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EditorialIsland Voices

Congress being derelict in not enacting a budget

With the national unemployment rate hovering near the double digits and the national deficit reaching more than $13 trillion, Americans are rightly concerned about our economy and federal budget, and they expect their elected representatives in Congress to implement responsible and effective solutions for our deficit crisis.

Lately, however, it seems that for every problem our nation is facing, the answer from Washington is to spend and spend some more. In the first seven months of the current fiscal year, the federal government has amassed $800 billion in deficit spending and is on its way toward surpassing last year’s record annual deficit of $1.4 trillion.

Now, amidst this major fiscal crisis, the House is refusing to pass a budget. This will be the first time since modern budget rules were adopted in 1974 that the House will fail to pass one of the most basic governing documents. Higher taxes, ballooning deficits and runaway government spending have had a chilling effect on job creation. Our nation cannot afford to have its government avoid the tough decisions necessary to map the course back to fiscal sanity and economic security.

Budgets are documents of priority and fundamental to effective governing. Congressman John Spratt (D-SC), who chairs the House Budget Committee on which I serve, said in 2006, "If you can’t budget, you can’t govern." Congressman Spratt was right then, and he’s right now. Yet this is precisely the predicament that we as a country find ourselves in today. In the halls of Congress, a budget debate facilitates a national public discourse on our priorities as a country. This discourse makes us consider the appropriate levels of spending, taxation and debt.

At present, we are denied the ability to even have this critical conversation. Congress is ignoring the need for a budget, and this is irresponsible. The abandonment of responsible governance undermines our economic recovery and will cripple future generations. We deserve better from Congress.

Common sense dictates that our nation’s current fiscal path is unsustainable. Most in Hawaii and around the mainland understand this. Recently, I questioned Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke during a Budget Committee hearing. He agreed that the current fiscal policies are simply not sustainable. We need only to consider the cautionary tale that is unfolding in Greece to realize that reckless spending has consequences. The longer Congress waits to adopt bold and sensible solutions, the more painful those consequences will be.

The time for fiscal restraint is now. We have to make hard choices, and those choices are made in the budget. Enacting and following a responsible budget forces the federal government to do what every Hawaii family does: live within its means.

As a father of three, it would be irresponsible for me to spend money that I don’t have and pass the tab on to my kids. The government is spending money it doesn’t have and will pass the burden on to my children and their entire generation. It is because of my family that I am in public service. I want to leave behind a freer, more secure and more prosperous America.

As a member of the House Budget Committee, I believe Congress must craft a budget that reflects the priorities of the people of Hawaii and fits our fiscal reality. Our children, and all children, deserve no less.


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