It is time to change the way things are done in our nation’s capital — the “other Washington.”
The year-end Christmas dash to pass a $1.7 trillion spending monstrosity is the straw breaking the camel’s back. It is a 4,000-page document that lawmakers freely admit they did not read.
To put the problem into perspective, that one bill contains 17 times more money than the entire two-year state budget for Washington.
It’s an unfathomable sum of money and its vast scope has not gone unnoticed outside the D.C. beltway. It is fueling unrest. For example, the most recent Gallup poll found 42% of Americans are looking for a new way. They identified as largely independent voters — the ones often determining election outcomes.
This year is the appropriate time to start.
First, elected officials must address how they are going to pay for what they promise and provide for natural disasters, public safety and threats to our national security. Citizens cannot allow them to move onto 2024 election jockeying and push tough decisions off to 2025.
Second, lawmakers must work together respectfully.
A Georgetown University poll discovered 95% of Americans agree that respect is the first step to having a government that works and civility is the way they get there. The same poll learned 68% of respondents wanted elected officials to roll up their sleeves and compromise.
Third, the courts need to stem President Joe Biden’s steady flow of executive orders, many of which cost billions. A good beginning would be a ruling that his $500 billion student loan forgiveness program exceeded his authority and is invalid.
Fourth, voters need to insist that the president and Congress deal with our huge debt. Just continuing to increase the spending lid and borrowing more is not acceptable.
We now owe over $31.5 trillion which is up from $22.5 trillion in September 2019. Every taxpayer’s share of the debt is $247,000, up from $183,000 nearly three years ago.
The national debt surpassed the size of the entire economy (gross domestic product or GDP) in 2014 and in the last three years reached a rate of 20% higher than GDP. It could rise to twice its size by 2051 if current laws remain the same, according to the Congressional Budget Office. That level of debt would far exceed the 50-year historical average of 44% of gross domestic product.
The Peter Peterson Foundation, which focuses on putting our nation on a more sustainable footing, says time is running out. The longer elected officials push it under the carpet, the larger the problem becomes.
According to Michael Peterson: “Our high and rising debt makes us less prepared for the next pandemic, less secure against future adversaries, less resilient to the changing climate, and less able to build the strong and inclusive economy that we all want for the next generation.”
On our current spending trajectory, interest on our debt will soon become our fastest growing cost and will rise to eat up nearly 50 cents of every tax dollar collected in 2050. It’s not only unsustainable, but also a moral failure that will harm our children and grandchildren.
In the immediate year, people are struggling to afford food, pay their utility bills and fill gas tanks. They are staring at continued high inflation and a slowing global economy — all pointing to the need for our elected officials to change.
Citizens are starting to pay attention to the “other Washington” and correlating high government spending and borrowing with high inflation rates. They are going to push back out of necessity and that is a welcome change.
Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at theBrunells@msn.com.
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