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Opinion
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Guest Column
Approaching debt limit deadline presents golden opportunity for fiscal responsibility | Column
Here is how America can get people back to work and start to cut the deficit.
The U.S. Capitol is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington Thursday, July 15, 2021.
The U.S. Capitol is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington Thursday, July 15, 2021. [ JOSE LUIS MAGANA | AP ]
Published Jul. 16

Currently the debt clock ticks well past $28 trillion, barreling toward $30 trillion. That’s more than $90,000 for every man, woman and child in America.

Out-of-control government spending, debt and labor shortages are contributing to rising inflation — a 13-year high of 5 percent — and suddenly government overspending and bad policy impact the price of everything, from gas to bread to plywood.

Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla.
Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla. [ ALEX BRANDON | AP ]

If 5 percent doesn’t sound like a lot, here’s what it does: At 5 percent, prices double every 14 years. At just over 7 percent inflation, prices double every 10 years. If your income doesn’t double as well, you are working harder but falling farther behind. With high inflation, you can’t save enough for retirement and a future, as you struggle to pay rapidly rising costs today.

Tarren Bragdon
Tarren Bragdon [ Provided ]

Government doesn’t feel the bite of inflation, but everyday Americans do.

As prices continue to rise, the Biden administration — especially with its recent $6 trillion budget proposal on top of trillions of dollars of previous spending — has little intention of reducing the national debt or spending with more prudence.

In our respective roles in the U.S. Senate and at the Foundation for Government Accountability, we know the dangers of inaction when it comes to federal debt. The debt limit deadline of July 31 is fast approaching. It’s time we bring accountability to federal spending.

There are two key actions legislators should take to rein in spending and reduce the federal debt.

One is to pursue practical measures that make it easy and relatively painless to cut spending, if we start now. The Federal Debt Emergency Control Act includes several provisions to do just that.

This commonsense legislation does not prescribe what spending or programs should be cut, but instead provides members of Congress and Senators with incentives that deters bloated spending bills.

It’s not just about spending. It’s also about promoting work.

A job is the best way for people to find meaning, security and financial opportunity for themselves and their family.

But right now, the federal government is rewarding unemployment with inflated unemployment bonuses. The most recent stimulus packages allowed for a $300 weekly boost to unemployment benefits and benefits for more than a year. People would have to earn more than $21 an hour full-time before work pays more than being unemployed.

Now there are a record 9.3 million jobs available. Businesses are trying to rebound, but polling from the Foundation for Government Accountability shows a majority of businesses have had a very difficult time hiring employees over the last few months.

The unemployment bonus simply made it more lucrative for people stay unemployed. And 65 percent of business owners agree this is the reason they can’t stay fully staffed.

In states that are still opting in to the federal unemployment bonus, a single parent with two young children could receive $3,694 per month — more than $40,000 per year — in cash and cash-equivalent benefits just to remain unemployed.

In some states, individuals receiving the unemployment bonus could receive more than $50,000 per year in cash and cash-equivalent benefits, in addition to other programs, ensuring many Americans won’t be heading back to work any time soon.

The unemployment bonus and related pandemic-era programs that disincentivize work need to end.

By disincentivizing work and spending billions for bloated unemployment benefits (a large number of which are fraudulent, according to a recent Foundation for Government Accountability report), the federal government has jeopardized the economic recovery and driven up the federal debt even more.

If this scenario continues, no one wins. Just like what happens with that maxed out credit card.

The longer we ignore the debt problem, the worse it will become — not just for us, but for future generations.

A debt crisis is here. And it will be American families that feel the effects of their government’s lack of fiscal responsibility through inflation, higher costs and rising taxes.

That’s not the America anyone wants. American families deserve better.

Through legislation like the Federal Debt Emergency Control Act and by promoting work, we can bring accountability back to the federal government’s bank accounts and build a better future for everyone.

With the debt limit deadline approaching, there’s no better time for Congress to do right by the American taxpayer and finally address the federal debt and reckless government spending. Let’s seize that opportunity.

Sen. Rick Scott, a Republican, represents Florida in the U.S. Senate. Tarren Bragdon is the president and chief executive officer of the Foundation for Government Accountability.