Editor's note: The original version of this guest opinion from U.S. Rep Jeff Flake stated in the second paragraph that "The debt-ceiling deal reached earlier this month promised to cut spending by $2.4 million in exchange for raising the debt limit by a commensurate amount." It should be "by $2.4 trillion."
Despite renewed efforts every few years to make Washington more "transparent," it's a town full of well-kept secrets. I'm not talking about conspiratorial mysteries, the stuff of which Dan Brown books are made. I'm referring to the details of any landmark piece of legislation.
The debt-ceiling deal reached earlier this month promised to cut spending by $2.4 trillion in exchange for raising the debt limit by a commensurate amount. Unfortunately, the initial roughly $900 billion in cuts to spending that were promised in the deal as a result of specific spending caps being put in place ramp up in the latter years of a 10-year timeline.
In other words, the largest cuts won't be made until several years in the 10-year timeline have passed. But here's the Washington secret: If spending cuts aren't made in the early years of a budget proposal, they're not likely to be made at all.
It's a budget gimmick that Congress has used for decades.
I concede that the debt ceiling needed to be raised. Defaulting on our country's debt would have been irresponsible. However, it's more irresponsible to raise the debt ceiling without putting in place significant budget reforms that would negate the need for future increases in the debt ceiling. I would have liked to have seen a requirement that a balanced-budget amendment be sent to the states before the debt ceiling could be raised.
Unfortunately, between the lack of a balanced-budget-amendment requirement and the inclusion of spending cuts that will likely never be realized, I did not feel that the debt-ceiling deal adequately addressed the severity of our budget crisis and I opposed the bill.
Apparently, I wasn't the only one who felt that the deal was inadequate. Standard & Poor's recently downgraded the country's credit rating for the same reason.
The newly formed supercommittee commissioned as part of the debt deal will be taking a careful look over the next few months at areas where spending can be cut. However, the $1.5 trillion in cuts they are charged with proposing only constitute a baby step in getting us back on the road to fiscal sustainability.
Until Congress can prove it's serious about tackling the debt and deficit crisis, it's going to be difficult for the private sector to stimulate the economy and begin to create more jobs. In addition to acknowledging the severity of the budget crisis, Congress needs to create a tax and regulatory environment that gives businesses some economic certainty and allows them to grow the economy.
It's no secret that our fiscal crisis becomes much more manageable with a growing and prospering economy.
But first Congress needs to admit that it has a problem, and as the recent debt-ceiling bill demonstrated, Congress just isn't there yet.
Republican U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake represents Arizona's 6th Congressional District and is a candidate for the Senate seat being vacated next year by Sen. Jon Kyl.