Congress Needs Structural Reform

August 30, 2011

There is very little accountability in Washington when it comes to how the federal government spends taxpayer money.  Having watched how things work from the outside, I was frustrated at the obvious waste and abuse of Americans’ hard-earned dollars.  The system looked like it was intentionally set up so Congress and the President could continually find ways to put off difficult decisions. 

After almost eight months in the trenches, it is still challenging to get much done that will begin to solve our problems, but I’m a little more optimistic.

That’s because the reformers who were sent to Congress in 2010 have not simply tried to impose a different ideology on national policy.  Instead, we have begun to push for changes to the process itself. 

Even before being sworn in earlier this year, I and several of my new colleagues demanded Congress end the use of earmarks.  Though these special projects didn’t usually come with a high price tag when compared to a $3 trillion budget, earmarks were the grease that pushed through outrageous spending bills the country could not afford. 

Now, without earmarks, legislators have not been able to dangle these in gifts in front of members of congress in order to win their votes.  The result has been more senators and congressmen willing to vote in the best interest of the country, rather than their own political interest. 

Additionally, after more than 15 years, a balanced budget amendment to the constitution is again part of the national debate.  If passed by Congress and ratified by the states, the amendment would be an incredibly significant structural reform that would begin to solve our debt problem immediately.

With a balanced budget amendment in place, Congress wouldn’t be able to just focus on what to spend money on.  They would be forced to explain how the government is going to pay for it and be held accountable if the numbers didn’t add up.

The push for structural changes also includes political “third rail” issues like Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare, as well as reforming the tax code and defense spending.  There is greater enthusiasm to take on these enormous challenges because, as we saw with our credit rating being downgraded, the consequences of ignoring them are too great.

When Congress returns, I plan on continuing to work on these issues and more to make sure this isn’t the first generation in history to leave things worse then we found them. 

As part of the August recess, I am holding several town halls around the state so Utahns can voice their concerns to me directly.  I will be at the Fairview City Hall on August 30 at 6:00 pm and invite everyone in Sanpete County to attend.  I’d like to hear everyone’s ideas on how to get our country back on track and share some of my experiences since being elected your Senator.