There's always tomorrow
Thursday, February 23, 2012 11:34 PM
By U.S. Senator Jon Kyl
Less than two weeks ago, President Obama unveiled his annual budget, which The Wall Street Journal called “a brilliant bit of misdirection.”
Rather than cut the deficit in half by 2012, as the president promised, it instead hikes spending and gives us yet another deficit in excess of $1 trillion – all while adding trillions more to our already unsustainable national debt over the next decade.
The same day, Greek leaders finally managed to push a budget through their own parliament. That plan – which eliminated a fifth of all government workers, slashed the minimum wage, and yanked back benefits already promised to the Greek people – prompted violent rioting and a wave of arson attacks.
Yet, brutal as it was, Greece’s austerity budget will do almost nothing to halt the country’s inexorable slide to default. It will probably only buy the Greeks a few more months before yet another painful package of deep cuts will have to be rammed through.
In Greece, this could all have been avoided if its political leaders had simply made common-sense reforms when there was still time to avert disaster. Instead, they chose the path of more government spending today, reform tomorrow.
And then, tomorrow came – and it was too late. Those debt-financed good times quickly gave way to debt-propelled misery: unemployment at 21 percent, a rapidly contracting economy, and millions faced with a grim future.
Our tomorrow is coming, too.
Yet, President Obama’s budget does nothing to solve America’s own mounting fiscal crisis. It only makes our problems worse.
U.S. national debt, at $15.4 trillion, is now larger than our entire economy. By the end of the decade, President Obama’s budget would force Americans to pay nearly $1 trillion every year just to cover interest payments on that debt. Our debt load is also suffocating economic recovery and job creation, and it is pushing us closer to our own Greek-style fiscal catastrophe.
The president won’t admit this, of course. He has tried to claim that the budget includes “$4 trillion” in deficit reduction, but that is false – it is simply a mixture of attempts to claim credit for things that are already law, along with pure budget gimmickry.
The budget certainly does not decrease spending; it increases it – by a lot.
Indeed, deficit spending during President Obama’s term in the White House will exceed $5 trillion – in other words, every American would have to pay $17,000 just to cover that vast overspending alone. And, as a percentage of GDP, Obama’s average annual deficits are even larger than what we saw during the Great Depression – and twice as large as those of any other post-war president.
Perhaps most troubling of all, his budget will allow Social Security to slide into bankruptcy, eventually forcing an across-the-board 22-percent cut on seniors who depend on the program. That’s not right.
Leadership is about making bold choices today so that others can enjoy greater prosperity tomorrow. Yet, President Obama’s budget is something that would make Greek politicians proud; it opts for a lot more spending today and saves reform for tomorrow.
That is no longer acceptable. Our seniors who depend on Social Security will be hurt without reform. Our children who aspire to a better life will be left behind without reform. Our nation will careen ever-closer to the brink without reform.
The choice we face is this: we can either make some necessary fiscal changes today, or we can have unimaginably painful cuts imposed on us tomorrow. Doing nothing, just like the president’s budget proposes, is the only way to ensure that benefits will be cut, that Social Security will wither away, and that promises made today will be broken tomorrow.
We need only look to Greece to see that this is so.
Our tomorrow is coming. I, for one, am going to fight to ensure it is a prosperous one.
Senator Jon Kyl is serving his third and final term in the U.S. Senate after previously serving for eight years in the U.S. House of Representatives.