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  • Discretionary Spending Caps, A Good First Step

    After quietly increasing the federal debt limit from $12.1 trillion to $12.4 on Christmas Eve, the US Senate is beginning debate today on yet another increase. Hoping to avoid making the skyrocketing debt levels an election issue; this time around they want to pass an increase large enough to feed their appetite through 2010. While the ever increasing mountain of debt is not welcome news to many, there is a glimmer of hope that the nation will someday return to a fiscally sustainable track.

    Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) are expected to introduce an amendment to the debt limit bill that would: 1) Cap discretionary spending growth at approximately two percent per year, 2) Specify spending levels for defense and non-defense programs, and 3) Require a two-thirds vote to waive the annual caps.

    While this alone would hardly solve the nation’s fiscal problems it would represent an encouraging start. Unfortunately, the remaining two-thirds of the budget labeled mandatory spending on the entitlements Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid is ignored even though it will swamp the entire federal budget by 2052.

    Over the past three years Congress increased regular discretionary spending by 25 percent, from $873 billion to $1,090 billion, not including the $311 billion in “emergency” discretionary spending provided by the “stimulus” bill for FY10 or any spending related to the Global War on Terrorism. In short, essential programs are hardly starving for funding.

    Further, Congress has already passed the budget resolution which set discretionary spending increases at 2 percent per year over the next five years. The problem is the budget resolution is non-binding, which the Sessions-McCaskill amendment is designed to fix.

    While passage of the amendment isn’t a comprehensive solution to our nation’s fiscal problems, it would be a good step forward. However, truly successful fiscal reform must address entitlement spending.

    First, Congress must own up to the government’s long-term obligations for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits, which total approximately $45 trillion, by including these figures in the budget. In every year of delay the long-term cost of reform rises by roughly $2 trillion.

    Second, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid should be put on long-term budgets. Currently these programs are permitted to grow on auto-pilot without any consideration for the threat they pose to our nation’s financial future.

    Although the Sessions-McCaskill amendment excludes these important entitlement reforms, restraining any portion of government spending would be a significant accomplishment.

    Posted in Economics [slideshow_deploy]

    14 Responses to Discretionary Spending Caps, A Good First Step

    1. Prescott, Franklin , says:

      I have always felt that if Congress watched its pennies more, on things like expensive trials in NY City, and "junkets" like Nancy's trip to the Global Warming summit, they would help. When you multiply these type of things time and a again, it adds up to a lot of money. Congressional pay raises don't help either. I didn't get a raise this year. Did you?

    2. Tim Az says:

      The idea of being fiscally reponsible someday is a foolish notion. Someday will most likely be too late.

    3. Drew Page, IL says:

      Any caps on discretionary spending by the government would be a welcome first step and a 2% limit sounds reasonable. It needs to be followed up with reductions in government spending.

      Irrelevant earmarks, submitted by one legislator as an amendment to another legislator's bill, should be absolutely forebidden. If a legislator wants to spend tax money on a project, he or she should have the honesty to submit the request in separate legislation, not as an amendment or rider to someone else's bill. If a bill is submitted by a legislator(s) regarding a specific topic, let's say regulation of public utilities, another legislator should not have the right or ability to submit an amendment to that legislation that has no bearing or relationship to the initial legislation proposed, such as funding a project such as building a new school in his district. The proposed legislation regarding the regulation of public utilities may be very popular with the voters and this legislation should not become a vehicle into which every ambitious politician can get a free ride.

    4. Jeanne Stotler, Wood says:

      Pick on Social security, medicare, what about the miles BHO has logged on Air Force 1, remember what his "night out" in New York cost US the tax payers, and Nancy Pelosi's plane rides out to San Fran. at tax payers expense not to mention all the OTHER congressional junkets, Ms. Clinton's flicking around the globe?? These all cost MONEY, money that comes from federal sourses better known as taxes paid by the working people. If all this waste is not curbbed there is little hope for a balanced budget. In my house, if you do not have the money, you don't get it. If it's an emergency like a broken furnace, you pay it off before going on to something else. Same goes for medical Ins. you should buy it before you get the second or third car, the fancy cell phone, or take that luxury cruise etc. It's called living within your means, the country should do it also.

    5. Kay Melton, IL says:

      I had almost lost hope for this country until the election Tuesday. Now I think maybe there is hope that we can get away from these feather their nest politicans in Washington and the state governments. But can we do it soon enough?

    6. Evan, Anchorage says:

      We can not be a good country if we are broke. Nothing else matters. Its the budget stupid! My guess is that most independants like me are fiscal conservative and really could not care less about the social issues that the far right and far left try to make a big deal about. Drop all issues except the budget please.

    7. Pingback: Morning Bell: A Nothing Burger, A Fig Leaf, and a Commission On the Side | The Foundry: Conservative Policy News.

    8. Spiritof76, NH says:

      Start scaling back entitlement program promises. Start cutting other spending. Put in place a program that would reduce the federal budget in real dollars by one third by 2025. Eliminate Departments of Education, Energy and all their spending. Turn over all thsoe activities to the states. We have to grow the economy at the rate of about 5-6% per per year. The only way to do it is through genuine capitalism.

      There is no way to inch-bite this problem that we face if we want a country that would remain whole by 2025.

    9. Pingback: Morning Bell: A Nothing Burger, A Fig Leaf, and a Commission On the Side | Conservative Principles Now

    10. Normca says:

      Debt limit; it will grow again before the end of '10. McCaskel must be in trouble in her home state; so she is fiscally responsible until Dec '10. These trips by both political party members are, ludicrous, but not new. $700,000 a job is a real number.These guys are holding back on the majority of the 787b pork bill for a slush fund for their 2010 election bid. Of that porkulus bill, did Himas get their $1 billion yet ? Has Hollywood gotten theirs. Have any deteriorating bridges been repaired for the shovel ready jobs. The government – union employee rolls are growing while the private sector is shrinking. This is the Obama Plan – that's why Joe says its working beyond their dreams. And these jobs do not create anything positive, except for retirement for the individual.

    11. Pingback: A Second Chance for Fiscal Responsibility | The Foundry: Conservative Policy News.

    12. Pingback: Senate Rejects Spending Caps, and Reality | The Foundry: Conservative Policy News.

    13. Pingback: Senate Rejects Spending Caps, and Reality | Step Down Obama

    14. Caps says:

      I had almost lost hope for this country until the election Tuesday. Now I think maybe there is hope that we can get away from these feather their nest politicans in Washington and the state governments. But can we do it soon enough?

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