With the U.S. national debt at $13 trillion and increasing by more than $3 million every minute, I fear our freedom is at risk. While neither political party can boast of demonstrating fiscal restraint recently, the Democrats' tax, spend, and borrow policies are robbing future generations of the freedom and opportunity we enjoy today.
Over the past two years, Washington has seized every opportunity to increase spending, increase taxes, and, as a result, increase uncertainty in the private sector. Washington's legislative agenda has increased the financial burden on job creators, causing individuals and families to feel the pain as well. With unemployment looming near 10 percent, small businesses are struggling to make payroll, and families are tightening their belts to pay their mortgages, electric bills, and medical bills.
The big-government stimulus forced through by Democrats last year cost the American tax-payers more than $1 trillion, with the promise that unemployment would remain below 8 percent. Instead, more than 3 million individuals lost their jobs, the deficit rose to a record-high $1.6 trillion, and three out of four Americans now believe that their hard-earned tax dollars were wasted. To make matters worse, Democrats wasted little time before pushing through an unaffordable and unconstitutional takeover of our nation's health care system.
In the few short months since the bill became law, the estimated costs of the new health care mandates have increased by a staggering $115 billion. ObamaCare not only robs patients of the freedom to make their own health care decisions, but it also takes away more economic freedom by forcing families and small businesses to bear a weighty economic burden. An overwhelming majority (90 percent) of employers believe health care reform will increase their organization's health care benefit costs. Eighty percent of those businesses plan to pass the increased costs from the law on to their employees through higher premiums. Despite the fact that most Americans opposed a government takeover of health care, individuals will now be forced to pay for products and services they do not want and cannot afford.
Unfortunately, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Leader Harry Reid have several more items left in their overreaching agenda. Their cap and trade and financial regulatory reform proposals will put millions of Americans out of work, further increase federal spending, increase the debt, and give more control of the private sector to the government.
In order to preserve their personal freedoms, the American people must demand fiscal discipline from Washington. The most basic step toward fiscal responsibility is balancing the books. I introduced a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would ensure the federal government does not spend more than it takes in. If American families overspend or hit hard times, they have to adjust -- Congress should be expected to do the same. After decades of deficit spending, it's time to make balancing our budgets the rule -- not the exception.
The Declaration of Independence acknowledges that each individual is endowed with the right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." These basic rights start with allowing individuals, families, and businesses to keep more of the money they earn. We can achieve this by shifting Washington's focus from empowering bureaucrats to empowering individuals -- giving folks the freedom to choose how and when to spend their resources. Rather than squeezing every last penny out of the pockets of families and small businesses, my balanced budget amendment would require all surplus revenue at the end of the fiscal year to be returned to American taxpayers.
I am confident that restoring fiscal discipline to the federal budget will restore and retain freedom for individuals, families, and job creators. However, the American people can not sit idly by and allow Washington to continue to spend their hard-earned money. If Americans want to ensure their liberty is preserved, they have to demand change. The good news is "we the people" have the ultimate power to affect the policies that come out of Washington.