Clarksville Leaf Chronicle Editorial: Corker offers realism on debt

Feb 4, 2011

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., has introduced a proposal to reduce federal spending that he describes as a "legislative straitjacket, a way of forcing Congress to dramatically cut spending over 10 years."

It's not unrealistic shock treatment; rather, it's a common-sense bill that applies the principles of discipline and time to gain control of the spending monster that stalks America's future. 

Corker's bill would cap spending as a percentage of the gross domestic product, the total output of the U.S. economy. That percentage would be lowered over 10 years until it reached 20.6 percent of GDP, the average over the past 40 years. 

Federal spending is now 24.7 percent of GDP and will result in a record $1.5 trillion deficit this year. Total debt is close to the legal limit of $14.3 trillion, and Congress will vote soon on whether to raise that ceiling. 

The bill has an important Democratic co-sponsor in Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, and powerful GOP backing from Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee; Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson of Georgia; Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina; Sen. John McCain of Arizona; Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma; and Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois.

In announcing the bill Tuesday, Corker said: "The beauty of the CAP Act is that it imposes fiscal discipline and smaller government, while incentivizing lawmakers to pass policies that promote economic growth."

The Commitment to American Prosperity Act, the "CAP Act," also includes a provision to strengthen Congressional backbones and shows some rare political guts. It would:

-Authorize the Office of Management and Budget to make evenly distributed, simultaneous cuts throughout the federal budget to bring spending down to the pre-determined level, if Congress fails to meet the annual cap. Only a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress could override the binding cap.

-For the first time, it would eliminate the deceptive "off-budget" distinction for Social Security — providing a complete and accurate assessment of all federal spending.

Here's Corker's description of our current course: "By 2035, on our current trajectory, U.S. debt will reach 185 percent of GDP. If this occurs, interest payments on our national debt will reach nearly nine percent of GDP — as much as we currently spend on national defense, education, roads, and all government agencies combined."

Clearly, letting the debt monster consume vast shares of our economic output is madness, and Congress needs to heed the warnings of the good senators from Tennessee and seriously consider the CAP Act.

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