President Trump and congressional Republicans helped get us into this mess. It's time for them to take responsibility for cleaning it up.
Our nation's fiscal future is upside down and our political leaders on both sides of the aisle are so addicted to the status quo that they simply refuse to make the tough decisions needed to prevent the damage from getting even worse. This approach failed generations of voters and is no longer working for the next generation.
As the political debate over federal spending has intensified during the past decade, our national debt has more than doubled, from $10.6 trillion in 2008 to $20.4 trillion in 2018. Congress must finally do its job and impose spending discipline, but a simple solution won't solve a complex problem — a historic overhaul is necessary.
President Trump and congressional Republicans have said their party's mission is to reduce the size and scope of government, and the president promised to "do away with unnecessary programs and regulations and a massive deficit" during his campaign. Yet just a few months into office, the Republican Party has failed to accomplish its most important objective: cutting spending. Indeed, Trump's first budget proposed record spending increases, which amounted to a $1.5 trillion tax break for the wealthiest Americans.
The Republican agenda on spending hasn't changed because no reform is good enough. The spending problem that lies at the root of the problem isn't a question of "choosing" between budgets and reductions. When trillions of dollars in spending are continually redirected from discretionary programs to mandatory spending programs, one can't talk about policy change without talking about spending.
In order to balance the budget, we must reduce spending. Real spending cuts cannot be found in the budget, because there simply aren't any entitlement spending programs that are "free." Even areas we'd call "spending" — on environment, immigration and public housing — are nothing more than transfers from taxpayers to the government. (I understand that these are important issues, but I doubt that the public cares much about these matters — except perhaps if they face problems. We could use a little less housing discrimination and a little more citizenship education.)
It's difficult for politicians to understand that the current way of managing the federal budget is no longer affordable. This reality provides plenty of room for optimism: There are many ways to change federal policy and spending without actually cutting "entitlements." We can make agencies operate more efficiently, encourage the savings generated from efficiency, or shift to a pay-as-you-go policy, where existing revenues should cover future spending, regardless of excesses.
But there are countless more reforms that the public could endorse. For example, Congress could end the "socialist" Medicaid entitlement — over which it has no control — and instead implement a market-based financing structure. Real reform can happen through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which would prevent future tax cuts from adding to the deficit and unleash the private sector's entrepreneurial spirit.
As I pointed out in my last column, this is not about "forbidden fruit." There are serious reforms that both parties agree on, including broad-based tax reform that eliminates wasteful subsidies, caps or eliminates the non-defense portion of Obamacare and reform of Medicare. But whatever must be done must be done, and if we fail to pursue it, the enormous amount of money we waste on programs that don't work will only compound the problem.
That, my friends, is a financial cold turkey that Congress and the president need to practice if the country is to overcome the terrible threats that my generation's tax dollars are facing.