Democratic leaders in the Senate have expressed their willingness to ban earmarks for two years after the Senate Republican conference adopted a moratorium. I have also co-sponsored the REINS Act, a common-sense measure that would increase accountability and transparency in our outdated and burdensome regulatory process. These bills, along with a balanced budget amendment, would help get our country back on a sustainable path and provide certainty to job creators.

While Republicans are proposing a variety of ideas to rein in Washington’s out-of-control spending, unfortunately, President Obama’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year proposes to spend $46 trillion, and even in its best year, the deficit would remain above $600 billion. Worst of all, the President’s budget completely avoids addressing the biggest drivers of our long-term debt – Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Rather than tackle these tough, serious issues, President Obama is proposing a litany of tax hikes on small businesses and entrepreneurs, to the tune of more than $1.6 trillion. These tax increases destroy jobs, make us less competitive internationally and hurt our efforts to grow the economy and get our fiscal house in order.

A balanced budget amendment would be a necessary step in reversing Washington’s tax-borrow-spend mantra. It would force Congress to balance its budget each year – not allow it to pass our problems on to the next generation any longer.
Rubio is correct when he points out that Florida's balanced budget rules have served as a valuable restraint on our Legislature. A significant source of the problem in Washington is the federal government's ability to print more money and essentially write itself a blank check. Let's be direct: elected officials - regardless of party - often spend taxpayers' money irresponsibly. Any sort of defined limitation on their spending power forces legislatures to set priorities and make decisions because they cannot buy everything they want. Mandating balanced budgets is one of the most simple and direct restraints on wasteful spending.

What Congress does with your money
Florida has avoided the budgetary catastrophes currently facing California and other states thanks in large part to our balanced budget requirement. The Legislature can only spend whatever money the state takes in as revenue, and that's it. This is part of the reason that I was so opposed to the stimulus funds that were given to the states: it allowed - and in many cases actively encouraged - irresponsible spending practices to continue. Oh, and don't forget the increased damage that such nationwide spending added to our national debt (currently over $14 @#$%! trillion and counting...sigh...).
We're broke. Broke, broke, B-R-O-K-E, broke.

Our country has been flirting with economic suicide for far too long. Elementary schoolchildren can tell that the math doesn't make sense. There is no economic system on earth, during the entire course of human history, that has been able to sustain spending more than it produces. Congress' spending spree must end, and soon, if the American dream is to endure.

With the Democrats still in the majority in the Senate and Obama (and his veto pen) in the White House, I highly doubt that balanced budget rules can be passed at this point, but it's a worthwhile issue to discuss and I applaud Senator Rubio for his commitment to fiscal responsibility.

One reason I was such an enthusiastic supporter of Rubio's Senate campaign was his record as Speaker of the Florida House. Marco Rubio has literally walked the fiscal conservative walk. His 100 Innovative Ideas for Florida's Future program (based on a book of ideas collected from citizens around the state) was a great success, with over half of the list becoming law.  Rubio has years of experience making tough budgetary decisions, under the constraint of that wonderful balanced-budget rule. I'm thrilled to see him continue this work in the U.S. Senate.

One final note: just to assault a deceased equine one more time, can I just say again how very, very, very glad I am that we sent Rubio to the Senate instead of the Oompa-Loompa?

My Senator is cooler than your Senator.
(Cross posted at The Minority Report)

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