When Democrats take control of the House and Senate in January, they will have the opportunity to push through Congress the many legislative promises that they campaigned on in the run-up to the midterm Congressional elections.
Of course, those legislative promises have to be paid for, and the problem for Democrats is that they also promised there would be no new deficit spending. So how can Representative Pelosi and Senator Reid advance their social agenda for the lower and middle classes without engaging in the deficit spending that has become a trademark of Washington politicians? Two options: raise taxes or cut current federal spending programs.
So far, only a few Democrats have openly called for repealing the President's tax cuts. Several in the new majority promised no increases in taxes during the election campaign and so far the issue doesn't seem to be high on the priority list when Democrats first start calling the shots in Congress in a couple of months. So that leaves spending cuts, and there is plenty of fat to be trimmed from the bloated federal budget.
According to the Heritage Foundation, federal spending has reached $22,000 per household, in constant dollars, for the first time since World War II and discretionary spending has jumped forty-nine percent in just three years. Congressional spending is out of control and entitlement spending is a significant contributor.
So if cuts are to be made, a good place to start is with the outrageous pet projects that our Senators and Representatives, Democrat and Republican alike, regularly slip into legislative bills to funnel limited federal dollars back to their home districts, states, friends, and business partners.
Citizens Against Government Waste, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that tracks government spending, reports in their 2006 edition of The Congressional Pig Book an amazing 10,000 special projects in eleven different legislative bills. The cost to taxpayers so that our politicians can look great to their constituents is an unbelievable $29 billion! And that's just in the 2006 edition. And what are taxpayers getting for their money? Well, we gave $13.5 million for the International Fund for Ireland, which includes money for the World Toilet Summit. And we added $500,000 for the Arctic Winter Games and $5.6 million for studying the effects of alcohol and drug abuse to defense spending bills.
Granted, the $29 billion outlined in the 2006 Pig Book are but a tiny drop in an ever-increasing federal budget, but it is a great place to start. While the savings to American taxpayers would be minimal considering the overall level of federal spending, the limiting of "special" projects that waste taxpayer dollars would be an important psychological victory. It would send the message that both Democrats and Republicans understand that they have a responsibility to spend taxpayer funds wisely, for those funds are limited and must be used for worthwhile projects and programs.
The 2007 federal budget sent to Congress by President Bush will cost taxpayers $2.77 trillion. It is imperative that we find savings by trimming unnecessary fat and reigning in reckless pet projects. In the absence of reform, the Heritage foundation says in its Issues 2006 Candidate's Briefing Book, the Congress will be faced with limited options.
First, raise taxes every year until they are 57% higher than today, something no Democrat or Republican wants to be responsible for. Second, eliminate every federal program except Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid by 2045, which is never going to happen. And third, do nothing, which would threaten the entire economic well-being of the country.
It is not hard to see that reform and fiscal restraint are our best options. Right now the Congress is doing nothing, and Americans continue to pay the price for their irresponsibility. Nancy Pelosi has proposed a "pay-as-you-go" policy that would force lawmakers to find a way to pay for new programs before they are adopted. It is a step in the right direction, provided that direction does not mean raising taxes. Remember, low tax rates are not the problem, careless federal spending is. Ms. Pelosi and the Democrats have an opportunity before them as they take control of the Congress. The question now is whether or not they will seize that opportunity for the sake of our country.