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Andy Biggs: Let Trump cancel spending that was never used

Rescinding wasteful, unspent appropriations. It is said that there are two parties in Washington, D.C., that want to increase spending, Democrats and Republicans. It is imperative that, as we approach the end of the fiscal year, we consider tools to curb some of the ravenous appetite to spend money in D.C. — using the presidential prerogative to rescind some of our wasteful and subsequently unspent appropriations.

Rescission is a tool that was created by Congress in the 1970s and has been used by presidents of both parties over the decades. President Trump has indicated a desire to cancel spending that was never used, particularly in foreign aid accounts. Whenever he has done so, however, there have been howls from the big spenders in Congress and federal agencies.

While they will predict destruction of the country and our diplomatic relations, the reality is that most of what the president has considered in the past are ones that have previously been identified as being wasteful. How’s that for a novel concept? Actually eliminating programs that have been found to be a waste of taxpayers’ dollars.

I saw firsthand that the United Nations is one of the most-inept institutions on the world stage, yet the United States pays a hefty price as a member and host. While Congress and the federal bureaucracy are experts at wasting funds, we are pikers compared to the skill with which the U.N. blows money — without any accountability. The president has the right idea to eliminate funding of U.N. programs that don’t address critical U.S. needs.

The Executive Branch has some money that was authorized but has been sitting unused for more than two years. Some bureaucrats view these accounts as a potential place to satiate their desire to spend money (after all, there is little incentive to save the money). Rescission by the president will allow these funds to be returned to the U.S. Treasury.

When I first ran for Congress, our national debt was around $20 trillion. Today, it exceeds $22 trillion and is speeding toward $23 trillion. Both parties are to blame.

Revenue to the U.S. Treasury is growing at 3 percent per year but spending growth is around 7 percent. Our spending is in the trillions of dollars. We do not have a revenue problem; we have a gigantic spending problem.

The big spenders in Congress were not at all supportive of the president’s proposal, but he has the authority to claw back unused funds.

National security experts have repeatedly warned us that our biggest national security threat is not the Chinese, Russians or terrorists. They tell us it is our own national debt. As long as our spending rate surpasses our revenue, we will have a structural deficit. That results in a monumental national debt increase.

Even an aggressive proposal by the president will be a mere nudge in the right direction on spending. Regardless, I will support the president should he provide Congress with another rescission package to cut spending. It is the first step in the right direction of addressing our out-of-control spending problem. I hope it will lead to a strong push to bring our national debt under control.

• Andy Biggs is a Republican U.S. representative from Arizona.

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Posted: August 27, 2019 Tuesday 11:16 AM