If immediate measures are not taken, the national debt will soon be equal to the entire U.S. economy. At this moment, American opportunity threatens to be overwhelmed by our debt, and that's a race we can't afford to lose.
This dangerous dynamic has been steadily building up for decades, but Washington worsened the problem in recent years with a spending binge of costly bailouts, massive omnibus bills, and failed stimulus.
As a result, the debt burden has grown to previously unimaginable levels. When Nancy Pelosi became speaker of the House in January 2007, it stood at $8.6 trillion. Today, Americans must shoulder a national debt weighing in at a whopping $14 trillion, and the mountain grows larger every day. By the end of this decade, President Obama's budget projections show the national debt nearly doubling its current size to $26 trillion.
These sobering numbers represent the path to bankruptcy, draconian tax increases, and economic stagnation. We refuse such a fate. Instead, we are offering a step-by-step plan to reduce spending and put the United States on course to renewed financial stability.
Known as the Spending Reduction Act, this bill makes major strides toward resolving the debt crisis by cutting $2.5 trillion of spending between now and 2021. Here's how it works:
In the short term, the Spending Reduction Act makes $125 billion of immediate rescissions, which target money already approved by Congress, by cutting current spending back to 2008 levels and repealing the remaining funds from Obama's failed "stimulus" package.
The largest step toward spending reduction begins with the start of the next fiscal year on Oct. 1. On that day, the bill further cuts non-defense discretionary spending to 2006 levels and implements a hard freeze through 2021.
This alone will save taxpayers $2.3 trillion. A portion of these savings come from reducing the size and cost of the civilian federal work force. Attrition will trim the work force by 15 percent, while salaries will go without automatic pay increases for the next five years.
Our plan's overall reduction specifically targets more than 100 separate budget items and spending reforms, ranging from the elimination of duplicative education programs (saving $1.3 billion annually) to a 50 percent reduction of the federal travel budget (saving $7.5 billion annually).
These specific savings, when combined with additional reforms like ending Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's taxpayer bailout, total approximately $376 billion over the next decade.
America's debt problem wasn't created overnight, and implementing a complete solution will take both time and perseverance. With a healthy dose of courage from elected leaders, however, we can get America moving on the right track again.
Over the long term, balancing the budget will require lasting private sector job creation and robust reforms to entitlement programs that still operate on outdated demographic assumptions.
After passing the Spending Reduction Act, Congress must work to tear down barriers to job creation and make our safety-net programs sustainable for the 21st century. Only when all Americans have ample opportunity to earn success and build prosperity on their own will we enjoy lasting fiscal and economic stability.
Every component of our plan will undoubtedly raise the ire of one group or another, whether it is labor unions who want more benefits or Angora goat herders who want more subsidies. Such disagreements, while regrettable, inevitably rise when a nation confronts the kind of choices we now face. In fact, they will be a testament that Congress is finally making the tough yet responsible choices needed to maintain America's standing as the greatest nation in history.
Whether Americans realize it or not, we are all running together in a race against time. Unless Washington takes swift action to cut spending, we will chain our children to debt and rob them of opportunity to reach for the American Dream. On its own, passing the Spending Reduction Act will not get us over the finish line -- but we will get a $2.5 trillion head start.
Sen. Jim DeMint, R-SC, is chairman of the Senate Steering Committee. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-OH, chairs the Republican Study Committee (RSC), and Rep. Scott Garrett, R-NJ, leads the RSC's Budget and Spending Taskforce.