The founders of our state understood the importance of fiscal responsibility and a balanced budget. Our state constitution dictates it, and though it frequently brings challenges, such as the one we …
The founders of our state understood the importance of fiscal responsibility and a balanced budget. Our state constitution dictates it, and though it frequently brings challenges, such as the one we face now, we operate within our means and have accumulated a rainy day fund that helps us weather tough economic times. It means, at times, making hard decisions about what to fund and what to put off to another year.
Unfortunately, the United States Congress does not have the same constitutional framework around its budget process. Nor does it seem to have the same political will to get our fiscal house in order. So instead of having a rainy-day fund, the U.S. government has $28 trillion of debt staring us down.
We’ve become numb to the word “trillion.” We talk about trillions of dollars like we used to talk about billions of dollars. To be clear, a trillion is not a couple million. It’s not even a couple billion. A trillion is one thousand billion. To illustrate, if you stacked 1.9 trillion dollar bills on top of each other, you’d stack them half way to the moon. If I had $1 trillion, I could give $130 to every human on this planet. This is no small sum.
Since returning to Washington, I’ve been vocal about my concerns surrounding the national debt and our reckless spending habit. I’ve introduced two bills, The Sustainable Budget Act and the Pay Down the Debt Act.
The Sustainable Budget Act creates a commission tasked with creating a bipartisan plan to reduce the deficit and balance the federal budget within 10 years. The solution must be bipartisan, and must have the approval of two-thirds of the committee. If they succeed, the commission is dismantled. If they fail, they’re dismantled and we’ll try something else.
I introduced the Pay Down the Debt Act with Sen. Rick Scott from Florida. This bill would empower states to return unnecessary federal funds to the Treasury in order to pay down the national debt. When Sen. Scott was governor of Florida, he refused over $2 billion for a lightrail train. Instead of those funds going back to the Treasury, they were redirected to California for a high-speed rail project in California. That project is 13 years behind schedule and nearly $44 billion over budget. The federal government has sunk $3.5 billion into this project.
Our national debt and continued reckless spending have direct consequences for our economy, household incomes and savings, policy decisions, national security and ultimately American exceptionalism. Without real changes in how we approach spending, we will continue to saddle future generations with mountains of debt and risk losing our place as the global financial leader. It’s time to set our sights on fiscal responsibility.
(Cynthia Lummis is Wyoming’s junior senator. The Cheyenne Republican was elected to the U.S. Senate in November, after serving in the House from 2009 through early 2017. This column first appeared in Lummis’ newsletter.)