The U.S. government borrows 40 cents of every dollar it spends. The current national debt is about equal to the nation’s gross domestic product. Interest on the national debt represents the third-largest federal expenditure.
We can’t stay on this path.
Twelve years ago, President Bill Clinton put us on course to retire the nation’s debt by 2013. But since he left office, the U.S. has accumulated a debt of more than $15 trillion. It’s simply unsustainable. Here are three things we can do to get our budget back on track.
Fix the Process
There is nothing stopping the politicians in Washington, D.C. from balancing the budget, but recent history suggests that they just won’t get it done. These days, too many politicians in Washington prefer to wage partisan fights instead of coming together to solve problems.
Instead of actually making the tough decisions, Congress simply kicks the can down the road with gimmicks that fail to produce meaningful solutions. The bipartisan “Super Committee” had more power to make progress on the budget than dozens of blue-ribbon committees that went before. And still they failed.
Fiscal discipline won’t come by itself. That’s why I am committed to supporting a balanced budget amendment that doesn’t put Medicare and Social Security on the chopping block.
Unfortunately, this is not the amendment supported by my likely opponent, Rep. Rick Berg. An independent analysis found that his plan would force 25 percent cuts to programs like Social Security and Medicare.
Get Our Economy Moving
The recession is a major source of our deficit. That’s why I’m focused on getting people back to work. I’ll continue to push for construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would invest billions of dollars in our economy and create thousands of family-supporting construction jobs.
Putting people back to work means we’ll also crawl out of our budget hole.
A Balanced Approach
When people have to tighten their belts, government should too. I’m focused on a balanced approach to cuts so we can make investments in education, our infrastructure and technological innovation.
For example, I’ve committed to not taking the automatic pay raises when the budget isn’t balanced – and the rest of Congress should do the same – a move that would save $6 million. And allowing Medicare to negotiate for prescription drugs, like the Veterans Administration does, would save $200 billion.
I also believe those who earn more than $1 million a year should do their part to reduce the deficit. Only 645 North Dakotans would be impacted by this change, and it would generate $46 billion for deficit reduction. Yet, Rep. Berg, who is the 14th wealthiest member of the U.S. House, has voted to give himself a $265,000 tax cut – on top of his already-low tax rate.
I’m running for Senate to end the gridlock in Washington. We can get our budget back in order with these reforms, but only if we send people to Washington who are willing to put our country ahead of partisan politics, and focus on cutting spending and creating jobs.
-Heidi Heitkamp is a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate.