It's been called the most preventable disaster in American history.
The coming debt crisis is so predictable it's difficult to find a single economist, expert, politician or American taxpayer who doesn't warn of the consequences of spending and borrowing ourselves into oblivion.
A recent publication from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office called America's debt problem "daunting." The ratio of debt to gross domestic product has just crossed 90 percent, a threshold linked to lower-than-average economic growth. If left unchecked, our ballooning debt will almost certainly lead to the country's long-term economic decline.
Fortunately, the solution is basic and one that is followed by most responsible state and local governments, families and business owners. When faced with tough times they know they must eliminate spending on the things that aren't absolutely essential. Then they make a budget for the things they need and have the discipline to stay within that budget. Finally, they stop borrowing and spend no more than they take in.
These steps are the common-sense force behind a bold new proposal in Congress that will put the country on a fiscally sustainable path and fundamentally change the way Washington spends money. It's called "Cut, Cap, and Balance."
First, Congress must make immediate spending cuts that will significantly reduce the deficit. Next, it must enact spending caps that put the federal government on a glide path toward a balanced budget. And finally, Congress must pass a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution that forces Congress to spend no more than it takes in each year, limits spending as a percentage of the GDP, and requires a supermajority to increase taxes or raise the debt ceiling.
This is a common-sense proposal for dealing with the most significant economic and fiscal crisis since the Great Depression. It directly addresses the fundamental problems of a system that encourages overspending and unsustainable borrowing. The hard choices can no longer be put off. We must take action immediately.
To that end, we have both signed the "Cut, Cap, and Balance Pledge," which commits signers to oppose any increase in the nation's debt ceiling until all three of the plan's conditions have been satisfied. We believe the federal government should not plunge the country deeper into debt unless it first directly addresses the underlying problem and makes fundamental structural changes to the way Washington spends taxpayer money.
To date, not a single Democrat in Congress has signaled support for this approach. Instead, they have called for more reckless spending and irresponsible job-killing tax increases. We will continue to press our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to sign the pledge, support a balanced budget amendment and pass debt ceiling legislation consistent with "Cut, Cap, and Balance."
We know what needs to be done; we just need the will to act. Now is the time to cut the deficit, cap future spending and balance our budget to preserve the prosperity of the next generation.
Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee, both Republicans, are Utah's two U.S. senators.