Federal spending caps should encourage action on the ballooning national debt
This week Congress is set to work non-stop to pass some type of measure to fund the government and keep it running after December 11th, the day on which the current spending approval is set to expire. Spending for the 12 appropriations bills that make up the federal budget is expected to remain capped at $1.014 trillion as established by the 2013 bipartisan budget agreement. While much has been said on how the spending debate will impact immigration policy, Hispanics should care deeply about the outcome of the current spending negotiations in terms of their impact on the national debt and our economy as well. While the caps do little to address the main causes of our federal deficit and our runaway national debt, it is crucial that Congress remains committed to respecting the spending limits agreed to by Congress in 2013. These limits have allowed for the return to a much needed, albeit limited, fiscal discipline in the federal appropriation process. By no stretch of the imagination do they represent a final solution to excessive spending and government overreach in the economy, but they are undoubtedly a first step in the right direction. Due in part to the appropriations spending caps established in 2011 with the Budget Control Act and then revised in December 2013 with the Bipartisan Budget Agreement, the federal deficit has been decreasing over the last 4 years. In light of this accomplishment, this lame duck Congress and the incoming class must work to continue the current caps in place and use them as a tool to call for the much more needed reforms to our entitlement programs. Programs like Social Security, Medicare and the Affordable Care Act are on a path toward unsustainable expansion. These are the programs that are largely driving the growth of our national debt – as they require greater and greater borrowing to finance promised benefits. To simply ignore the issue is setting the programs and potentially our economy up for failure. Hispanics are particularly affected by the congressional inaction on the national debt problem because they are the youngest demographic in the nation. They, more than other groups, are poised to pay the price of the out of control national debt in terms of lower standards of living and higher taxes.
The existing caps are an incentive for Congress to finally address the big drivers of our ballooning national debt – which is threatening the long-term stability of our nation and the well-being of future generations. As legislators prepare to work out a deal to fund the government in 2015, this is the perspective they should keep in mind when approaching any type of agreement to keep the government funded. They should maintain the current spending caps not because they are the solution to our most pressing fiscal problems, but because they are a powerful message for our legislators about the urgency of addressing the complex long-term fiscal challenges we face and are a first, and long needed, exercise in fiscal responsibility. Only then, will Congress be in a position to rethink the size and scope of the spending caps to allow for a more flexible appropriations process. But until then, the spending caps are an important tool for ensuring fiscal discipline.