As Congressional Republicans again rally around Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) budget and its goal of eliminating the deficit in ten years, many are using an old talking point. They claim that the federal government should model itself on the families and businesses and stop spending more money than it takes in. But a ThinkProgress examination of recent personal financial disclosure filings reveals that many of the same lawmakers who are urging the nation to balance its books are themselves in debt and have taken out personal and/or business loans.
Government is nothing like a business and cannot be run as one — its aim is to protect its citizens, not to turn a profit. Businesses and individuals often borrow in the short term to make investments for the long term — mortgages, lines of credits, and other sorts of loans are facts of life for millions of Americans and businesses of all sizes. Start-up businesses rarely break even for the first several years and few people can afford to buy their first home outright or pay for their kids to go to college out of pocket.
Still, many politicians who advocate for cuts to vital programs and a dangerous Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution use the argument that government needs to live with in its means because everyone else does — but have debt of their own. These hypocrites include:
- House Budget Committee Member Tom Rice (R-SC): Wrote: “At a time when hardworking American families are living off of a budget, the federal government should be no different. My colleagues and I believe it is time for America to change course and get back on a path of prosperity. This begins with a balanced budget plan.” Reported five mortgages totaling over $4 million.
- House Budget Committee Member Diane Black (R-TN): Wrote: “The state of Tennessee balances its budget, American families and businesses balance their budgets and so should the federal government,” and “Balancing the budget is not extreme; it is what American families across this country do on a regular basis.” Reported four mortgages on three properties, totaling more than $3 million.
- House Budget Committee Member Roger Williams (R-TX): Said Wednesday: “We have to have a balanced budget. I have to balance my budget. Everybody in America has to balance their family’s budget or their business’ budget, not every ten years, not even every single year, but every single day.” Reported more than $2.5 million in business debts.
- House Budget Committee Member Scott Rigell (R-VA): Boasted that he voted for a balanced budget amendment because: “I know that American families do what they have to do to live within their means; and so too should the government.” Reported $1.5 million in lines of credit, a $500,000-plus mortgage, and over $10,000 in credit card debt.