During my tenure in the U.S. Senate, I took great pride in being a leader of my caucus on fiscal responsibility. I went to great lengths to ensure that Congress did not neglect our national debt, and I made a priority of a balanced budget.
So it is with great disappointment that I look upon the current state of fiscal affairs in this country. We have let our national debt soar without limit, and we are flirting with disaster as we race toward the fiscal cliff. We must steady our fiscal footing before our already fragile economy slips any further.
The Jan. 1 deadline to avert the fiscal cliff inches closer every day. It is vital that President Obama and Congress continue their recent accelerated pace of negotiations to prevent us from going over the cliff.
With its harmful combination of tax increases and virtual across-the-board spending cuts totaling $600 billion in 2013, the fiscal cliff poses a huge threat to our economic well-being. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has projected that if we fail to avert the cliff, we can expect our economy to shed two million jobs. The economy will contract at an annualized rate of 4 percent in the early months of next year, CBO warns, throwing us back into recession.
The changes associated with these drastic measures are too much for the economy to absorb all at once. The American people are depending on Washington to find common ground that helps to reduce the deficit in a responsible manner, rather than relying on the fiscal cliff’s Draconian methods.
However, a deal that merely averts the cliff isn’t enough. We must directly address the long-term trajectory of our national debt.
We’ve let our debt climb to unsustainable heights, and it shows no signs of slowing its rapid ascent. This menacing debt is crowding out funding for our most important domestic needs.
Last year, the federal government spent $454 billion on interest on the debt. That was more than we invested in education, housing, transportation, and agriculture combined. Whatever program you hold dear, there’s a good chance the debt is threatening the funds required for its very existence.
The days and weeks ahead must see our leaders set aside their differences and make sacrifices that benefit the country, not just their respective political party or their electoral prospects. Pushing them to think bigger is why I joined the Campaign to Fix the Debt.
The campaign is focused on placing America on a more stable economic course. It has assembled a variety of respected business, political, and civic leaders to help further this cause. Please visit FixTheDebt.org to join me and the more than 325,000 concerned Americans who have signed the campaign’s citizens petition.
We can right our fiscal ship, but everyone must be on board to do so. The Campaign to Fix the Debt is helping us all row in the same direction.
George Voinovich is a former Republican U.S. senator and governor of Ohio.