Congress Must Address Overall Broader Budget Crisis

11/01/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Bob Barr Principal, Liberty Strategies; 2008 presidential candidate

Congress is currently debating the Bush administration's proposal for a $700 billion to $1 trillion bailout of Wall Street. It is a bad bill and would waste an enormous amount of money, but it represents just the tip of the proverbial iceberg of fiscal irresponsibility in Washington. Indeed, the national debt already exceeds $9.5 trillion, and Congress recently raised the debt ceiling to $10.6 trillion (which the Bush administration is proposing to increase in the bailout to $11.3 trillion).

Congress should reject the bailout, and then get busy cutting spending elsewhere throughout the budget.

For instance, the 2009 federal budget will exceed $3 trillion. Next year's deficit will run a half trillion dollars. Additionally, this assumes no more federal bailouts. We need a president willing to reconsider every spending program and challenge every special interest that comes in the door.

The U.S. already has spent about $600 billion on the war in Iraq. That's almost as much as the Wall Street bailout package. But total costs for the war may exceed $2 trillion. There are many reasons to pull our forces out of Iraq, leaving Iraq for the Iraqis. Ending this enormous waste of taxpayer money is one of the most important reasons.

The defense budget next year will be at least $515 billion. Toss in outlays for Afghanistan and Iraq, and the total will run nearly $700 billion. Yet most of this money, the equivalent of the Wall Street bailout, is going to defend other countries--not America. Washington should stop protecting prosperous and populous allies, and attempting to rebuild failed societies. Then the U.S. could close bases, bring home troops and put defense back into the Pentagon's mission all while saving a lot of money.

Social Security and Medicare are the government's biggest domestic programs; their outlays next year will run $656 billion for social security alone--almost as much as the proposed Wall Street bailout, and $412 billion, for Medicare. But this one-year cost of more than a trillion dollars is but a foretaste of future fiscal disaster. The total unfunded liability for these two programs--that is, the amount of promised benefits in excess of expected revenue--is $100 trillion. That is trillion with a 'T,' or about 140 Wall Street bailouts.

The U.S. is heading towards financial disaster, and that will remain the case even if Congress kills the Wall Street bailout. Washington has been living beyond its means for decades and the bill is finally coming due. Politics as usual will no longer suffice. The American people want and deserve change. Only a vote for Bob Barr and the Libertarian Party will make a difference.