Tough choices in tough times

This week I had the opportunity to listen to the new director of Office of Management and Budget, Jacob Lew, lay out the framework for President Obama’s budget. Much of the deficit cutting rhetoric in the days leading up to the budget release built a tenor of expectation which was quickly dashed as I heard the President’s budget spokesman utter the phrases, “sustainable deficit” and “primary balance.”

A new nomenclature has again been invented by the president.  The goal of the president’s budget is a “primary balance” and not an actual balance.  The goal of the budget is not debt reduction, but reaching an invented “sustainable deficit” defined as deficit spending each year equal to 3% of GDP.

I do not recall hearing anyone in my district asking me to help get the nation to “primary balance” or to work toward “sustainable deficit” spending. This nation wants to get back to an actual balance and debt elimination. 

 The president’s spokesman assured the House Budget Committee that the first step of the plan was to attain a sustainable deficit of 3% of GDP, then at some future date, balance the budget and begin paying down the debt. But there is one major problem; the president’s ten year plan never creates a single year where deficits are less than $600 billion. Every year in the President’s budget has a larger deficit than any year during the George W. Bush administration. The president’s budget also assumes near non-existent inflation for ten years and significantly higher GDP than the Congressional Budget Office estimates while also ignoring entitlements.

We also learned that clean energy job creation means traditional energy jobs are taxed out of existence so the federal government can create green energy jobs which might someday create green energy. Punishing the fuel that powers America and American jobs today is no way to create domestic energy independence and price stability tomorrow. In the 1970’s, President Jimmy Carter declared that 20% of all electricity would be produced by solar power by the year 2000. Now, eleven years past Carter’s target date, America still produces less than one percent of its electricity through solar power. When will we learn as a nation that a President cannot wave their budget wand and create energy?

Republicans and Democrats can certainly agree that a projected debt of more than $26 trillion by the end of the decade is more than we should have as a nation. The problem is determining the solution to the problem. In the President’s “sustainable deficit” plan, ten years from now the interest on our debt alone approaches $1 trillion dollars a year. Debt that exceeds 77% of GDP will not be solved by new nomenclature and budget gimmicks.

While the president speaks of tough choices, this is the first generation of American leaders that in the middle of tough times have looked to make it harder on our children to make it easier on us and that is not right. It is apparent that there is a great need to begin work on a serious budget in the days to come that will truly address our fiscal mess. Our kids and the future of our nation are counting on our tough choices.

About the author: Congressman Lankford serves on the House Budget, Oversight & Government Reform, and Transportation & Infrastructure Committees.  This column was originally published in The Hill newspaper on February 17, 2011.