Fort Report Column with Congressman Jeff Fortenberry

Nebraska City News-Press

Enough is Enough

This week, the mayor of the small mountain town of Silverton, Colorado got a surprise when he canceled the Pledge of Allegiance at a recent board meeting.  A citizen stood up and led the Pledge herself.  

Other officials joined in.  In Loudoun County, Virginia, parents protested the mandatory inclusion of Critical Race Theory in school curriculums. Similar grassroots uprisings are occurring across America, as parents and families challenge the indoctrination of young people in falsely premised narratives that erode faith in our guiding principles and unifying traditions.

Economically, we see a similar pattern playing out.  

Small business owners consistently tell me they are struggling to find anyone to work, even when they raise wages.  These fragile if indomitable operations, coming out of a devastating pandemic, are being asked to compete with the enormous largesse of the federal government and large corporations that can keep writing checks.  

All of this points to a fundamental philosophical question that we as a nation must face: are we going to centralize and cede more and more spending and control to a centralized government in Washington?  Or are we going to let America run, building opportunity as we traditionally have through a federalist process in which states, localities, and other forms of community association take care of most problems?  This question is at the top of my mind as we enter the difficult stretch of what we call “Appropriations Season.”

As a Member of the House Appropriations Committee, I am actively engaged in the hard work of funding the priorities of government.  As the Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, and Food and Drug Administration, I will help present one of the twelve bills that will go before the whole Appropriations Committee.  Hopefully, over the next month, in what is called Appropriations “mark-up,” we can find some bipartisan common-sense consensus on how to prudently spend your money to ensure the guardrails of safety and well-being for our country.

Based on latest projections, the President’s requested spending will add another $1.8 trillion to our burgeoning national debt, which, to be fair, was created by both Republican and Democratic Administrations.  Deepening our fiscal hole through massive new federal spending can hurt the people it is designed to help.  You are already seeing consequences of this high level of debt and spending at the gas pump and grocery store.  It’s called inflation.  Debt financing as it leads to inflation is a hidden tax on the poor and those on fixed incomes.  Major corporations can adjust their prices, and through various maneuvers, evade taxes altogether.  But those who must live paycheck to paycheck or who are stuck in jobs with little upward mobility do not have that luxury.  When that credit card bill comes due, you must pay it.  

Here’s the bigger dislocation from overspending that is not often talked about.  The enormous debt we create must be sold.  The brutal truth is that a chunk of it is sold to Communist China, further deepening the longstanding wealth asset shift to the People’s Republic, which through lax labor and environmental standards seduced profiteering multinationals to shift manufacturing there.  

China makes our stuff, we buy the stuff; we run up debt, they buy our debt.  As the debt from overspending increases, the interest we pay China and others goes up in turn.  In the meanwhile, China uses its proceeds from American profligacy to build up its military and continue its international march––extracting resources, paying off authoritarian regimes, engaging in predatory lending towards poor nations.  

There is a way out of this dynamic.  It’s likely found in Silverton, Colorado, Loudoun County, Virginia, and small towns across Nebraska, where there is an honest understanding that the way to heal past wounds is not through more division but through reasoned dialogue and enduring principles for everyone’s good..