Conservatives have a clear objective: to drive down government spending and debt, protect America, and balance the budget without raising taxes. In New York City last night, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John Boehner (R–OH) outlined in remarks about the debt limit a useful first step to take. But, as the Speaker’s remarks indicated, Congress must take many more such steps in the journey toward that objective. The Heritage Foundation has set forth the rest of the steps on the road to that objective with its plan released today: “Saving the American Dream: The Heritage Plan to Fix the Debt, Cut Spending, and Restore Prosperity.

Speaker Boehner spoke bluntly to many of the nation’s economic leaders assembled at the New York Economic Club:

My message to you tonight is that we will not succeed in balancing the federal budget and overcoming the challenges of our debt until we commit ourselves to government policies that will let our economy achieve long-term growth.

Speaker Boehner told them that the American people have simply had it:

The revolt we have seen by ordinary citizens over the past few years is nothing we’ve seen in our lifetime. And it’s happening in part because the arrogant habits of Washington are having real economic consequences. The debt limit debate presents our nation’s leaders with the opportunity to reverse these habits and prove that we’re starting to get the message.

President Obama has asked Congress to increase his authority to borrow money on the credit of the United States, which is currently limited by law to the already-massive sum of $14.294 trillion. The Speaker made clear that Congress should not pass legislation to raise the debt limit unless:

  • The legislation has “significant spending cuts and reforms to reduce our debt”;
  • The “cuts should be greater than the accompanying increase in debt authority” and “in trillions, not just billions”; and
  • The cuts should be “actual cuts and program reforms, not broad deficit or debt targets that punt the tough questions.”

He also noted that “tax hikes—which will destroy jobs” are off the table.

In discussing more broadly what Congress must do to deal with overspending and overborrowing, the Speaker also emphasized the need for reform of the so-called “entitlement” programs:

And to those who contend that the economy is too weak to take on the challenge of entitlement reform—I would simply say, you’ve got it backwards. The truth is that making fundamental reforms to these programs would be good for the economy and good for the next generation.

Speaker Boehner—helping to implement work by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R–WI), which was adopted by the House of Representatives—has described a useful first step that Congress must take with the opportunity that presents itself on debt limit legislation: significant cuts in current spending and changes to the federal budget process to ensure that Congress does not return to its traditional profligate spending habits.

But there is much more to be done—and soon. If the American people want to save their dream for themselves and future generations, they should follow The Heritage Foundation’s plan for “Saving the American Dream.” The Heritage plan would drive down government spending and debt, protect America, and balance the budget without raising taxes.

The Speaker has spoken. The American people will count on his word that Congress will not raise the debt limit without deep spending cuts and strong improvements in the federal budget process. Let us hope that the President and the majority in the Senate were listening, too, and that, together with the Speaker, they will set America on the journey to a bright economic future—a journey whose steps The Heritage Foundation has outlined in its plan for “Saving the American Dream.”