Op-Ed

Florida responsibly lives within its budget. Washington should follow our example | Opinion

The National Debt Clock in Manhattan, New York, in September 2018. Since then, the national debt has exceeded $22 trillon.
The National Debt Clock in Manhattan, New York, in September 2018. Since then, the national debt has exceeded $22 trillon. Getty Images

As a new parent I’m often confronted with the choice between spending on immediate happiness for my daughter or saving that money for her benefit later.

It might start off small — an ice cream cone here or a stuffed animal there — but it can quickly escalate. Do I start with private foreign-language lessons now or wait until she’s a bit older? If I do get the foreign-language classes, is an undergrad student from the local university good enough or should I maybe look into a grad student or even see if I can lure a fully tenured professor?

After all, I want to give her every advantage in life I can. But then I remember my budget. Every dollar I spend now is a dollar less for my daughter later.

But while you and I have to make choices, knowing that spending today means less for tomorrow, the federal government is all too happy to spend away our future for immediate gratification today.

Lawmakers in Washington would do better to emulate what we’ve done in Florida. By almost every measure, our state is in great fiscal health. Our state enjoys a AAA bond rating, the highest possible, has ample cash on hand to cover short-term obligations and has mostly managed to avoid the pension crisis that is sinking the budgets of so many other states.

These results come in large part not just because of great leadership from a long line of fiscally responsible leaders from both parties, but also because Floridians demand fiscal responsibility when we elect our leaders.

Regrettably, lawmakers at the federal level routinely pay lip service to fiscal responsibility while spending us into oblivion.

Total federal debt currently stands at more than $22 trillion. To put it into context, that’s more than the entire economic output of the United States last year. If you take away what the government borrows from itself, we’re still left with $15.8 trillion in publicly held debt, which amounts to almost 78 percent of gross domestic product. The only other time the federal government was so far in the red was near the end of World War II.

While we certainly face challenges today, they do not come near those faced by the Greatest Generation. But you’d never know that by the way we’re spending borrowed money. And make no mistake, a day of reckoning is coming. Our current fiscal trajectory is unsustainable, and blithely piling on trillions more in debt year after year is a sure-fire recipe for an economic catastrophe that would make the 2008 financial collapse pale in comparison.

The recently enacted budget proposal would exceed self-imposed spending caps by $320 billion. It would allow deficit spending to increase by a total of $1.7 trillion over the next 10 years — that’s in addition to the $11.8 trillion in new deficit spending already projected.

In the wake of the 2017 tax cuts, for the first 10 months of fiscal 2019, federal revenue totaled $2.9 trillion, a 3 percent increase above the same period the year before. But spending rose 8 percent.

This is not a partisan problem, and it’s not a revenue problem. The real problem? Both parties are addicted to spending.

Skylar Zander is Florida director of Americans for Prosperity.

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