Rep. Matheson: Government spends like a drunken sailor

U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, on Monday criticized the federal government’s spending habits along with President Bush’s recently proposed budget.

“This country has been spending like a drunken sailor,” Utah’s representative for the 2nd Congressional District said before an audience comprised mostly of U students in the Hinckley Institute of Politics.

The current federal deficit is more than $7.7 trillion and has been growing by an average of $2.27 billion every day since Sept. 30, 2004, according to the Web’s U.S. National Debt Clock. One American’s share is more than $26,000.

Bush said Feb. 7 that his $2.57 trillion plan would cut the federal deficit to $390 billion by 2006.

The proposal, which would eliminate or scale back 150 government programs, has encountered harsh criticism in Washington, however.

Matheson said Bush has neglected to address three essential spending priorities in his proposal: funding for troops in Iraq, a permanent extension of his tax cuts and Social Security.

“If these three things were in the budget, the huge deficit would be even larger,” Matheson said.

Ten years ago, the congressman helped found and became the co-chairperson of Blue Dogs-a group of 34 moderate-to- conservative Democrats with the aim of putting fiscal responsibility issues above political rhetoric and party affiliation.

Matheson called the group “a bunch of legislators who possess a voice of reason in a polarized political environment.”

In order to coax the federal government to live within its budget, the Blue Dogs established a 12-step plan toward budget process reform.

Among these steps are tighter spending caps, demanding accountability from federal agencies and Congress and creating a rainy-day fund for emergencies.

Matheson emphasized that the reform would also prevent Congress from voting on a bill until it has been published in its final form for three days-and would require expenditures of more than $50 million to come up for an actual vote before the entire body.

“One of the basic functions of our government is to live within our means,” and to maintain transparency and accountability, Matheson said.

The congressman fielded questions from students for most of his visit.

A common theme among the various topics he discussed was investing in the future of the United States.

“The budget should reflect our priorities, but it doesn’t always do that. Special interests tend to take over,” Matheson said. “Our spending should have an investment component, and I think the best investment of all is in education.”

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