Recent Op-Eds

One lesson we can all take to heart as we work through the current economic downturn is the importance of not borrowing more money than we can repay. While South Dakota has largely been insulated from the home foreclosure crisis, we have seen what happens when individuals live beyond their means. Unfortunately, Congressional leaders in Washington have failed to learn this crucial lesson.

In February, President Obama spoke to Congress and the nation offering a message of responsibility and restraint, especially in terms of the federal budget. The President promised that tough decisions would be made, waste would be cut, and pork barrel politics would be a thing of the past. However, shortly after his remarks, the President sent Congress a budget blueprint that spends too much, taxes too much, and borrows too much.

I was taught from a young age that actions speak louder than words, and the budget proposed by the President clearly contradicts his message of fiscal responsibility. Instead of the promised restraint, Congress was presented with a budget that expands the federal government and represents the largest tax increase in history.

Under the President's plan, total federal spending next year would rise to $3.9 trillion, which represents 28 percent of our Gross Domestic Product, a level we have not reached since World War II. In fact, if we continue to spend at the levels outlined in the proposed budget, the federal debt will double from today's $5.8 trillion to $11.5 trillion in just five years, and triple in 10 years.

In addressing the nation, the President said that his budget analysts had identified $2 trillion in budget savings. What he did not say is that these "savings" actually represent a tax increase on families and small business owners. Despite our current economic downturn, one of the most alarming provisions is the new tax the President included in his budget that would increase everyone's electric bills under the name of "climate change."

How can Congress and the Administration support a budget that will raise taxes, continue failing government programs, and over the next five years double our federal debt while American families and small businesses are counting every cent and making tough decisions every day? Remember, spending borrowed money helped get us into this current economic situation, and I fear the President's proposed medicine is not in the best interest of the "patient."

Recently, Congress passed a stimulus bill with lofty claims about economic growth and job creation, not to mention a pork-laden omnibus appropriations bill that increases spending more than eight percent over last year, with a total combined cost of over $1.5 trillion. We are witnessing a truly unique moment in American history: rather than sacrificing for the next generation, which has been the American way since our nation's founding, we are now asking the next generation to sacrifice for us. Borrowing oceans of money from our children and grandchildren and putting their future at risk is wrong.

While I will not always agree with the President and some of my colleagues in Congress, I am committed to offering constructive alternatives and engaging in an honest debate. However, recent trends seem to indicate that the Democrat-led Congress will not exercise restraint when it comes to spending -- not just tax dollars but large sums of borrowed money that will be mortgaged on the backs of our children and grandchildren. Until something changes, I fear that the government will continue to set a poor example of fiscal responsibility, and I cannot fault those in South Dakota and across the nation who are frustrated with Washington.