Fiscal Responsibility – a lost principal. The disdain of debt, a virtue of our founding fathers … lost by our modern leaders. Thomas Jefferson once warned “To preserve independence, we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt” and yet we have submitted to this burden.

We are quickly approaching the 100-year anniversary of the successful infiltration of progressive thought into the American identity. The result … a debt projected to exceed 15 trillion by the end of 2011, a 102% of our entire gross domestic product. The government has grown from less than 3% of our GDP to 25% increase in the size of government. Only World Wars have caused us to spend more. The last time America actually reduced our debt was 42 years ago, when LBJ prepared a balanced budget and Nixon executed it … for one year. One must go back to the roaring 20’s to find a period of extended fiscal responsibility. This blatant disregard for fiscal sanity has led America to the brink of financial collapse.

America should embrace the following steps to return to fiscal discipline.

Step One

Replace the annual budget within 24 months rolling budget process. It is almost unbelievable that any sane individual can raise their hand and confirm that they are comfortable with spending a couple hundred billion more than, half a trillion more, one trillion more, a trillion and a half more, nearly 2,000,000,000,000 more than we raise in taxes. Yet our representatives have been on this path of self-destruction for nearly a century. Our federal spending has ballooned to the size of one quarter of our entire GDP. How can anyone vote to spend several trillion dollars that they don’t have? There is 13 digits in the trillion dollar expenditure. That’s a lot for you and me to pay for. Our national debt has increased by 9.7 trillion over the last decade. This growth accounts for 63% of our total debt. The last three years including 2011, our debt has increased 5.5 trillion or 57% of the decade spending.

There are 13 Secretaries reporting to the President. Each Secretary along with the President should present and submit to Congress a strategic plan and the two-year budget, independent of each other. For example, in January the Department of Defense may submit their budget followed by Health and Human Services in February. Working programs should be strengthened; failing programs eliminated. A thorough review will hopefully restore sanity.

Some departments are larger and more complex than others but over a two-year planning timeline each department should have time for thorough review.

Step Two

Congressional Term Limits – money and power will corrupt even the most saintly of men. Most representatives begin their career with noble intent yet over time are corrupted. The professional politician knows that votes can be bought with public dollars. Congress was never meant for the professional politician but instead the citizen statesman. It is time to return Congress to the people. After 12 years of service, a new representative should be selected. Each congressman, today, represents approximately 700,000 fellow Americans. Surely, we should be of find another capable individuals to represent our point of view in Congress.

Step Three

Repeal the 17th amendment. In our folly, we destroyed state representation in Congress when we remove the right of the states appoint its senators. On the surface, it seems like our founding fathers erred when they gave states the power to select representation. Did the founders error or were they a wise beyond our recognition?

A hundred years after stripping states of their representation, where are we?

  • Senators raise large sums of cash from special interests both in and out of the state they represent.
  • Senators are incentivized to lobby for pork barrel projects. Politicians buy our votes with our money and the money of our children.
  • Without representation, states have faced countless federal mandates both funded and unfunded.
  • States rights have diminished without state advocates defending them.
  • We destroyed a check and balance designed by our founding fathers. A checked that defended states rights and limited federal expansion. A restraint on federal spending and unfunded mandates.

Fourteen trillion and 100 years later perhaps we should reconsider the wisdom of our founding fathers and repeal the 17th amendment.

Step Four

Line-Item Veto – Today all of our elections are local … except one, the President of the United States. We look to our President for national leadership but we do not give him the tools to lead with fiscal sanity. Presidents are forced to sign meaningful legislation packed with bribes. If a President wants to pass the legislation, he has to hold his nose & sign.

We can no longer afford to be unprincipled. It is time to give our President, the ability to lead in a fiscally responsible manner. Granting him the line-item veto may be the only way to pass meaningful legislation in a world packed with special interest.

If the President modifies the bill passed by Congress, then Congress should have 30 days to confirm the President’s modifications through a simple majority vote. Confirmation votes must be free from filibusters. Congressional confirmation is critical to maintain the balance of power and ensure that the principle of the bill submitted remains intact.

Step Five

Any fool can give what they don’t have and give again and again without restraint. Even a charlatan can be a saint. And thus Presidents and Congress, alike have created a monstrosity they can ill afford. It has been done through unrealistic cost estimates (Medicare), poorly designed programs (Social Security), unfunded mandates (Medicare Part D) and blatant irresponsible spending. Once an entitlement has been established, they are expanded far beyond our capability to pay for the benefits.

Expecting our government to live within its means worked for more than a 120 years. Over the past century, we have lost this virtue. We have lost this virtue to the tune of $14 trillion. Requiring the government to live within its means can only be achieved through constitutional amendment. Flexibility to defend ourselves and deal with national catastrophes would be reasonable. The time for our government to make responsible hard, yet fair choices has long passed.

The road back to a fiscally responsible government will be trying but this multi-phased approach gives us the best chance to successfully offer a future to the next generation.

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