IN 1985, the most important responsibility of the Congress is to cut the growth of federal spending, not because this nation needs to adopt a policy of austerity, but rather to ensure growth and prosperity. The more resources are returned to entrepreneurs, the more innovation, modernization, and growth we will have. A call for spending reform is a call for prosperity, not austerity. But what is the proper strategy to get spending under control? What we need is a freeze plus reform. ``Freeze'' -- you hear it said more often in the halls of Congress than at a Maytag repairmen's convention. Never mind that few people can agree on what a freeze really means. Do we mean constant dollars, or do we mean ``real'' spending, which would take into account inflation? Should it apply to outlays or budget authority? How do you freeze entitlement programs like social security, medicare, food stamps, or civilian and military retirement programs, for instance, which pay out benefits when individuals meet whatever statutory requirements, such as age or income, are laid down in the law?
Despite these difficulties, a freeze is necessary for two reasons. First, it is the best way to reduce the growth of federal spending in the short term. The Senate Budget Committee has estimated that a one-year comprehensive freeze would reduce the projected federal deficit by over $34 billion in fiscal year 1986, and by $168 billion over three years. Congress must do its best to impose an overall freeze in real terms on the entire federal budget this year if we have any hope at all of solving the deficit crisis.
Second, a freeze gives Congress time to consider reforms needed to control cost escalation in programs, and allows time for those reforms to be phased in, so as to lessen the hardship and provide time for current recipients to adjust to changes.