Jun 5, 2019

When I ran to be your senator, I promised to stand apart in Washington.

I gave Kentucky my word to fight back against endless spending and debt, and it’s a commitment I have proudly kept since my first day in office. It’s meant confronting long odds and not winning the “most popular” vote in the halls of Congress all that often, but it’s always been worth the trade-off.

While some would say it’s “unrealistic” to expect things to change any time soon, I haven’t given up. This week I reintroduced a concrete plan to get spending under control right away and balance the budget in five years – without cutting Social Security.

Here’s how it works: for every on-budget dollar the federal government spent in Fiscal Year 2019, my Pennies Plan budget would spend two pennies fewer – a total of two percent – each year for the next five years to wipe out our budget deficit.

That’s all there is to it!

As recently as last year, the number was even lower, as we could have balanced the budget by cutting one penny from every on-budget dollar per year. But government keeps running up the bill on the taxpayer. While I have some suggestions on where Congress can find the two percent, such as the billions Washington spends nation-building in Afghanistan, my plan gives it full flexibility.

It sets the five-year timetable and then involves each committee with mandatory spending in deciding where to save taxpayer money. This guarantees a thorough and long-overdue review of how government uses your resources, increasing its accountability to you.

My plan would lead to a $913 billion surplus in the following five years after it balances, and it also paves the way for making the middle class tax cuts permanent and expanding Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). Enacting such reforms would mean more money in your pockets, even more jobs coming to Kentucky, and more freedom to cover out-of-pocket medical care, pay premiums, and support personal wellness.

Yet politicians push back because apparently federal spending levels must be set aside as holy, and the only direction funding can be allowed to move is up. Take the debt ceiling, for example, where the only debate Washington considers “reasonable” is how much to raise it. Proposing that perhaps we reduce spending to avoid the problem altogether is labeled “radical.”

To be clear, the addiction is bipartisan, with Republicans pursuing unlimited spending overseas, and Democrats chasing unlimited domestic spending.

Even when it came to the tax cuts, which I fought hard to make as large as possible, Republicans joined forces with Democrats after the bill passed to override the pay-as-you-go rule that would have required spending to also be cut. I forced them to take an on-the-record vote regarding their bipartisan maneuver to buck the restraints, but, in the end, only seven other senators joined me in opposing the move.

Ironically, however, the more money the big-spenders throw at their different priorities now, the less they will soon be able to devote to any of them.

Net interest payments on federal debt now exceed $300 billion a year, not a single dollar of which goes to pay for one soldier, one program, or even one paper clip. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has reported those payments will surpass $1 trillion in 2030.

The same report stated that “[b]oth the 2018 Financial Report’s long-term fiscal projections and GAO’s simulations show spending on net interest growing such that over the long term it becomes the largest category of spending.” A look at the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) baseline shows that by 2022, net interest payments will be larger than income security programs, and by 2026, they will be larger than the defense budget.

As I’ve traveled across Kentucky and discussed my Pennies Plan, the idea has been met with overwhelming support. The people truly want Congress to take this issue seriously. On Monday, for the second year in a row, the Senate had a chance to lead the way, and we held a vote on my plan. I thank those who joined me in voting for fiscal responsibility, and I commend them for having the courage to reject Washington’s big-spending status quo.

This is not an issue that will simply go away without consequence. The future of our country is at stake unless we do something about it, and soon, before it’s too late. We must get our spending under control, and I won’t stop fighting until we do.

https://www.kentucky.com/opinion/op-ed/article231198723.html