February 05, 2012

Reducing our national debt starts in my office | Times West Virginian

Since I arrived in Washington, I have always said there are quite a few things folks around here could learn from the way we did things back in West Virginia.

As governor, I was proud that by setting our priorities based on our values, we produced a budget surplus, increased our credit rating three times, and proved to all the naysayers that it’s truly possible to live within your means.

I came to Washington to bring that philosophy to our dysfunctional federal government, especially when it comes to living within our means – just like the families of our great state do.

Now, it’s one thing to talk about tightening our belts and doing more with less, but I truly believe we have to translate those words into action. When it comes to running government more efficiently, we have to enact meaningful long-term reform that makes our tax system more fair, cuts our spending and dramatically reduces our deficits and debts.

And in the meantime, I believe that every member of Congress can and should start at home.

So this year, I was proud to give 27.8 percent of my office budget back to the federal Treasury – more than any other freshman Democrat. Working hard to run things as efficiently as possible, we were able to return more than $700,000.

If my little office can find $700,000 in efficiencies, imagine how much all of our federal agencies could save by tightening their belts a notch or two! In 2010 alone, the Government Accountability Office found that the federal government made $125 billion in improper payments. Over 10 years, that’s more than a trillion dollars of waste, fraud and abuse that could go a long way toward getting our debts and deficits under control.

That’s why returning more than one fourth of my office’s budget to the federal government sets a very important example of what we can achieve by working together to save taxpayer dollars.

The truth is, the time to make cuts and save money is now.

You’ve heard me quote the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who has said that the greatest threat to our national security is our debt. Coming from one of our foremost defense experts, that’s a sobering statement.

For the first time since World War II, our total national debt now exceeds the gross domestic product of the entire country. We are already $15 trillion in debt, and if we do nothing, our debt will hit $21 trillion by 2021. Without a fix, in 2021 our nation will spend more on the interest on our debt than we spend on education, energy and our national defense – combined.

This is not a picture of the America I want to leave to my children and grandchildren. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: It’s time for folks in Washington start focusing on the next generation, rather than the next election. We can’t solve anything if we aren’t willing to put politics aside and work together for the sake of this great nation’s future.

After little more than a year in Congress, I am proud to be rated the second-most bipartisan Democrat in the Senate – and the guy with the No. 1 ranking is retiring. It’s just common sense that we can solve more by working together than working against each other.

Our problems weren’t created by Republicans or Democrats alone, and they won’t be solved by Republicans or Democrats alone. That’s why when I write or cosponsor a bill, I always look for a Republican to sponsor it with me.

I want to work with anyone who is focused on doing what is right for our state, our families, and our nation.

And, if we’re going to protect our state, our families, our way of life and this great nation, we must be willing not only to stand up and fight, we must also be willing to reach across the aisle, work with Democrats and Republicans to build a commonsense approach to solving our country’s problems for the next generation.

That’s another one of those West Virginia lessons I’ll keep trying to teach my colleagues here in Washington.

By:  Senator Joe Manchin