NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 29, 2009

This year's explosion of spending and unprecedented deficits -- and unapologetic promises for more of the same -- has made it clear that Washington is either uninterested in, or incapable of responsibly managing our nation's finances and the only plan going forward is to shovel on more spending and debt, say Reps. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas).

While budget process changes cannot, by themselves, restore fiscal balances, they can give Congress and the president the tools to tackle the most serious economic problem facing the country.  To that end, Ryan and Hensarling have introduced the "Spending, Deficit, and Debt Control Act," which would do the following:

  • Create a legally binding budget -- it would give the budget the force of law, call on Congress and the president to agree, early in the process, on binding budget parameters and promote shared accountability for fiscal outcomes, rather than constant finger-pointing.
  • Establish real, enforceable limits on spending and deficits -- it would place firm caps on both discretionary and mandatory spending, as well as total spending and deficits -- and enforce these limits with automatic spending reductions aimed at the programs with the highest spending growth.
  • Address the entitlement crisis and other long-term liabilities -- it would require Congress to address the fiscal burdens facing future generations, and the huge unfunded obligations already looming, provide a means of slowing the long-term growth of the government's largest entitlements and require regular review of entitlement spending, with a fast-track mechanism for placing these programs on a sustainable path.
  • Budget for emergencies -- it would require Congress to set aside funds for the kinds of natural disasters that regularly occur -- such as wildfires, hurricanes and the like -- to prevent the abuse of must-pass "emergency" bills as vehicles for excessive non-emergency spending.
  • Combat waste, fraud and abuse -- it would take several steps toward eliminating unnecessary or parochial spending, including a sunset commission, a legislative line-item veto, earmark reform, and a commission to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse.

A stronger budget process will help only if members of Congress are determined to get spending and deficits under control.  That is a task we must tackle - and we must do it now, say Ryan and Hensarling.

Source: Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), "Strengthening the budget; Establish limits with an enforceable law," Washington Times, October 29, 2009.

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