A Better Way to Stop Spending Than Debating the Debt Ceiling
By Steve Levy
Any American with an ounce of common sense understands that federal spending is out of control. A $31 trillion debt level and yearly deficits now regularly in the trillions is a recipe for fiscal disaster. If we keep this up, it’s not a matter of if we collapse, but when and how hard.
So we totally agree with the Republicans in the House who want to stand firm and draw a line in the sand. But we think there’s a better way of doing it than holding up extensions to the debt ceiling.
We do not agree with past actions that brought us to this debt level. Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle should never have let it get to this level. Republicans talk a good game, but spent quite extravagantly when fellow Republican Donald Trump was in office.
Yet, despite the willingness of Republicans to spend, spend, spend, they’re nowhere near as bad as the Democrats in Congress. Since Joe Biden came into office, an astonishing $6 trillion has been spent by the Democrats who controlled the House, the Senate and the White House. And this was after the economy had generally recovered from the COVID slide.
So there is indeed an urgent need to pump the brakes on spending. The problem with using the debt ceiling as the basis to do so is that this is money that Congress has already voted to spend. Not agreeing to raise the debt ceiling to pay for it would, in essence, put us in default, threaten our credit ratings, and likely lead to a drop in most people’s 401(k)s.
The bigger question is how this crazy system was ever developed in the first place, whereby we agree to spend money now but don’t agree to pay for it until a later date to be determined. This is absolutely absurd. So here are four solutions:
- In exchange for raising the debt ceiling, Republicans should require Democrats to join them in changing this atrocious system so that no spending in the future can take place without a simultaneous agreement to have it paid for, even if it’s through borrowing.
- If the Republicans want to take a stand, it should be during the general budget process, as both sides are deciding how much spending will be authorized for the following year’s budget. If you don’t want the debt ceiling to rise, stop the spending in the first place at that time.
- But the best solution to this problem is to finally pass a balanced budget amendment that would prohibit Congress, except in the most urgent circumstances such as war, natural disasters, or pandemics, from spending more money than they bring in as revenue. In other words, do what every American family, city, and state must do: balance your budget.
- Enact a “Penny Plan” that would reduce each dollar of spending by a penny and balance the budget in a gradual, sustainable manner over five years.
Steve Levy is President of Common Sense Strategies, a political consulting firm. He served as Suffolk County Executive, as a NYS Assemblyman, and host of “The Steve Levy Radio Show.” He is the author of “Solutions to America’s Problems” and “Bias in the Media.” www.SteveLevy.info, Twitter @SteveLevyNY, firstname.lastname@example.org