Smith: Time to act Tennessee solutions in D.C.: Balance budget now

Smith: Time to act Tennessee solutions in D.C.: Balance budget now

February 25th, 2013 By Robin Smith in Opinion Columns

Robin Smith, former Chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party and congressional candidate.

During this week, the U.S. government will reach its 1,400th day operating without a budget. Every year a budget has been passed in the House but never addressed in the Senate. The White House has submitted budget plans, but those have been rejected on a bipartisan basis.

After almost four years of neglecting the most basic constitutional duty of Congress, a piece of legislation sponsored by Sen. Lamar Alexander is aiming to end this disgusting embarrassment of having no budget.

At its essence, the legislation proposes an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would require that: "Total outlays for any fiscal year shall not exceed total receipts for that fiscal year, unless two-thirds of the duly chosen and sworn members of each house of Congress shall provide by law for a specific excess of outlays over receipts by a roll call vote."

Like most governors, the federal government would be required to balance its budget. Like any business that remains functional, the U.S. government would be required to formulate a plan to prioritize spending, make difficult decisions, and fund the necessities first.

A balanced budget amendment would force accountability in Washington that our great state of Tennessee, and countless others, must meet. Fiscal discipline should not be viewed negatively, but as a trait characteristic of our great nation.

It's no irony that this bill is originating from the very legislative body and sponsored by the very members, such as Sen. Alexander, who've been adamant about solving our nation's spending problem, addressing the mandatory spending for entitlements to secure their future existence and demanding presidential leadership rather than the endless campaigning and heckling of those who should be partners in rendering a remedy.

Sens. Alexander and Bob Corker have proposed a solution that would end the pay of members of Congress if a budget is not passed with all appropriations bills by Oct. 1 of each year to fund our government, the "No Budget, No Pay Act."

Most recently, our Tennessee Senators submitted a serious plan to address the debt in the "Dollar-for-Dollar Act" that targets entitlement spending and reduces its malignant growth by $1 trillion.

Understand: If entitlement spending is ignored and the fable is continued that Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are just fine in their current forms, these programs will end. The Congressional Budget Office forecasts that by 2025 (in just 12 years) every single dollar coming into the U.S government will be completely consumed to fund these programs plus the interest on our debt.

That's it. No money for infrastructure or roads. No funding for the military or defense. No money for education. With the current policies and defiance in the face of a crisis, the United States will become a complete entitlement state. Period.

Is there hope? Well, last week's hearing of the Senate Appropriations Committee placed an Obama Administration official, Danny Werfel, center-stage dancing around the fact there is no plan that exists to save Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid from President Obama. Attempts to weave, deflect, and reframe were met with the simple question by Senator Alexander: "So, states have to balance their budgets. Why is it at the federal government we don't ... do what everybody knows we have to do, which is get control of entitlement spending..."

Folks, America has a serious problem. Tennessee is providing leadership in moving directly toward solutions through Alexander and Corker by reforming entitlements and formulating a budget.

It's time to act. Taking Tennessee principles to D.C. is the answer.

Robin Smith served as chairwoman of the Tennessee Republican Party from 2007 to 2009. She is a partner at the SmithWaterhouse Strategies business development and strategic planning firm.