Congressman Randy Forbes
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January 22, 2010 Twitter Facebook YouTube Digg RSS
Soft Sand

If you haven’t personally experienced the situation yourself, you have surely witnessed it at the beach or perhaps in the middle of a snow storm – those people who think their truck or SUV certainly must have more than enough gusto to make it through that batch of soft sand or deep fluffy snow. With the best of intentions, these people set off with force to plow their vehicles over the yielding terrain. 

And they get stuck.

What usually follows only makes it worse. They step on the gas. The vehicle doesn’t move. So they step on it again…only this time harder. In fact, they step on the gas so hard that tires start spinning and sand starts spraying everywhere. The more they step on the gas, the more they believe they will get “unstuck.” And the more frustrated they become.

The reality is that you have to be strategic about getting yourself out of “soft sand” situations. It takes time and a lot of patience. You have to lower the tire pressure, drop the truck into a lower gear, and drive slowly. Stepping on the gas at full force and spinning truck tires does nothing but make a bigger hole and a longer ordeal.

Washington is in a similar “soft sand” situation when it comes to government spending. As it stands now, there is no incentive or mechanism in the annual federal budget cycle to encourage the government to save money. Congress can authorize as much spending as they want – and they absolutely do.

Washington’s spending cycle feels a bit like a truck stuck in soft sand spinning full force that won’t let off the gas. Only it is our grandchildren getting buried under the sand and American taxpayers the ones growing more frustrated.

It’s no question that Washington has an unshakeable appetite for spending. In fact, since the 1970s, discretionary spending – the category of spending where lawmakers can make annual choices – has grown annually by between 7%-8%. In the past ten years alone, the total pot of money made available for discretionary programs has grown from $581 billion to $1.4 trillion.

Congress needs to bring the federal deficit under control. To do so, it cannot ignore the unprecedented growth of discretionary spending, which has outpaced mandatory spending like Medicare and Social Security over the past decade.

It’s time we took a tough line on federal spending. While I support entitlement reform through measures like the SAFE Commission and CARFA, I believe Congress needs to institute an enforcement mechanism now to ensure that Washington doesn’t continue its discretionary spending spree.

This week I introduced legislation that would cut government spending by 10% each year for the next five years. That means by Fiscal Year 2015, federal discretionary spending will have been cut by 40%. Here is how the Tighten Washington’s Belt Act (H.R.  ) would get us there:

The bill sets fixed spending limits for all discretionary spending that are 10% less than the previous year.

If Congress breaches those spending limits, an automatic across-the-board spending cut from all discretionary programs would be enacted to keep federal spending within its limits.

The bill excludes pay and benefits for our active duty men and women in uniform and our veterans from the mandatory cuts.

If passed, the bill will most certainly cause discomfort on Capitol Hill. It will undoubtedly demand a psychology shift in Washington. It will mean Congress must prioritize. It will require that Congress not just spend less, but spend smarter. It will mean that bills packed with excessive, wasteful and duplicative spending can no longer fly through committee and over the President’s desk without direct consequences.

And it is exactly the deliberate, strategic solution that Washington needs to get itself out of soft sand.

Relief for Haiti

A week after the 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Port-au-Prince Haiti, and subsequent after-shocks, we are still learning the full extent of the devastating situation. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Haiti and with those who have relatives or loved ones in Haiti.

The United States is joining with others across the globe to offer civilian and military disaster relief and humanitarian and medical assistance to the people of Haiti and others in the region who have been impacted by the devastating situation. The following sites will provide you with important information on relief efforts in Haiti:

Relief Efforts

The following agencies and organizations are organizing relief efforts to support the people of Haiti. For more information, visit the Haiti relief web pages on the following sites:

U.S. State Department 
American Red Cross 
Center for International Disaster Information 

U.S. Citizens in Haiti

U.S. citizens are urged to contact the Embassy via email at to request assistance.  U.S. citizens in Haiti can call the Embassy's Consular Task Force at 509-2229-8942, 509-2229-8089, 509-2229-8322, or 509-2229-8672.  The U.S. State Department has also created a task force to monitor the emergency.

If you are seeking information about family members in Haiti, please call the U.S. State Department at 1-888-407-4747 or email

FBI Fraud Alert

Unfortunately, with an increase in need for charitable contributions comes an increase in scams. Before making a donation of any kind, the FBI has noted that consumers should adhere to certain guidelines, including the following:

  • Do not respond to any unsolicited (spam) incoming e-mails, including clicking links contained within those messages.  
  • Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as surviving victims or officials asking for donations via e-mail or social networking sites.  
  • Verify the legitimacy of nonprofit organizations by utilizing various Internet-based resources that may assist in confirming the group’s existence and its nonprofit status rather than following a purported link to the site.  
  • Be cautious of e-mails that claim to show pictures of the disaster areas in attached files because the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders.  
  • Make contributions directly to known organizations rather than relying on others to make the donation on your behalf to ensure contributions are received and used for intended purposes.
  • Do not give your personal or financial information to anyone who solicits contributions: Providing such information may compromise your identity and make you vulnerable to identity theft. Photo credit: M. Dormino 



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