09/20/2013 09:05 am ET Updated Nov 20, 2013

Paying Is the Problem

Both Democrats and Republicans spend. But only Democrats propose taxes to pay for government. Under the leadership of Senator Muskie, Democrats instituted the Budget Process in 1973. Under the leadership of Senator Moynihan, Democrats balanced Social Security's budget in 1993. Under the leadership of President Clinton, Democrats cut spending $250 billion and raised taxes $250 billion without a single Republican vote in the House or Senate in 1993. This gave the U.S. its strongest economy and a balanced budget for President George W. Bush in 2001.

When Bush proposed tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, I voted against them. When Bush started the Iraq War, without paying for it, I proposed a tax increase to pay for the war but the White House killed it. When Bush added prescription drugs to Medicare, I voted against it because it wasn't paid for. But Congressmen Boehner and Cantor voted for Bush's tax cuts, wars, prescription drugs and increased spending without paying for them -- adding $5 trillion to the national debt in eight years. The United States paid for all its wars, depressions, recessions and it took over two hundred years to reach a national debt of $1 trillion in 1981. Speaker Boehner had eight years to cut spending and pronounce "spending is the problem." But he spent instead of paying for government, adding $5 trillion to the debt. President Obama has added $5 trillion to the debt in four years and will add another $759 billion at the end of this month. Interest costs last year were $359 billion and CBO estimates for 2013 interest costs will be $411 billion. Billions for nothing. Once and for all, paying is the problem.

Speaker Boehner and the Republicans play Grover Norquist's game or pledge against taxes. As Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said, "Taxes are what we pay for a civilized society." Article I, Section VIII of the Constitution provides for Congress's spending and the problem is to pay. Recognizing this problem, the Republican Legislature in Columbia, South Carolina has Rule 5.3 that provides that spending bills must be accompanied with a budget certificate that the spending is not in excess of the revenue -- that the spending is paid for. If not, the spending bill is referred back to the Appropriations Committee. Republicans in Columbia make sure that spending is paid for but Republicans in Washington spend, shout "spending is the problem" and continue spending.

Senator Hollings of South Carolina served 38 years in the United States Senate, and for many years was Chairman of the Commerce, Space, Science & Transportation Committee. He is the author of "Making Government Work" (University of South Carolina Press, 2008). You can learn more about Hollings online at