GOP leaders need to get serious about our massive debt problem

GOP leaders need to get serious about our massive debt problem
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As congressional Republicans prepare to finalize tax reform legislation designed to grow the economy and create more and better-paying jobs, they now turn their attention to the other side of the equation: spending.

The question, as always, is simple: What to do? While you read this, the congressional GOP leadership contemplates potential courses of action. Increase defense spending, and by how much? Increase domestic spending, by anything at all?

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Perhaps they could start by reminding themselves that the budget deficit for the last fiscal year was $666 billion, the sixth-highest on record, and then reading the words of their party’s 2016 national platform: “Our national debt is a burden on our economy and families. The huge increase in the national debt demanded by and incurred during the [Obama] administration has placed a significant burden on future generations.

“We must impose firm caps on future debt, accelerate the repayment of the trillions we now owe in order to reaffirm our principles of responsible and limited government, and remove the burdens we are placing on future generations.

“A strong economy is one key to debt reduction, but spending restraint is a necessary component that must be vigorously pursued… Our national debt is a burden… a significant burden on future generations… impose firm caps on future debt, accelerate repayment of trillions we now owe… spending restraint is a necessary component.”

That reads almost as if it came out of a Tea Party convention. So why are they ignoring it entirely? As I observe the discussions taking place in Congress today, I am amazed (again!) at how divorced Washington really is from the real world that lives outside the Beltway.

In Congress, everyone seems to agree that defense spending must increase by tens of billions of dollars to make up for eight years of being underfunded by the Obama administration. Yet no one seems to have considered the January 2015 report issued by the Defense Business Board, which exposed $125 billion in administrative waste in the Pentagon’s business operations. That’s a significant chunk of money, even by Washington standards.

Saving money on the administrative side of Pentagon operations would free up funds that could be used for new equipment to replace aging gear. By saving on the administrative side, Congress could fund new equipment without need of a vast increase in the defense budget.

That would pull the legs out from under the demands by Democrats for vast spending increases on the domestic front. If the Pentagon is not going to be awash in new money, why should domestic programs? Here’s an idea for the congressional GOP leadership to consider: How about the Penny Plan?

It’s a simple concept. For those who haven’t yet heard about it, imagine that the federal government spends one penny less next year for every dollar it spent this year. That’s it. It’s that simple. A one-percent cut in spending.

If we were to hold to a budget for the next five years that cut just one percent out of next year’s spending, we could balance the budget in five years and eventually begin repaying that $20 trillion national debt that threatens to choke off any chance for a bright future for our children and grandchildren.

You can’t seriously tell me that even a barely competent government manager couldn’t find a way to save a measly one percent of his or her budget. Sound crazy? Maybe to those inside the Beltway. But it doesn’t sound crazy to people who live in the real world.

I know because I often explain it to regular, non-political people I meet in the course of my daily life, and it never fails to win nodding heads and the all too familiar response, “That makes sense. Why aren’t they doing that?”

Oh, and, by the way, it really can’t be that crazy. Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziLawmakers trade insults over Trump budget cuts Republicans scramble to avoid Medicare land mine McConnell will not bring budget resolution to the floor MORE, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, supports the Penny Plan. So why aren’t Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSanders is a risk, not a winner Buttigieg sounds alarm after Sanders wins Nevada Where do we go from here? Conservation can show the way MORE and Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanPaul Ryan says he disagrees with Romney's impeachment vote Trump doubles down on Neil Cavuto attacks: 'Will he get the same treatment as' Shep Smith? Trump lashes out at Fox News coverage: 'I won every one of my debates' MORE?

Jenny Beth Martin is chairman of Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund.