While President Barack Obama and too many members of Congress prefer to add a record $1.5 trillion in fiscal year 2011 to our staggering $14 trillion-plus national debt, we are fortunate that U.S. Sen. Bob Corker of Chattanooga and a few other senators want to face the problem and solve it in a realistic way.
Corker, R-Tenn., and Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., led this week in proposing legislation to force Congress to significantly cut spending over the next decade.
That's not a "quick" solution, but it's the least we should adopt. Even if the Corker-McCaskill plan is approved by Congress, our national debt will remain a serious brake on our economy until balanced budgets can prevail.
Joining Republican Corker and Democrat McCaskill in their effort are Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee; Republican Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson of Georgia; Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina; Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona; Republican Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma; and Republican Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois.
To be successful in curbing the terrible debt growth, they will need a lot more Republicans and Democrats to join them.
Corker pointed out: "Washington continues to borrow and spend, and despite the pleas of the American people, there is no end in sight. As we approach our debt limit of $14.29 trillion and more and more Americans — Republicans, Democrats and independents — call on Washington to get spending under control and reduce our deficit, I see no better time to change course."
He said his proposal is a "legislative straitjacket, a way of forcing Congress to dramatically cut spending over 10 years. The beauty of the CAP Act is that it imposes fiscal discipline and smaller government, while incentivizing lawmakers to pass policies that promote economic growth."
McCaskill noted: "At a time when many families have been forced to tighten their pocketbooks, Congress must also learn to do the same. This bill isn't just about cutting back this year or next year; it's about instilling permanent discipline to keep spending at a responsible level."
What, specifically, would the bill proposed by Corker and others do? It would:
* Establish a 10-year "glide path" to cap discretionary and mandatory spending to bring spending down from 24.7 percent of the gross domestic product (all our nation produces) to 20.6 percent, the level over roughly the past four decades.
* Authorize the Office of Management and Budget to make even, simultaneous cuts throughout the budget if Congress does not meet the annual cap to bring spending down. Only a two-thirds vote by Congress could override the cap.
* Eliminate the "off-budget" distinction for Social Security, providing a realistic assessment of total federal spending.
Corker said: "Cutting trillions of dollars from the federal budget in the coming years won't be easy or painless; it will require backbone and discipline on the part of policymakers and shared sacrifice for the country. I believe Americans will be willing to make short-term sacrifices for the long-term good of our country and demand commensurate actions from their elected officials."
Doing this would be hard — and unfortunately its legislative prospects are by no means certain. But letting the debt continue to consume vast shares of our gross domestic product will have terrible consequences.
The leadership that Corker is providing is an example of why he is such a good senator, and why he deserves strong support from a majority in Congress.
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