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End Runaway Government Spending

Impose a statutory cap limiting the annual growth in total federal spending to the sum of the inflation rate plus the percentage of population growth. (Mark Meckler, Sacramento, CA)

SUMMARY

Since 2001, federal spending has grown 51 percent faster than inflation, and now stands at $29,813 per household. President Obama’s budget could push real federal spending above $37,000 per household by the end of this decade. Taxpayers clearly cannot afford to fund this level of spending.

Families and businesses are tightening their belts and capping their spending. Yet Congress is not subject to any statutory spending caps. Entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare grow 7 percent annually on autopilot with no Congressional oversight. Discretionary spending is budgeted annually (at growth rates recently averaging 8 percent), yet Congress bypasses even those minor restraints by declaring any additional spending “emergencies.”

The only way to force lawmakers to set priorities and make trade-offs is to enact a law capping the growth of the federal government to the inflation rate plus population growth (approximately 3.5 percent annually). No more blank checks, no programs on autopilot, all programs competing against each other for tax dollars. Any additional spending should require a 2/3 supermajority vote (which should be reachable during a real emergency). Such a spending cap – starting from the pre-recession 2008 spending levels – could likely balance the budget by 2020 without tax increases. It’s a vital step towards protecting the family budget from the federal budget.

~ Brian Riedl, Heritage Foundation