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In our opinion: Why Congress' 'budget deal' wouldn't happen in Utah

In this June 20 photo, the Capitol is seen from the roof of the Canadian Embassy in Washington.
In this June 20 photo, the Capitol is seen from the roof of the Canadian Embassy in Washington.
J. Scott Applewhite, AP

Washington rarely leads these days, but it has led the country once again to a very large “budget deal” with all the debt, deficit spending and bloated budgets the American people have come to expect over the past decade. In typical congressional fashion, there are plenty of partisan fights and fearmongering from both sides, all leading to the false choice of a take-it-or-leave-it vote.

Both of Utah’s senators came out against the deal. Sen. Mike Lee and Sen. Mitt Romney have pointed to Utah as model for the nation.

Said Romney, “Utah balances its budget every year, and while it may not be in fashion in Washington, we still care deeply about fiscal responsibility. The federal government, however, has followed a very different course, and our national debt now totals over $22 trillion. This deal unfortunately perpetuates fiscal recklessness by adding another $2 trillion to the debt, and I cannot support it."

And shortly after assuming office in 2011, Lee introduced a bill to cut the debt, cap spending and balance the budget. “Real reform has to do more than just cut big government. It has to fix broken government," he notes.

The solution for cutting — and fixing — government will come from both sides asking hard questions and should continue by launching a rigorous, transparent audit of government spending.

For example, if politicians really want to reduce welfare spending, they should begin with corporate welfare reform. Cronyism is the way of the swamp, and too many corporations profit while hardworking Americans pay the price, simply because big businesses can afford an army of lawyers and lobbyists to do their bidding in Washington.

Both political parties claim that they are committed to caring for the poor. If that is true, members of Congress should call for an audit and evaluation of every single poverty program to ensure that each one empowers rather than entraps the poor. Fixing broken government means measuring the outcomes, not just the effort, and it means never being content with touting how much is spent. Ending waste, fraud and abuse in the system, while providing a path of upward mobility based on responsibility, is vital, moral and prudent.

The men and women who defend liberty and security through military service deserve the nation’s support with clear missions and the resources required to succeed. That extends to veterans who return home wounded and also to the families of the fallen. Congress should demand a full assessment of the military-industrial complex to root out inefficiencies, end cost overruns and eliminate outdated operational organizations. Focusing on outcomes is the best way to build and honor America’s military.

Countless other examples exist where both sides of the aisle could change the country’s financial conversation and live up to the principles they profess to believe. Cutting waste and fixing what is broken is the work Washington should be about.

What the federal government does with taxpayers' dollars and cents — and especially with money it borrows — loudly declares where American priorities lie and how much sense the nation truly possesses.

Leon Panetta, a defense secretary under former President Obama who now co-chairs the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, said of the budget deal, “Both sides this week so easily agreeing to fiscal defeat isn't bipartisanship, it is broken governance.”

It isn’t enough to cut big government; cuts must accompany efforts to fix broken government. The Utah model is a great place for Washington to look for answers.