US in sprint toward fiscal cliff

America is in the midst of a serious crisis, and one you won’t hear about on cable news.

America’s national debt now exceeds $20 trillion and we are still borrowing $1 million every minute. Yet, Washington just keeps spending dollars it doesn’t have.

Not only is this unsustainable, it’s also very dangerous.

The former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, is on record that America’s national debt is our most significant national security threat.

And it is easy to see why. The government is forced to spend 6.5 percent of our annual budget on interest payments. That is $266 billion in taxpayer dollars that should be spent securing our country, strengthening our military, and taking care of our veterans and elderly.

Further, the enormity of our debt should also trigger a call to our collective conscience. If we fail to cut spending and pay down our debt now, our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren will be the ones left holding the bill.

Washington’s out-of-control spending problem is pushing our country toward a fiscal cliff. Every year the federal government spends hundreds of billions of dollars more than it takes in. Much of that money is spent inefficiently on bloated bureaucracy and poorly-run government programs.

For example, according to the non-partisan Government Accountability Office, in 2016 the federal government wasted $114 billion.

Clearly, we must address the epidemic of government over-spending and borrowing. The good news is that my conservative colleagues and I know how to do it.

A few months ago, Republicans in the House of Representatives joined me in passing a conservative budget for 2018 that includes over $1 trillion in long-term spending cuts.

For example, we passed a prudent Medicaid work requirement for able-bodied participants. This common-sense measure would save taxpayers $112 billion over 10 years.

Medicaid spending on able-bodied adults has increased 700 percent since 2000. We are a generous and compassionate country, but the safety net is being exploited.

We also voted to require a valid Social Security number in order to receive the Child Tax Credit, saving taxpayers $28 billion by ending payments to illegal immigrants.

Unfortunately, the Senate didn’t do its job and failed to advance the 12 annual appropriations bills approved by the House. As a result, this week Congress will have to pass a short-term continuing resolution to keep the government from shutting down.

These continuing resolutions represent the worst of Washington. They are an old gimmick, used by liberal special interest groups who want to ensure their special government funding continues … regardless of whether or not the program is still necessary or useful. They are a means of maintaining the status quo.

Yet the status quo is no longer acceptable. President Trump and I are committed to moving America forward, restoring prosperity and shrinking the size of a bloated bureaucracy.

Hardworking American families are forced to make tough financial decisions to stay within their means. Why should the government be any different?

Prior to joining the U.S. House of Representatives, I served from 2003 to 2008 in the North Carolina Senate, where I identified more than $1.5 billion in spending cuts.

As your congressman, I’ve brought that same focus to Washington, working with President Trump to cut wasteful spending and return that money to hardworking American families, small business owners, and job creators. When I identify opportunities, however small, to cut government spending, I push hard.

That’s why as House and Senate negotiators meet to hammer out this “must-pass” legislation to keep the government operating, I’m urging my colleagues to include the vital spending cuts we already identified — and already passed — in our conservative budget that wasn’t finished by the Senate. This shouldn’t be controversial, as they were previously agreed to by the House Republican majority.

We cannot afford to keep kicking the can down the road. We need to cut spending and restore fiscal sanity in Washington, so we can ensure the protection of liberty and opportunity for future generations of Americans.

Robert Pittenger, a Republican from Charlotte, represents the 8th District in the U.S. House, which includes all of Robeson County.

Robert Pittenger, a Republican from Charlotte, represents the 8th District in the U.S. House, which includes all of Robeson County.