Michael Barrera: The Senate's Lack of Ganas

For the past few decades, Portugal, Italy, and Greece have been referred to as “PIG” countries due to their out of control spending and crushing debts.  It appears that America is headed down a similar path of impending economic ruin with a debt closing in on $16 trillion. Yet, American politicians continue to “pig” out by spending more money than there is coming in.

During the current financial crisis - and yes it is a crisis - businesses, states, cities and even families have been forced to make tough decisions. They have done what is necessary by cutting expenses and prioritizing their spending. In other words, they budget. The habit comes as second nature to many families – including Hispanic families, which are often large and tight-knit. In particular, immigrant families uproot from their home countries and come to America to combine budgeting with hard work in order to build a more financially stable life for their children.

Budgeting forces discipline and reflects the value system of the “budgeters.” It also provides a document of accountability. Just as families budget to ensure the economic well-being and prosperity of their families, the government needs a federal budget as well. One would think elected officials would realize the urgent need to set priorities and adopt discipline in spending, yet it has been more than 1,100 days since the U.S. Senate passed a federal budget. Five proposals were considered on the Senate floor this week and all five failed. Obama’s budget was unanimously rejected while four bills introduced by Senate Republicans garnered votes, but not enough to pass.

While none of the proposed budgets were perfect, a few did take the first steps in demonstrating leadership needed to reign in the out of control spending and the deepening debt crisis - such as Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan. The reality is that if serious reforms are not forthcoming, Medicare is poised to go bankrupt in a little more than 10 years while Social Security will bankrupt in a little more than 20 years.  

The lack of leadership and movement on the budget will crush the American dream of everyday men, women, and children.

As Americans, our debt represents nearly $50,000 that every man, woman, and child would be responsible for. Both parties are guilty for the runaway spending but it has worsened under the decisions of the current Administration, causing an increase in the national debt by nearly 50 percent.

Americans are in need of serious people willing to make tough decisions for today and the future – not just to play politics. Currently, there are close to 10,000 baby boomers retiring every day, which means health care and Social Security will continue to require more of the federal government’s spending and the discretionary spending of individual families.  These are issues that need to be addressed immediately.

Yet, rather than making the tough decisions to cut the addiction of spending, it appears that the Senate would prefer to bypass a budget and attempt to tax the country out of debt at the expense of the American people. I would refer them to California to see how well that strategy has worked.  Thus three years later, without a budget, it is time that we demand more from Washington. The first thing that we need to demand is leadership – that our elected officials do what is best for our country. Failure to present a budget and cut spending will only lead to more “pigging” out by an already bloated federal government.

The lack of leadership and movement on the budget will crush the American dream of everyday men, women, and children. As our debt continues to mount and infect our economic future, the burden on our children and grandchildren will become unbearable. For Hispanics – and all Americans – this will make it harder for families to provide their children with higher education, start businesses, take care of the elderly, and indeed achieve the American dream of economic prosperity.  The American dream is why all of our families flocked to this country - whether this generation or seven generations ago - and we cannot let it slip through our fingers.

In the vernacular of many Latinos, they would say it is time for elected officials to have more “convicción” and show the “ganas” necessary to ensure our financial future. My words may come across as harsh, but I have no doubt that my fellow Americans would take hard-hitting words over the current political ineptness.

Michael L. Barrera, an attorney, is the Western States Regional Director for The LIBRE Initiative and formerly served as President & CEO of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and as the National Ombudsman for the U.S. Small Business Administration. Learn more about The LIBRE Initiative on their website at www.thelibreinitiative.com, their Facebook page "The LIBRE Initiative" or by following them on Twitter at @libreinitiative.

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