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‘Pay-go’ has to be for real

Only the U.S. government has to pass a law that mandates the same principle millions of Americans live by each and every day: Pay-as-you-go.

Called the “pay-go” bill, the measure that passed in the House of Representatives earlier this week creates a statutory law that says Congress must pay for the costs of tax cuts or increases in spending by outlining where those dollars could be saved elsewhere in the budget.

It is similar to the measure that was in place during the 1990s but was allowed to expire in 2002. We do applaud U.S. Rep. Charlie Wilson for standing up and voting for this measure, even if does sound like basic common sense and isn’t nearly as strict in reining in spending as some would have us believe.

The reality is that past Congresses certainly haven’t lived by these rules and were quick to propose legislation that added to the national deficit. And with the national debt topping more than $11 trillion, this measure — if strengthened in the Senate — would at least be a step in the right direction.

PAYGO rules have been utilized in the past but often discarded when it was deemed necessary or softened enough to provide countless loopholes and exemptions.

President Barack Obama has urged this legislation to be passed and we hope the president takes the same approach.

If Congress were to break the PaYGO rules, mandatory across-the-board cuts would kick in, although some social programs like Medicare would remain unaffected.

But the important thing to understand is that this statute will do nothing to address the nation’s massive deficit as it is.

In the near future, Congress will still have to make some tough decisions about programs and spending.

But, at least this program will keep legislators from digging a deeper hole.

Americans have to play by these rules. Our lawmakers should too.