"Raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can't pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our government's reckless fiscal policies . . . Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better."
So said then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama in 2006 just moments before he voted against raising the debt ceiling by less than $800 billion to the then new limit of $8.965 trillion.
As our nation's debt now approaches its current $14.29 trillion limit, Obama, now the president, is calling on Congress to increase the debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion. And most Americans rightfully ask: "How did this happen?"
Leaders of both political parties are guilty of past decades of fiscal irresponsibility by spending beyond our means.
In the past decade alone, Congress has authorized an increase in the debt limit 10 times. The federal government has only managed to balance its budget five times in the last 50 years. And we continue to borrow approximately 40 cents of every dollar.
Recently we have seen our government debt grow by $3.4 trillion during the first 29 months of the Obama administration—the equivalent of about $4 billion per day.
Foreign investors, including China, hold half of our nation's $14 trillion debt causing Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to call the national debt "the single biggest threat to our national security."
Last Congress, there was no budget, no spending plan and no final decision on funding levels for the whole fiscal year for the first time in modern history.
The years of fiscal mismanagement have resulted in a sputtering American economy where the unemployment rate hovers above 9 percent and unprecedented uncertainty has made it harder for our nation's job creators to start and expand businesses.
That's why I will oppose President Barack Obama's request to increase our borrowing limit unless it includes a real plan to bring our fiscal house in order and meaningfully reduce the nation's unsustainable levels of spending, debt and deficits.
This includes fundamental tax reform, meaningful spending reforms, substantial reductions in current spending and safeguards that will restrict future spending, such as a balanced budget amendment.
And most important we must put politics aside and include important reforms to save Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
The fundamental issue confronting the American nation in the 21st century is fiscal responsibility. If we do not get a handle on our federal debt and annual deficits, we will lose our leadership to some other place in the world, probably China or India.
The nation is in peril. Will our children live in a diminished America or will the promise of America that each generation will do a little better than the generation before it continue to exist?
That is the great issue confronting us in the United States Congress.
Rep. Leonard Lance, R-7th
U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance, a Republican from Clinton, Hunterdon County, represents New Jersey's 7th Congressional District which covers parts of four central New Jersey counties.