The Rapid Failure of Obama’s Pay-Go Program by Gregory Hilton

“It says to Congress, you have to pay as you go. You can’t spend a dollar unless you cut a dollar elsewhere. … We have to cut where we can, to afford what we need. Congress can only spend a dollar if it saves a dollar elsewhere.” — Statement of President Barack Obama when signing the Pay-Go law, February 12, 2010

The Pay-Go legislation certainly sounds like a common sense tool to rein in government spending, and it specifically promises to pay for everything that is spent. Unfortunately during the past month it has proven to be little more than a public relations exercise. It was created to make it appear our lawmakers are serious about cutting the budget, and it will never be effective because its requirements are so frequently waived.
The Obama administration was very public in its promotion of the Pay-Go (pay as you go) program, and said it demonstrated they are serious about reducing spending. Democrats in Congress reinstated Pay-Go with tremendous pomp and proclaimed their fiscal superiority. Then, almost immediately, Pay-Go was gone. We were told Pay-Go did not apply to a wide range of bills. Now Republicans are simply saying, “What happened to Pay-Go?”
Pay-Go has been discussed for years but it has not had a significant role in deficit reduction. For the past few weeks the news media has been filled with stories about Republicans being the “Party of No,” and how they allegedly caused hardship for various groups. The Democrats have been winning the public relations war on Capitol Hill which is ironic because they are entirely to blame.
They will not use normal procedures. They bring up bills just as the programs are to set to expire and they refuse to pay for them. They just want the programs added to the deficit. The goal of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is to score political points, not to solve problems. His answer is always the same, push the ever increasing debt burden onto the backs of future generations. Republicans always offer amendments to pay for new spending, and the Democrats respond by ruling their proposals out of order.
The recent Pay-Go controversy involved Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY). He agreed to end his opposition to an extension of unemployment benefits in exchange for a vote to pay for them, as Pay-Go required. As soon as Bunning agreed to the unanimous consent motion, Reid broke his promise. There was no Bunning amendment after all. Democrats used a parliamentary maneuver to set his amendment aside and they never voted on the substance of it.
The Democrats will continue to use tricks but facts are stark. Last month, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said our current debt is unsustainable, and this year’s budget will add $1.5 trillion to the deficit.
Unless someone speaks up about this continued deficit spending our prospects for economic recovery are dire. The government can not find jobs for the unemployed. That has to come from the private sector and the Obama agenda is a burden to our largest employer, American small businesses. Once again, Democrats rejected Bunning’s recent attempt to abide by Pay-Go. They did not want to pay for the program from the stimulus or left over TARP funds. An even better solution is to cut back on the boom we have seen in federal employment during this recession.
Why not a federal hiring freeze? Stopping those Congressional earmarks would easily save us $10 billion. Are we ever going to get serious about the deficit? If not now, then when? If not us, then who else is going to do it?When are we going to address the debt crisis? If not now, then when? If not us, then who?
Deficit reduction and entitlement reform have not been wining political issues for the GOP. The Democrats ridiculed social security reform without any plan of their own, and this issue allowed them to recapture the House in 2006. The Democrats are the real party of no, and it has been a successful campaign issue for them. If the Democrats really want to solve our nation’s problems they will either make Pay-Go apply to everything or they will advance programs to spur economic growth.

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