WASHINGTON - As the debate in Congress about federal spending heats up, all sides can clearly see that our nation is facing a crisis. In short, our country's federal government has an addiction to spending. Poor spending habits - encouraged by both Democrats and Republicans - have been a hallmark of Congress for decades. The end result is a job killing $14 trillion national debt. While I've only been in Washington for a short time and do not profess to be an expert on the ways of Washington, I do know that if the government has to borrow 40 cents of every dollar it spends it is in serious need of some significant reforms.
People in Northern Michigan already know that we have shackled our own children with a ball-and-chain of debt that they will be forced to pay back. Additionally, I believe each dollar borrowed and spent puts a strain on our already fragile economy. But while we in Northern Michigan understand this, many in Washington still do not seem to recognize the seriousness of this problem. For example, while President Obama was in the Upper Peninsula a few weeks ago, his administration put the finishing touches on a $3.7 trillion budget that will result in a record setting $1.6 trillion deficit.
This disconnect is evident to me every day in Washington. After two months in office, no one who has hiked to the fifth floor of the Cannon Building has asked me to spend less. It seems that every meeting I have starts with the familiar refrain, "yes we need to spend less, but not on our program." By contrast, just about everyone I meet while I am home asks me to make sure the federal government spends less.
Rep. Dan Benishek M.D.
It is my belief that one of the leading reasons a majority of Northern Michigan's citizens selected me to be their representative in Washington was to do everything possible to rein in this out-of-control federal spending. My focus so far has been to support such efforts, while working to ensure that policies coming out of the nation's capital - tax, monetary, and regulatory - serve to encourage private enterprise so Northern Michigan can experience economic growth.
The House of Representatives has already delivered on its promise to cut federal spending. We have already cut Congress' own budget and voted to reduce long-term spending by more than $2.6 trillion by voting to repeal the administration's health care law. Recently, we passed a bill to fund the government for the remainder of the fiscal year that includes the largest spending cuts since the Second World War. Budget Chairman Paul Ryan will focus on 2012 when he introduces a budget that will begin to lower the job-destroying deficit and help cultivate private sector job growth.
Many of these spending cuts are not easy to make. Northern Michigan - like the rest of the country - has many worthy projects and people have benefited from admirable federal programs. I believe that we need to make smart, surgical cuts to spending. I will continue to vigorously support some region-wide programs, such as the Essential Air Service subsidy to our airports, which I feel is essential to Northern Michigan's infrastructure and critical to creating private sector job growth in our area.
To those who believe these cuts are too severe, it is important to know that what's on the chopping block from the House of Representatives constitutes approximately 0.0288 percent or more exactly, just - of 1 percent of the entire federal budget. While I know that not everyone will be happy with what has been proposed, I believe that people in Northern Michigan did not send me to Washington to make easy decisions.
For far too long Congress has allowed the federal spending spree to continue, but now with a $14 trillion national debt and an economy still in peril, the age of ignorance has to come to an end. The federal government is handing down to our children a badly maxed-out national credit card from the Bank of China. They should not have to - literally and figuratively - pay for the sins of our federal government's poor spending habits. By making some critical decisions today, Congress can help keep this from happening. It is my hope that future generations will look back on this time and know that the elected leaders in Washington finally did not just do what was politically palatable, but rather did what was right.
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Rep. Dan Benishek is a former general surgeon and is serving in his first term in the U.S. House of Representatives.