Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

Obama, Democrats not serious about passing budget

By Ron Johnson, Special to CNN
updated 5:59 AM EDT, Mon April 30, 2012
President Obama speaks during a campaign event at the Washington Convention Center last week.
President Obama speaks during a campaign event at the Washington Convention Center last week.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sen. Ron Johnson notes it's been three years since the Senate passed a budget
  • He says the president and Sen. Harry Reid are using the budget for political ends
  • Johnson: Democrats are unserious about passing a budget
  • The American people want the economy moving again, Johnson says

Editor's note: U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, is a member of the Senate Budget Committee.

(CNN) -- The U.S. government is the largest financial entity in the world. Nothing else comes close.

On Sunday, April 29, it will be exactly three years since the U.S. Senate passed a budget.

If you own or work for a small business that has a loan from a bank, I'm quite sure your business has a budget -- and a rather detailed budget at that. Every year around tax time, many American families sit down to fill out tax forms, estimate their income, and set spending priorities for the upcoming year. It's the responsible thing to do.

And yet, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid appears to believe it is not necessary for the Senate to fulfill its legal responsibility by debating and passing a budget to account for $3.8 trillion in federal spending next fiscal year, $15.6 trillion of debt and, according to figures produced by the Senate Budget Committee Republican staff, more than $65 trillion in additional unfunded liabilities.

Ron Johnson
Ron Johnson

To provide some perspective to these incomprehensible numbers, the total net private asset base -- that is, the net value of all household assets, small business assets, and large business assets -- of the United States is $82 trillion, according to figures from the Federal Reserve Flow of Funds Account from March 8, 2012.

Even worse, President Barack Obama and his administration seem to view budgeting as just one more political maneuver. His efforts have been so completely unserious that the President's 2012 budget was rejected by a vote of 97-0 in the Senate. And three weeks ago, when Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-South Carolina, sponsored a budget proposal based on Obama's 2013 budget plan, it lost in the House by a vote of 414-0.

Rep. Ryan: Obama threatened by my budget
Sen. Marco Rubio on Paul Ryan's budget

That's right, not a single member of Congress cast a vote in favor of Obama's last two budgets. That is a stunning repudiation of his leadership. What it really represents is a total abdication of leadership.

Democrats in the Senate have all the votes they need to pass a real budget and show the American people their plan for today and the future. But they refuse, because they don't want to be held accountable. They would rather cut backroom deals that hide the details of their plans, and then take political pot shots at Republicans who have had the courage to produce and vote for a serious budget.

Democrats claim that last year's Budget Control Act is an adequate substitute for a real budget because it "deems" spending caps. Obviously, it is not. It is only half the equation. It includes no plan for saving Social Security or Medicare, for reforming taxes, or for ever living within our means. But it does prove that Washington is certainly good at making sure spending continues.

Business owners and consumers all over America are watching Washington, shaking their heads in disgust, and holding on to their wallets. These are the people we need to get our economy moving again, but these are the very people that are under assault by Obama and his policies.

The Obama administration's agencies are regulating business to death, limiting the use of America's domestic energy resources, threatening to punish success by increasing tax burdens, and providing no credible plan for reining in our debt and deficit. As self-defeating as all of these policies have been, not having a credible long-term budget plan might prove to be the most harmful.

For the 30 years from 1970 through 1999, the average borrowing cost of the U.S. government was 5.3%, according to an analysis made by my staff of figures from the Office of Management and Budget. During that period, the ratio of our debt to our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) averaged 47% and never exceeded 67%. We were a far more creditworthy nation back then than we are today.

Now our debt-to-GDP ratio exceeds 100%, and over the last three years, America's borrowing cost has been kept at an artificially low rate of 1.5%. How long can that last? Nobody knows.

What we do know is that if our borrowing costs were to revert to the 1970-through-1999 average of 5.3%, America's annual interest expense would increase by $600 billion -- an amount that equals 50% of discretionary spending.

Out of our $3.8 trillion annual budget, only $1.3 trillion is discretionary spending subject to appropriation and some level of control. Everything else, roughly $2.5 trillion, is mandatory and entitlement spending that is on automatic pilot -- with no requirement to ensure financial solvency of these programs.

This is unsustainable. Increased interest expense resulting from higher rates, the true cost of Obamacare, and reduced revenues from slower economic growth caused by uncertainty and lack of confidence, all significantly raise the risk of dramatically higher debt and deficits. Employer surveys by McKinsey, as well as analysis by former Congressional Budget Office Director Holtz-Eakin, show that far more Americans will lose employer-provided care than CBO estimates. Additionally, Congress is unlikely to implement the hundreds of billions in Medicare cuts that are called for in the president's health care law

It is past time for Obama, and his allies in Congress, to show the American people a credible plan to address our looming financial crisis. It is time for Senate Democrats to pass a budget.

Follow us on Twitter: @CNNOpinion

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ron Johnson

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:57 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says spanking is an acceptable form of disciplining a child, as long as you follow the rules.
updated 9:58 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Steven Holmes says spanking, a practice that is ingrained in our culture, accomplishes nothing positive and causes harm.
updated 2:31 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Sally Kohn says America tried "Cowboy Adventurism" as a foreign policy strategy; it failed. So why try it again?
updated 10:27 AM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Van Jones says the video of John Crawford III, who was shot by a police officer in Walmart, should be released.
updated 10:48 AM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
NASA will need to embrace new entrants and promote a lot more competition in future, argues Newt Gingrich.
updated 7:15 PM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
If U.S. wants to see real change in Iraq and Syria, it will have to empower moderate forces, says Fouad Siniora.
updated 8:34 PM EDT, Wed September 17, 2014
Mark O'Mara says there are basic rules to follow when interacting with law enforcement: respect their authority.
updated 9:05 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
LZ Granderson says Congress has rebuked the NFL on domestic violence issue, but why not a federal judge?
updated 7:49 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
Mel Robbins says the only person you can legally hit in the United States is a child. That's wrong.
updated 1:23 PM EDT, Mon September 15, 2014
Eric Liu says seeing many friends fight so hard for same-sex marriage rights made him appreciate marriage.
updated 4:55 PM EDT, Fri September 12, 2014
David Wheeler wonders: If Scotland votes to secede, can America take its place and rejoin England?
updated 4:36 PM EDT, Fri September 12, 2014
World-famous physicist Stephen Hawking recently said the world as we know it could be obliterated instantaneously. Meg Urry says fear not.
updated 1:21 PM EDT, Thu September 11, 2014
Sally Kohn says bombing ISIS will worsen instability in Iraq and strengthen radical ideology in terrorist groups.
updated 9:27 AM EDT, Thu September 11, 2014
Artist Prune Nourry's project reinterprets the terracotta warriors in an exhibition about gender preference in China.
updated 9:36 AM EDT, Wed September 10, 2014
The Apple Watch is on its way. Jeff Yang asks: Are we ready to embrace wearables technology at last?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT