During the shutdown, 85 percent of government stayed open despite the hoopla reported in the media. Government is now 100 percent open. Debt-ceiling deadlines have been averted, but the real problem remains: a $17 trillion debt and a president who continues to pile on new debt at a rate of $1 million a minute.
The government shutdown occurred because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid allows the Senate to lurch from deadline to deadline without passing a single appropriations bill. Had he done his job and passed each of the 12 appropriations bills, the government could have stayed open.
Opening government has not resolved the big picture — a debt problem so large that it dwarfs all deadlines and threatens the very fabric of the nation. What remains is an unsustainable debt, precisely the problem that motivated me to run for office.
There was never any reason to shut down government. If both sides were willing to compromise, we could have found amicable solutions to these severe problems. But let the record state clearly, no significant spending restraint was accomplished because President Obama steadfastly refused to negotiate. Let us also remember his promise that he will negotiate as long as the compromises are outside of any budgetary deadlines.
We’ve heard this before, and I, for one, am skeptical.
When Mr. Obama, then a senator, opposed raising the debt ceiling in 2006, it was $8 trillion. Today, it has more than doubled to $17 trillion. If we are to survive this breakneck spending that has become the norm in Washington, it must be stopped and reversed. Many polls showed that Americans were fed up with both parties over the shutdown. A Bloomberg poll showed that 61 percent — 6 in 10 Americans — think that spending cuts should be tied to raising the debt ceiling. A Rasmussen survey and Fox News poll found similar results.
Americans want leaders who are willing to rein in a government that is completely out of control.
There are solutions. Perhaps we should not raise the debt ceiling without also enacting a balanced-budget amendment. Many states are forced to balance their budgets, and there is no reason the federal government cannot begin to do the same.
There is also the Penny Plan, which could balance the budget by cutting total federal spending by 1 percent each year for six consecutive years. Over a decade, overall spending would be reduced by $7.5 trillion.
There is no reason that in more immediate terms, we cannot find a firm and workable plan to balance the budget. Republicans and Democrats seem to have no problem coming together to grow the government. Why can’t we do the opposite?
We could stop giving billions in foreign aid to countries that behave more like enemies than allies so we can pay down our debt and fund priorities here at home.
We could only spend what we bring in, show some restraint and common sense, and begin following the Constitution. Our government currently does so many things that it doesn’t have the constitutional authority to do. We learned during the shutdown that nearly half of government is considered “nonessential.”
Considering the great economic burden we are leaving our children and the next generation, we should not be spending money on nonessential government services.
Washington is a mess. Not just this week and last week, but every week, month and year that we continue to spend money that we do not have, to do things that we should not do.
There were no winners coming out of what went down in Washington this week. Any future deals should result in something better than the American people, yet again, getting the short end of the stick.
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Rand Paul is a Republican senator from Kentucky. This article was published in The Washington Times.