Under President Barack Obama’s fiscal year (FY) 2012 budget, by 2014 net interest payments on our debt will surpass the amount spent on education, transportation, energy, and all other discretionary programs outside defense combined. Over the next decade, every citizen will be paying more than $2,500 a year in interest alone. Simply put: Our current spending habits are bankrupting our children. This must stop. The culture of overspending must change, and this week’s debate over the remaining months over the FY 2011 budget is the beginning of that fight. Substantive cuts this year, like the ones conservatives are fighting for in the House, will not balance the budget by themselves, but they are imperative for building momentum for additional spending reforms in the future.

Not all government spending is bad. Government does provide some core functions that must be paid for. This is why the duty to “provide for the common defense” is right there in the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution. While it is true that our current defense spending practices are far from perfect, Heritage Foundation defense policy analysts Mackenzie Eaglen and Julia Pollack have identified defense spending reforms that could save taxpayers more than $70 billion. But these savings should be used to stabilize our armed services. The effects of the short-term continuing resolutions are already wreaking havoc on defense plans for maintenance of equipment and readiness levels of U.S. forces. Congress should live up to its constitutional duty and pass a defense spending bill that fully funds the President’s budget request for FY 2011.

Other public safety measures that Congress funds may sound necessary but really are not. Yesterday, liberals succeeded in restoring funding to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Assistance to Firefighter Grant (AFG)—$510 million—and the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS)—$310 million—programs. Both of these programs are inherently suspect on federalism grounds alone, but let’s set aside that issue for a second and just talk spending. At the bare minimum, all taxpayers should expect that the federal government will not waste their money on ineffective programs. Safety is vitally important. But if a safety program isn’t keeping us safe, it’s just wasting our money. Both COPS and the FEMA fire grant programs are complete wastes of money. The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Data Analysis (CDA) collected data from 1999 to 2006 on 10,033 fire departments and, using regression analysis, estimated the impact of fire grants on fire casualties. The CDA evaluation found that AFG grants had no impact on fire casualties. Research by The Heritage Foundation has demonstrated that COPS failed to add 100,000 additional officers to America’s streets and was ineffective at reducing crime. Why are we bankrupting our children to pay for these completely ineffective programs?

The case for going into debt to fund other ineffective programs is even weaker. President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s “Great Society” era Head Start program is not only ineffective but plagued by fraud. Our kids can all enjoy the Discovery Channel, Nickelodeon, and the National Geographic Channel, but taxpayers are still forced to pay for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. With Elmo on everything from books to lunch boxes to clothes, it is high time PBS started paying their own freight. The 1974 the Community Development Block Grant program has become a $6 billion source of funding for wasteful pork-barrel projects like the Mark Twain House and Museum, the Salvador Dali Museum, and the Helen Keller Birthplace Foundation. Is it worth bankrupting our children to build yet another museum? The Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration spends billions of dollars a year on programs that are so ineffective that the Labor Department stopped studying them. If these programs can’t prove they create jobs, then why we are bankrupting our children for them.

In 1991, P.J. O’Rourke quipped: “The budget grows because, like zygotes and suburban lawns, it was designed to do nothing else.” When that sentence was published our national debt was about $4 trillion. Today it is more than $14 trillion. Today the House is expected to vote on amendments from Reps. Denny Rehberg (R-MT) and Cathy McMorris Rogers (R-WA) that would begin to tackle our entitlement problem by defunding Obamacare. Rehberg’s amendment specifies that no “funds made available by this act may be paid to any employee, officer, contractor, or grantee of any department or agency … to implement” Obamacare. McMorris Rogers’ amendment specifically defunds IRS employee implementation of the law. If we can’t cut clearly ineffective government programs, we will have no hope of reforming the entitlement spending that is driving our deficits.

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