The Moore American

October 16, 2013

Citizens balance budgets, government can learn to

By Congressman Tom Cole
The Moore American

MOORE — In order to balance a household budget, living within your means is key. Hardworking American families understand this reality and plan budgets that anticipate paying for basic needs like housing, utilities, clothing and food, and for extras like eating out, going to the movies or taking a trip. Setting spending limits that don’t exceed income is how millions of Americans manage their budgets.

In our current situation, our country could face grave consequences with the looming Oct. 17 debt ceiling deadline. You might wonder what it would really mean for America if we just missed the deadline and did nothing, like we did on Oct. 1, without passing a funding measure to keep the government open. It would be catastrophic, felt by every American immediately and severely. The first missed payment would lead to default, causing Social Security checks to be delayed, military to not be paid, financial markets to tank and banks to reduce lending. 

Never in our country’s history have we exceeded our borrowing limit and been unable to pay our bills and creditors. Allowing the United States to inch closer to this dangerous situation must be addressed immediately, but in that conversation, we must also acknowledge our unsustainable spending patterns. If we simply raise the debt limit without any effort to address federal spending, we will be in the same situation sooner than any of us would like.

Think about it. If you reached the limit on your credit card, you wouldn’t explain to your creditor that you needed an increased limit even though you were going to keep on spending at the same or even a greater rate. It is an unreasonable expectation because there is no attempt to change the underlying spending behavior. Increasing the debt ceiling with no strings attached would in essence make the United States even more indebted to our creditors.

Fortunately, both Republicans and Democrats agree that we cannot risk the full faith and credit of the United States of America. I am encouraged that negotiations are taking place and that House Leadership proposed a short-term fix with the greater goal of finding long-term budget solutions. The president’s willingness to engage is a step in the right direction, both for the debt ceiling and the need to reopen the government.

Passing the deadline to fund the government on Oct. 1 was unfair and disappointing to say the least. The fact that thousands of federal workers are still suffering is unacceptable. While we are close to solving the debt ceiling crisis, we cannot leave the rest of the American people behind and ignore the current federal shutdown at hand. Congress must fulfill its basic responsibility to pass a budget and restore full funding for all government agencies. In engaging on the debt ceiling, we’ve protected many job creators, but what about federal workers that make $35,000 per year? They are just as important to the greatness of our country, and we must act quickly for those who need and want to get back to work.

As we continue working together to find common ground on a long-term budget, I’m hopeful that we are on the road to a real solution, but the debt ceiling fix to avert default is just half of a good idea. The other half, finding a deal that reopens the government, rests in the willingness of everyone to continue engaging and talking to each other.

This has gone on long enough. House Republicans are willing to meet the president halfway, but he must also move toward us and find common ground. The future of our country depends on his leadership, and this is his opportunity to show he can rise to the occasion.