By ERNEST F. HOLLINGS, former U. S. senator
2011 -- The
politics of campaigning have crowded out or taken over governing - particularly
for paying for government.
Congressmen and Senators talk of balancing the budget rather than paying
for government. In 2009, President Obama and Congress didn't talk of paying
$1.549 trillion for the increase in spending for the year. They talked
of "balancing the budget" and "long-term plans to lower
the debt." They made it appear as some unusual phenomenon - not the
increase in spending that year. They never talk of borrowing $1.549 trillion
from China. It's always some economic challenge that regular public servants
don't face. Every mayor, every year, pays for the city's government. Every
governor, every year, pays for the state's government. But Washington
officials never talk of paying for this year's increase in spending.
our dilemma. President Bush didn't pay for his tax cuts, prescription
drugs, wars, and annual increases in spending - for eight years, adding
$5 trillion to the debt. I served for thirty-two years on the Budget Committee,
and we struggled every year to pay for annual increases. Many hours were
spent in conference with our House colleagues trying to find some millions
or a billion dollars to pay for this year's increase in spending. We never
talked of billions of dollars or trillions of dollars. In 2010 there was
never mentioned that we had to pay $1.371 trillion for government; or
this year, 2011, paying $1.6 trillion by the end of September according
to the Congressional Budget Office. There is never talk of borrowing $1.6
trillion and paying for this year's increase in spending. Of course, we
are only authorized a budget for this year of $1.279 trillion. To pay
the bill, the government would have to eliminate spending. So, to be realistic,
we ought not to be talking about "balancing" or "long-term
plans," but talking about minimizing the spending and borrowing,
and pay for what we can. Instead, we haven't paid for government in eleven
years. President Bush increased the debt $5 trillion in eight years, and
President Obama will have increased the debt $4.5 trillion in three years.
To balance the budget, when it was last balanced in 2001, we would have
to find $9.5 trillion. That's ridiculous. Forget about "balancing."
Forget about "long-term plans." Forget about campaigning, and
start governing. Start making a substantial payment for the increase in
spending this year. And the media should stop covering the campaigning
or politics and instead cover what is to be paid for this year's increase
in spending. Otherwise, like Tennessee Ernie Ford, "we'll be another
year older and deeper in debt." That's President Obama's plan. In
twelve years, he lowers the debt $4 trillion, but borrows $7 trillion,
for an increase in the debt of $3 trillion.
Senator Hollings of South Carolina served 38 years in the United States Senate, and for many years was Chairman of the Commerce, Space, Science & Transportation Committee. He is the author of the recently published book, Making Government Work (University of South Carolina Press, 2008).
© 2011, Ernest F. Hollings. All rights reserved. Contact us for republication permission.
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