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Credible research and impartial information are critical to fostering fiscal responsibility. The Institute to Reduce Spending engages in and promotes rigorous academic research and scholarship on the subject of federal spending and budgeting. We seek to create a national, nonpartisan dialogue regarding spending reform by presenting information in a publicly accessible manner.

Don’t get rid of the debt limit without real reforms

Writing today in Rare, Institute research manager Jake Grant takes on a dangerous notion coming from Treasury Secretary Jack Lew last week. While correctly diagnosing serious problems with the debt limit process, Secretary Lew misses the mark in implying it should be ended without any limits to replace it.

Last week, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew basically summed up this narrow view by calling to end “debt limit brinksmanship” and partisan fights he said endangered the nation’s finances because of a “broken, outdated system.”
While Lew and others would like to forget that a debt limit fight produced the only budget discipline in generations—the 2011 Budget Control Act—his larger point is mostly correct. The debt limit is a broken system that has not done its job of holding down debt because it fails to target the root of the problem. Unfortunately, though, so does Lew, forgetting that unchecked increases in spending may also initiate the type of fiscal crisis he hopes to avoid.
Debt limit fights are not a perfect solution, but neither is spending uninhibitedly. What’s worse, Congress and the public have been actively misled on the dangers – last year, Treasury was caught seeking “to maximize pressure on Congress by limiting communications about contingency planning” – in other words, leading Congress and the public to believe there were far fewer options than there really were.

Read the full piece here.

On Failures and Moving Forward: What’s Next for Fiscal Conservatives?


The 115th Congress hit the ground running just a week after being sworn in, introducing new legislation and beginning Cabinet confirmations. With ambitious goals ranging from Obamacare repeal to tax reform, new Members and veterans alike may give fiscal conservatives something to celebrate after a few long, hard years.


But hindsight remains important, and we can only hope that the new Congress learns from the lessons of the last. With united government, Congress can and should move forward to fix some of its biggest failures during the last term, while watching out for pitfalls that still exist.


With this in mind, let’s take a look back at some of the biggest struggles this year and why we are still optimistic heading into 2017. Partisan fights and a crowded schedule led to Congress yet again scrambling because of its:


  1. Failure to pass a budget

Once again, lawmakers did not finish the budget process before the September 30th deadline, forcing a continuing resolution that funded the government into December, and then another into April. The legislature has continuously failed to pass the 12 appropriations bills necessary every year, resulting in additional continuing resolutions and dysfunction. In 2017, fiscal conservatives should demand better. If lawmakers cannot keep their own rules, perhaps it’s time to rethink the rules themselves and giving reform a fighting chance. Instead, we got…


  1. Continuing resolutions that do little to curb spending

Both of the continuing resolutions passed in FY2017 keep spending levels at the baseline, and there were not serious reforms or measures to address the growing debt. What’s worse, they continued unaccountable spending in the Overseas Contingency Operations budget and elsewhere. The new Congress and President Trump should take these issues more seriously, and, at the very least, make serious efforts to get discretionary spending under control. Instead, discretionary waste continued along with a total…


  1. Failure to address mandatory spending

Remember when Republicans wanted to fix big, expensive programs? We do too, and in this era of united government, let’s hope Republicans remember their roots. Runaway programs that are set to collapse serve no one’s interest or financial security. Throughout 2016, though, both Presidential candidates failed to lay out real solutions to the skyrocketing cost of entitlement spending – in fact, both promised not to make major changes. The idea of Congress passing legislation to make these programs solvent was all but a distant dream. And while partisan standoffs may have been partially responsible, that excuse is largely gone this year, and fiscal conservatives should insist that leaders do not ignore looming problems.


With the national debt now hovering near $20 trillion, it has indeed been a tough time to be a fiscal conservative… but we are not discouraged. Here are just a few reasons why:


  1. Budget reform is back on the agenda

Leadership in Congress has been sounding the alarm about Congressional dysfunction for a while now. House Budget Committee Chairman Dr. Tom Price (R-GA) recently laid out his plan for reforming the budget, making it easier for Congress to finish the process and cut spending. Recently selected to serve as HHS Secretary, Dr. Price and his agenda for reform should continue to be on the forefront of policymakers’ minds. Right now, at least, it seems that the issues remain, as…


  1. Congress and the President-elect are vocal about addressing the debt

President-elect Trump brought up the nearly $20 trillion debt multiple times on the campaign trail and throughout debates. Some of his policies may increase the deficit and debt, but he has shown that he is open to cutting waste, fraud, and abuse throughout the federal government, even taking on wasteful programs that his own party tends not to address. Senator Mike Rounds (R-ND) has also brought up the debt as one of the biggest priorities for the new Congress, expressing the need to reform mandatory payments and interest on the debt.


  1. Repealing the Affordable Care Act is in the works

Congress seems to be serious about its plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act – almost immediately after President-elect Donald Trump is sworn in. Though there is debate over what a replacement plan will look like, it seems that this move would start to rein in the massive amount of government spending in the healthcare sector. The solution is not nearly in hand yet, but it is encouraging that Congress is apparently serious about moving forward with getting rid of this incredibly expensive and failing program.


What’s Next for the Cause?

Time and experience have shown that a united government can be a dangerous time for the cause of fiscal responsibility and limited government. Whether the 115th Congress continues unfortunate past trends or forges new ground ahead will depend on how much those passionate on the issue insist they go in the right direction. With a crippling national debt, serious insolvency looming in front of entitlement programs, and a broken, expensive healthcare system, we cannot afford to lose sight of this goal.

Congress Passes Bill to Fund The Government


With just under an hour before government funding was set to run out, Congress last week passed a spending bill that runs through April of next year. Some Senate Democrats had a late push to extend coal workers’ health benefits, rather than just a four-month renewal, but ultimately caved, passing the legislation.


There were some concerns with the spending bill on both sides. Some Democrats were wary of lifting the ban on oil exports, while Republicans thought the bill allowed for too much spending. Other members were even more critical of the spending measure. Rep. Huelskamp (R-KS) called out the legislation for being loaded with special interests, saying that it’s just more of the same bad deals.


Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) all voted against the spending bill. Sen. Paul has been critical of a budget that doesn’t balance, and this bill adds nearly a trillion dollars to the debt—Congress’s version of a bipartisan solution.


The government is not supposed to pass budgets in December. Rather, they should be doing it before the fiscal years starts on October 1st. For the past 20 years, Congress has failed to pass individual appropriations bills and complete the process—according to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.


Adding more spending year after year is not sustainable—growing the need for budget reform. Chairman of the House budget committee Tom Price (R-GA) has advocated ways to reform the broken system such as changing the budget timetable and strengthening budget enforcement.


President Obama praised Congress for their bipartisan work in passing different pieces of legislation at the end of this calendar year. However, both the House and the Senate came together to increase spending and ignore the massive debt that looms in front of them.


Hopefully, this does not create a path for more fiscal woes and our leaders address the growing budgetary problems that eventually will have to be addressed.

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