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Rep. Tom Graves: Americans are fed up with dysfunctional government spending -- I'm trying something new

Graves361I hear it from my constituents in Northwest Georgia. I hear it from other members of Congress when I’m in Washington. I read about it in the newspapers and see it on TV. The American people are sick and tired of the broken government funding process that contributes each year to the out-of-control national debt.
As chairman of the Financial Services Subcommittee on Appropriations, I oversee a piece of the fiscal pie. I’m in charge of writing the annual funding bill for our nation’s financial infrastructure and several other areas of the federal government, such as the Treasury Department, the White House, the Federal Communications Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission.
While I always fight to save taxpayer money and spend each dollar wisely, in writing my bill this year I wanted to do something bold, something different – because if we don’t try something new, we’re destined for the same results.
After a lot of thought and effort, and with some creativity, my subcommittee found a way: the Fund for America’s Kids and Grandkids.
Our broken government funding process doesn’t make saving money easy, and here is why: if I don’t use all the money allotted to me to fund the departments and agencies for which I write the funding bill, another subcommittee simply scoops it up and spends those dollars somewhere else.
This may sound like a riddle, but this is how legislating works in Washington: we had to find a way to spend money, in order to protect it from being spent.
Crazy, right? But I think we’ve found a way to do it.
The Fund for America's Kids and Grandkids safeguards funds for future generations, as money in the account is not accessible until the Treasury Secretary certifies that the budget deficit is erased.
We cut $585 million from across my bill to make an initial deposit, which represents 2.5 percent of the funds I was given. In other words, we deposit two and a half pennies into the Fund for America’s Kids and Grandkids for every dollar the bill spends.
I believe this could set a new tone for government funding bills: just because you can spend it, doesn’t mean you should spend it. It’s an approach that causes us to think about what all of this deficit spending means, in whose name we are borrowing the money, and who will get stuck with the debt.
The current national debt stands at a whopping $21 trillion – or more than $64,000 per citizen, including children.
Now critics might claim the Fund for America’s Kids and Grandkids is a gimmick because it doesn’t immediately pay down the deficit. But that misses the point. The fund functions as more of a savings account.
Think about how you spend your paycheck each month. You probably use a portion of each check to pay your mortgage, car payment or other types of debt, while still contributing to your future through a 401(k), IRA or some other type of retirement account.
That’s exactly how you should think about the Fund for America’s Kids and Grandkids. We’re putting aside money for their future.
Once you get past the legislative obstacle course, it’s a simple concept that asks a simple question: if Congress can’t save two and a half pennies for every dollar it spends in the name of our children and grandchildren, then what are we doing here?
A key milestone comes on Wednesday when the House Appropriations Committee considers my bill. Let’s try something new.