Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Harold Ford Jr. Op-Ed: A New Approach To Financial Security - A Balanced Budget

Congressman Harold Ford Jr. is once again showing Tennesseans why he should be our next U.S. Senator.

While his opponents are out talking about straw polls, gossip, and who knows what else, Congressman Ford is tackling the tough issue of financial security.

You can read his views on this all important issue in the following op-ed the Congressman wrote:

Last week, President Bush and the U.S. Senate raised the federal debt ceiling by the fourth-highest amount in U.S. history-$781 billion-to an unprecedented $9 trillion. To put that number in perspective, it amounts to a $30,000 birth tax on every child born in Tennessee today.

At the same time, the Senate defeated - by a vote of 50-50 - a bill that would have forced the federal government to do what every family in Tennessee has to do: live within its means. The bill, which is called “pay-as-you-go,” would have forced Congress and the President to pay for any new spending measures or tax cuts with revenue offsets. In short, it would have forced us to balance the budget.

Had I been in the Senate, the bill would have passed.

The rule works. It forced President Clinton and Speaker Newt Gingrich to come together in 1997 to balance the budget for the first time since man walked on the moon. While pay-as-you-go was in place in the 1990s, the federal budget went from a deficit of $290 billion in 1992 to a surplus of $128 billion in 2001.

Pay-as-you-go expired in 2002. Since then, we have done worse as a nation by nearly every economic measure:

  • Government has grown to its largest levels in history, and our federal deficit has totaled more than $1.6 trillion. This year alone, we will run a record deficit of $423 billion.

  • The federal government has borrowed more than $1 trillion from foreign governments and has grown the national debt to $9 trillion with the signing of the debt ceiling increase bill by President Bush earlier this week.

  • In the eight years before 2000, the U.S. economy added 22.7 million new jobs, or 237,000 jobs a month. Since 2000, job growth has slowed to a total of only 2.3 million jobs, or 38,000 a month.

  • From 1992 to 2000, the number of unemployed people fell by 3.3 million. Since 2000, the number of unemployed Americans has grown by 1.2 million.

  • Since 2000, the number of Americans living in poverty has grown by 5.4 million and, in the same period, the number of Americans without health insurance has grown by 6 million to a total of 45 million.

  • Since 2000, private college tuition has risen 18 percent to more than $21,000 a year, and public college tuition has increased 40 percent to more than $5,400 a year.

  • Working Tennesseans now pay more in taxes as a share of their income than many millionaires.

During my time in Congress, I have never voted for a final budget that was not balanced. To ensure that budgets are balanced and that debt ceilings are not raised again, we should make three important changes.

First, we should pass a constitutional amendment requiring Congress and the President to balance the budget and force us to adopt pay-as-you-go, just like every family in Tennessee.

Second, we need to put every decision that affects our budget - all spending and all tax cuts for millionaires - on the table so we can begin to have an open and honest debate about what is important and what is not. Too much spending is done off the books and outside the budget.
Finally, we should freeze the budgets of the 16 federal agencies that cannot issue a simple audit of their books. This kind of financial mismanagement is why we cannot account for $24.5 billion spent in 2003.

If these agencies were businesses, they would be out of business or under new management.

When money runs tight for families in Hamilton, Rutherford and Dyer counties, they make the hard choices necessary to live within their means. People have the right to expect the same of their government.

It is time to stop living on the earnings of future generations. It is time for a new generation of leaders with the courage of men like Senator Howard Baker to reach across party lines and protect the financial security of our nation – by balancing the budget.

Now more than ever our state and nation needs Congressman Ford's fiscal sanity. He truly understands the crisis our nation faces on this issue.

However, that can't be said of Ed Bryant and Van Hilleary.

As Go4Truth reported last month, "As congressmen, both candidates voted to increase the federal debt limit by $450 billion in 2002 (S 2578, 06/27/2002) and by $67 billion in 1995 (HR 2586, 11/09/1995). The net effect: during their years in Congress, federal spending increased 43 percent and the national debt grew by $1.5 trillion. That’s $5,800 for every Tennessean."

Further, in two independent ratings on fiscal stewardship conducted by the Taxpayers for Common Sense and Concord Coalition, Congressman Ford had a higher average score from each than did Ed Bryant and Van Hilleary. (And lets also not forget Pro-Abortion, Pro-Tax Increase, and Pro-Illegal Immigration Bob Corker and his lavish spending and fraud)

Clearly, there is only one real fiscal candidate in this race and that is Harold Ford Jr!

83 Days

Days of Congressional Inaction on Ethics

Above is the number of days that have passed since Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty to bribing Congressman.

It is also the number of days in which Congress has failed to pass an ethics reform bill that would limit private travel, ski and golf junkets, and would call for a full disclosure of expenses by lobbyists on members of Congress.

It is time for Congress to step up and pass an ethics reform bill that would do all of the above. In addition, it is time to end the pork barrel spending system as we know it and establish an independent ethics commission that would review ethics complaints against members of Congress.

I am proud Congressman Harold Ford Jr. is fighting for that reform!

Read Congressman Ford's call for reform of the House rules here!