Fleischmann: Like families, America must balance books

Fleischmann: Like families, America must balance books

March 31st, 2013 By Chuck Fleischmann in Opinion Columns

Congressman Chuck Fleischmann.

Photo by Doug Strickland/Times Free Press.

When my wife and I started our business fresh out of law school times were tough. As hard as times were, we understood the need for balancing our books. The only way we were going to succeed in the future was to not spend more than we took in. It was a lesson we learned early, and it's a lesson I preach every day in Washington.

This past week, in fact, I took to the House floor on this very issue. I took a minute to remind the people in Washington exactly what a budget is. Webster's defines it most simply as: a plan for the coordination of resources and expenditures. That's fairly straightforward. It means we have to take into account the amount of money we have coming in (resources) when we decide how to spend (expenditures).

Republicans in the House recognize the benefits of balancing a budget. With a balanced budget we will foster an environment that leads to job creation, and it will allow us to protect our seniors by fixing the deficit spending cycle that has put Medicare and Social Security on the path to bankruptcy.

Under the budget that passed the House, a young person considering college - who today would be faced with mounting debt and an uncertain future after graduation - would find financial aid programs preserved and more choices in higher education opportunities. When that person graduates, he or she would find a much-improved economic landscape: a balanced budget will create half a million new jobs in 2014, and 1.7 million by the end of 2023. When they start to think about retirement, the benefits for which they've worked hard for so many years will be more secure than ever.

The vicious cycle of deficit spending propagated by Washington has set programs like Medicare and Social Security on a path to bankruptcy. Our balanced budget will preserve these programs for our children and grandchildren. Nothing will change for those seniors in or near retirement, and future generations will have an even greater range of options from which to choose. We owe our seniors the retirement security they deserve, and that's what a balanced budget provides.

In 2013, the federal government is set to take in more revenue than it ever has before. You would think this would make budgeting easier. Unfortunately, there are many in Washington who simply refuse to recognize the importance of a balanced budget.

The House Republican budget accomplishes all of the above without raising taxes. It addresses the need for real tax reform, which will clear out special-interest loopholes, simplify the tax code and lower everybody's rate. We already take more than enough out of the pockets of the American people. It's time we start to budget that money more effectively.

The Democrat-led Senate fundamentally disagrees with these premises. While I applaud them for finally doing their job and passing a budget for the first time in four years, I'm not sure we could differ more on our approaches. While the House budget sets the stage for tax reform that flattens and broadens the tax base without raising taxes, the Senate budget will increase taxes by $1 trillion. With that massive increase "a plan for the coordination of resources and expenditures" should be fairly simple, right? However, their plan never balances. Ever.

Our country is in debt - over $16 trillion of it, and that number rises by the day. Yet for four straight years under President Obama the federal government has spent at least a trillion dollars more than it took in. That means roughly 46 cents of every federal dollar spent is borrowed. The American people know this isn't acceptable. It wouldn't work in their households and it won't work for our nation. That's why I will continue to fight for a balanced budget that will set our nation back on a path to prosperity.

Chuck Fleischmann, a Republican from Ooltewah, represents Tennessee's 3rd District in the United States House of Representatives.