By any standard of accounting, our nation is on the path to bankruptcy — we have a spending addiction.
The stakes could not be higher. The current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, believes that "the most significant threat to our national security is our debt." Our federal fiscal challenge has now become so severe that it threatens not only the prosperity but also the security of our nation. As our economy flags, our power in the world also declines, thereby reducing our ability to protect our homeland.
Kansans have made the link between reckless federal spending and job destruction — we have had record unemployment levels over the past two years in Kansas. Kansans have also made the link between more federal spending and harm to working families — there are more individuals and families living below the poverty line today than ever before in American history. Finally, Kansans have made the link between increased taxes and regulation and jobs leaving for other countries.
We cannot borrow and spend our way to economic prosperity. No nation has ever done so, nor will America.
In November, Americans went to the polls with this threat at the forefront of their minds, and they elected leaders who are prepared to do the hard work to break the spending addiction.
Last week, the newly elected 112th Congress, of which I am one of more than 90 first-term members, passed the largest decrease in federal domestic spending in our nation's history. This is merely a first step, but it is nonetheless historic.
Seldom if ever before in our nation's 235 years has either house of Congress passed a bill reducing annual spending by more than $100 billion.
Change and recovery will not be easy. Bad habits die hard. Our bill eliminates more than 150 programs, and it will reduce hundreds more programs dramatically.
No one relishes these program reductions. They will sometimes challenge the achievement of noble goals, and it is healthy to acknowledge this fact.
Let me be clear. This is not about ideology; this is simply about America being broke. This is about our moral obligation to prevent following generations from experiencing a standard of living lower than ours.
We must do this, and we can. Make no mistake: If we continue on our current course, we will awaken one day to find America has fallen into the same financial ruin as Greece.
The months ahead will hold many difficult decisions and sacrifices. However, the long-term benefits of breaking our spending addiction greatly outweigh the tough choices we'll encounter in the short term.
We can grow our economy by reining in runaway government spending. Small businesses in Kansas and across the country will regain the incentive to grow and invest in America. Once again, they will begin to hire hardworking people who have no or little opportunity today. By unfettering the national entrepreneurial spirit, our local and national economy will flourish once more.
Whatever difficulties we will encounter on this new course, I believe it is the only one capable of fulfilling a deeper human responsibility — to live within our means, to grow our economy and leave behind for our children a better life than the one our parents left for us.