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Forcing the federal government to spend less is a national imperative

July 25, 2011
By Rep. Dan Benishek M.D. , Daily Press

WASHINGTON - As Congressional leaders and the White House continue to negotiate a deal to raise the debt limit another $2.4 trillion, I have consistently stated that I will not support any increase in the federal debt limit unless it is paired with significant spending reductions, enforceable caps in the amount the government can spend going forward, and the approval of a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The debate over the debt limit is a decision that I believe will define this Congress and this generation of leaders. Two distinct choices lie before us. We can choose to continue down the path of borrowing and spending that will surely lead to bankruptcy, or we can choose to make spending reductions now that will put us back on a path toward fiscal sustainability and job creation.

The American people understand the parameters of this debate. Think about it this way: if someone has a credit card with a $14,000 balance they would not solve the problem by increasing their credit limit. They can't simply print money in their basement either. Instead, they would look at ways to reduce expenditures - sell the extra car, or boat, or skip the family vacation - and so it should be with the federal government. The president wants a new credit card and Congress should not give him one.

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Rep. Dan Benishek M.D.

The American people understand this. They know that you cannot spend more money than you make.

Unfortunately, it seems the president and leaders in his party have failed to get this message. Instead of listening to the American people and reducing our federal spending, President Obama has increased the national debt by $3.7 trillion - the same amount of debt the United States accumulated from 1776 to 1992.

"I will not support any increase in the federal debt limit unless it is paired with significant spending reductions, enforceable caps in the amount the government can spend going forward, and the addition of a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution."

If the president wants us to pay the bills for his spending spree, he needs to begin cutting up his credit cards. In order to do that, it is imperative that we make serious structural reductions in the amount of taxpayer money the federal government spends. We also need to look at enacting enforceable caps on how much the federal government can spend into the future. Additionally, with the inclusion a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, we can ensure that America never faces this situation again. Such an amendment is being brought to the House floor next week and it will receive my full hearted support.

These conditions do nothing more than require the federal government to live within its means.

I believe citizens in Northern Michigan do not think that is too much to ask. Reducing federal spending is not impossible, it simply requires the leadership and resolve to do it.

The problem we are facing today is generations in the making. Since it was enacted in 1917, Congress has voted to alter the limit almost 100 times. Regrettably, 10 of those increases have come in just the last eight years. President Obama himself said in 2006, "Raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure." At that time he voted against a debt ceiling increase of $800 billion and now wants to raise the current limit by $2.4 trillion.

Ultimately, the challenge America is facing is an economy that is not growing and a staggering national debt that is rising by the day. I am certainly not an economist, but I am confident in my belief that this out-of-control federal borrowing is a recipe for disaster.

There is plenty of blame to go around, but I believe we must chart a new course for the future of this country.

It's time to change direction once and for all, or as President Obama recently said of this ongoing debate, "Enough is enough." As people in Northern Michigan may know, that is one sentiment I agree with.

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Rep. Dan Benishek is a general surgeon and is serving in his first term in the U.S. House of Representatives.



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