U.S. people calling for Uncle Sam to diet now

In my lifetime in public service, I have never heard more exasperation from the American people about our nation’s fiscal state. Turn on any TV or radio station and you’ll hear chatter about budget resolutions, Appropriations bills, national deficits and debt, and economic forecasts. These issues were once inside-the-beltway political-speak, but are now being discussed with increasing frequency and fervor in the nation’s kitchens and living rooms. In fact, a recent Gallup poll found that 79 percent of Americans feel the debt is a very serious threat to our future well-being as a country, second only to terrorism in national importance.

The American people already know full well what Democrats in Washington are only now starting to grasp: The nation’s skyrocketing spending, deficits, and debt are creating a dangerously unstable economic situation of Greek-like proportions, which left unchecked could be devastating to our future prosperity. 

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The American people are right. They are angry, and they are insisting that Congress cut spending and reduce our debt. They are calling on us to put Uncle Sam on a diet right now.

Some Democrats continue to blame the previous administration for our nation’s financial situation. But, the fact is that since 2007 — under the leadership of Democrats in the House, Senate, and White House — non-defense discretionary spending has increased more than 90 percent. The president’s current budget proposal would allow the country’s debt to exceed the value of the nation’s total economic output by 2012 — for the first time. 

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke this month warned there is a serious risk to our economy if financial markets remain concerned about Congress’s ability to reduce the deficit. Yet, Democrats in Congress and the President are pressing forward with more and more federal spending, regardless of the consequences. In a surprise letter sent late last Saturday night, the president asked Congress for yet another $50 billion in “stimulus” funding and bailouts for states. Ironically, in the same letter he called for more fiscal responsibility, saying “we must take additional steps to establish a fiscally sustainable budget path.” And, Democrats in the House are angling for even more bailouts and funding for failed “stimulus” programs, even going so far as to attach billions in extraneous spending to a must-pass war funding and disaster assistance bill. 

However, even the most liberal Democrats are beginning to understand that the American people don’t like their big-spending ways, and are grasping for ways to polish their fiscal responsibility credentials before the November elections. To accomplish this, the president has offered several proposals to provide political cover for his weakened colleagues in Congress. 

Unfortunately, these ideas are more public relations than productive, and none of them will lead to the kind of significant reductions in spending that our country needs. 

But even these proposals won’t help the Democrats in Congress save face this election, because the most basic budget work of Congress has come to a screeching halt thanks to the total dysfunction within the Democrat caucus. For the first time in modern history, the Democrats in the House have failed to produce a budget resolution — the first step in determining federal spending for the upcoming year. 

Further, there has been no action on any of the of the 12 annual appropriations bills, and recent  comments by Democrat leaders indicate that this critical legislation is not likely to pass any time soon. Democrats also seem unable to pass the urgent war supplemental and disaster assistance bill through an open and democratic process, instead writing a mammoth spending bill littered with political pork behind closed doors — preventing attempts by any member of the House to cut wasteful spending.  

From health care to home mortgages to cable TV, the liberal Democrat leaders continue to push for more government involvement in nearly every aspect of American life — at an unprecedented cost to the American taxpayer. Accruing some debt in a time of major recession is unavoidable, but the size and scale of the Democrats’ expansion of government will have lasting and damaging repercussions on future generations. 

The American people are demanding that we take action to fix the economy and put our nation on the path of fiscal sustainability. They have watched this Democrat Congress avoiding difficult decisions time and time again, and they know that it is simply not working. It is time for a change. We must confront the nation’s fiscal problems head-on — starting now — by putting Uncle Sam on a diet.

Rep. Lewis is the ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Committee