Debt Deal Could Be Better

By Rep. Mike Sanders

Although I am pleased that the U.S. is not going to default on its loans, I am sorely disappointed in the deal that has been struck between President Barack Obama and Congressional leaders.

On the positive front, there is a culture change taking place in Washington. For years, deficit reduction was the concern of a small minority of lawmakers. The plan includes no new taxes, which would decimate job creation at a time we can ill afford it. The agreement has real spending caps and cuts the deficit more than it increases the debt ceiling. The cuts we’ll see in the next two years are modest, but they multiply in later years to create a real savings.

However, I have several specific concerns. First, the deal may not protect the United States from our first-ever credit downgrade. Ratings agency Standard & Poor has indicated it was looking for at least $4 trillion in debt reduction and this deal falls short of that amount. I am also concerned that the deal includes cuts in military spending while not doing enough to enact entitlement reforms that will be needed down the road, one way or another. The military could see up to a $540 million cut at a time when terrorism remains a threat.

Many of U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn’s suggestions could have eliminated the need to cut military spending. His plan included ideas such as ending unemployment benefits for millionaires ($186 million), getting rid of unneeded federal properties ($15 billion in 10 years), reducing the federal vehicle fleet ($5.6 billion in 10 years), and ending unnecessary travel ($43.3 billion in 10 years). It also includes eliminating duplicative programs that are rampant in the federal government. Duplicative programs include 47 separate job training programs and 88 economic development programs. Although some studies indicate greater savings, Coburn sees a minimum of $50 billion in savings over 10 years from the elimination of these duplicative programs.

Overspending has led to this mess and yet the liberal Democratic members of Congress are fighting tooth and nail to avoid tough cuts or even the smallest changes to our entitlement programs. Without significant changes to these programs, which grow each year and represent a vast portion of the federal budget, we will be in the same last-minute, almost defaulting scenario again and again. We currently spend 42 cents on every dollar that we borrow. The amount of money we are spending on debt interest is sickening and reckless.

In addition to an unrealistic approach to deficit reduction, Congressional Democrats continue to oppose a constitutional amendment, forcing our politicians to balance their budget each year. As individuals we are taught not to spend beyond our means. As citizens, there are negative consequences associated with massive amounts of spending that grossly exceeds our personal debt, so why should our federal government spend money in such an unsustainable way. Controlling spending in my opinion is a matter of national security.

Although I do not always agree with my Democratic colleagues in the Oklahoma Legislature, I will briefly note that many of them do not support the national Democrats position on spending. How could they? Budget negotiations in our state are much easier because of the constitutional amendments we have that check our ability to spend. We’ve seen the rewards of fiscal conservatism, such as our state’s quick recovery compared to other states amidst a national recession. Although we often argue over priorities, Oklahomans of a wide variety of political views understand the wisdom of balanced spending. Unfortunately, at the federal level, they are doing too little, way too late.

I look forward to new constituent requests that I can turn into legislation next year. As always, I would love to hear from you. I can be reached at the Capitol at (405) 557-7407.

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