Budget Values Mean More than Money

Senator Mike Johanns

Four years.  That’s how long it took Senate Democrats to pass a budget resolution.  It’s also the amount of time it takes to get a degree in finance, economics or accounting. But after looking at their final product, it appears the Democrats didn’t use this time doing any of that.

Their budget, which narrowly passed in the Senate late last week, turns a cold shoulder to the realities our country faces.

Americans today are coping with higher taxes, fewer jobs, a fragile economy and important government programs on the brink of bankruptcy.

So how does this plan address these issues?  By raising taxes another trillion dollars, refusing to strengthen Social Security and Medicare for future generations and borrowing more money from places like China to foot the bill for more of the same failed stimulus spending. The debt increased nearly 50 percent to $16.7 trillion in the absence of a budget.  This plan calls for another similar increase, pushing the debt to $24.4 trillion over the next decade.

While lawmakers disagree on a number of policies, we share some beliefs, like ensuring safety nets for our nation’s seniors and most vulnerable. But this budget doesn’t even try to address the fact that these essential programs are running out of money. Instead, supporters of this plan opted to maintain the status quo, leaving future generations out in the cold.

Vice President Biden famously said, “Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.” By this standard, the absence of a budget these past four years is telling. But when lawmakers put pen to paper and actively double down on the decisions that have plagued our nation, we begin to get a clear picture of where their priorities really lie.

In Nebraska, we value things like being rewarded for hard work and being free to stretch our creativity in business and innovation. We believe in meeting our financial obligations and living within our means. And we believe this is how we create opportunities for future generations.

We also value things like a good education, quality health care and a clean environment. And we believe all of this can be achieved in ways that minimize competition with our other values. The plan that passed in the House last week reflects these principles while putting our nation on a path toward a balanced budget, and I voted for it when it was offered as an amendment in the Senate.

Budgets do reflect values. They also reflect the realities we must live with—that our economy is struggling, that we spend more than we can afford and that Social Security and Medicare, which drive more than half of federal spending, are not sustainable in their current form.

Making cuts is never easy. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have to. But we live in a world that requires making choices. Congress has an obligation to make these decisions, no matter how difficult, to ensure our country remains strong and vibrant now and in the future.  Supporters of the Senate budget failed to make the tough choices last week. We can do better. This debate is far from over, and I will continue to push for real solutions that reflect our state’s common values, even if it means making the hard choices my colleagues and I were sent here to make.

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