One hundred years ago, the U.S. government was in the second year of an incredible 11-year run.
Between 1920 and 1930, a period when Republicans controlled the White House for 10 of 11 years, the federal government posted a budget surplus every year. Solvency no longer appeared to be a dream, as Washington drained the national debt by nearly 40 percent.
Then, the tide turned. And slowly but surely the national debt mounted until it has reached the Rocky Mountains-sized peak of today.
We had a glimmer of hope not too long ago. In 2000, President Bill Clinton’s last year in office, Brookings Institute analyst Allen Schick considered Clinton’s bulging budget surplus and cooed, “Liquidating the deficit ranks as one of the supreme budgetary accomplishments in American history.” President George W. Bush extended that one more year, then poof.
On Friday, Republican Sen. Rick Scott of Florida took aim at the one national crisis that only he seems to want to talk about: the national debt.
In an op-ed for The Washington Examiner, Scott decried the fiscal malpractice that threatens America’s continued stability.
“Since being elected to represent Florida in the U.S. Senate, I’ve fought hard to call out wasteful spending and offer solutions to make our government more efficient and accountable to the taxpayers,” Scott wrote.
“This should be the foundation of our work and service to our constituents. We can’t forget that every dollar the federal government spends is borrowed from the people.”
Sadly, over the past two years that I’ve been in Washington, I’ve realized that while many politicians make promises to uphold these values, very few put their words into practice,” he continued. “It’s no wonder, then, that our national debt continues to grow out of control.”
Today, Scott noted, the national debt is a “massive and unsustainable” $27 trillion.
“America is in a debt crisis. We need to start talking about it and taking decisive action to reverse course. That’s why every time I’m faced with the question of spending taxpayer dollars on government programs, I ask myself some simple, yet important, questions,” said Scott.
“What is the plan to pay for it?”
“What is the return on investment for families?”
“Are there other programs already doing the same thing?”
“When was the last time this program was reviewed for its effectiveness?”
“Does the proposal include measures to prevent waste and fraud and ensure accountability?”
“Are there unnecessary regulations making this more expensive than it needs to be?”
“Asking these questions isn’t a novel idea. It’s the same process I went through every day when I was governor (of Florida) and what most people go through when making financial decisions at home or for their businesses,” Scott argued.
“Spending without consequence isn’t how things work in the real world, and it’s not how things should work in government.”
Scott maintained that, thanks to Congress, we now suffer from “enormous deficits, insurmountable debt, and out-of-control spending.”
“This has to stop. We need real reforms,” he added.
One such idea, a constitutional amendment imposing a supermajority vote in each house of Congress in order to create or raise any tax or fee and providing line-item veto authority for the president.
Scott also said it’s time for a federal law that would forfeit members of Congress their pay if they can’t pass a budget on time.
“With America in such desperate need of leadership to fix our spending and debt problem, you’d think that the first thing President (Joe) Biden would do is set a plan and work hard to make things right. Well, think again,” Scott wrote.
He pointed out that after Congress spent $900 billion to alleviate the economic impact of COVID-19, Biden touted an additional $1.9 trillion. And that’s just a down payment.
“Congress has made a habit of maxing out America’s credit card with no plan to pay off our debts. Failure to rein in deficit spending will inevitably cause high inflation, devastating the purchasing power of all and disproportionately affecting low- and fixed-income families,” Scott wrote.
“Since the Biden administration doesn’t have a plan to address this crisis, I hope it will join me in fighting for fiscal restraint, the adoption of sustainable and responsible debt reduction measures, and the passage of reforms that produce concrete, enforceable limitations of deficit spending.”
“The public understands it can’t spend without consequence,” he concluded. “It’s time for government to embrace this same mentality.”