Young People Must Step Up To Change Congress’ Spending Incentives

By Barbara Hollingsworth | December 19, 2013 | 2:53 PM EST


Jonathan Bydlak, president of the Coalition to Reduce Spending (Princeton University)

( – Calling the recently passed budget deal negotiated by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) “pretty terrible,” Jonathan Bydlak, the 30-year-old president of the Coalition to Reduce Spending, is telling other young people that if they sit on the political sidelines, Congress will continue to rack up massive debt they will eventually have to pay back.

“Our spending problem is not some sort of one party gets all the blame. This is something that is shared by both parties because the reality is that for politicians and elected officials, the incentives are always on the side of increasing spending, and you know, that’s true regardless of whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican.” Bydlak told

The two-year budget deal, which eliminated $63 billion in sequester cuts in exchange for a $23 billion deficit reduction over the next decade, easily passed in both the Republican-led House and the Democrat-controlled Senate and was sent to President Obama for his signature on Wednesday.

“All politicians love to go back to their district and say, ‘I brought back this pork,’ you know, and all politicians recognize they have to raise money for their own campaigns. And so there’s always a large incentive to increase spending and to benefit powerful special interests,” he added.

“And I think that what really needs to happen in the end, if we want to see changed outcomes, if we want to see deals like this not being enacted in the future, we have to start changing the incentives of the game and showing elected officials that there is a cohort of the American public that is organized and committed to voting based on lower spending. And until you kinda have that interest group organized, you’re probably not going to see outcomes much different than the compromise that we just got passed.”

“I read an oped in the Wall Street Journal a few months ago showing that total spending has actually gone down the last two years for the first time since the Korean War. And I don’t think it’s an accident that that decrease in spending coinicides with the passage of the Budget Control Act [of 2011] which basically limited and put caps on discretionary spending. And so the problem with this deal is that it basically takes those caps and disregards them,” Bydlak, the former director of fundraising for Ron Paul’s 2008 presidential campaign, pointed out.

“The justification that Representative Ryan gives for increasing spending in the short term, is, ‘Don’t’ worry, we’re going to cut spending down the road,'” he said. “Our position as an organization is that we always have a preference for spending reduction in the short term because that’s the only reduction that we really know is actually going to happen and stay on the books. And unfortunately this deal increases spending above what it otherwise would have been.”

However, Bydlak says, the American people may finally be ready for fiscal restraint, citing a recent Gallup poll that found that a record 72 percent believe big government poses a greater threat to the nation than big business or big labor. “I think people understand we’re spending a lot of money we don’t have on the Pentagon and other government agencies,” he said.

“If you had said back in 2005 or 2006 that we need to cut spending, most people wouldn’t have thought much about that because, from a regular person’s perspective, the economy was humming along, people had jobs, there was growth, so why would you want to upset the apple cart?

“Today, and obviously since about 2007, 2008 the economy hasn’t been doing so well and people from the younger generation are struggling to find well-paying jobs. And so there’s an opportunity here to provide a perspective that explains why we’re having the difficulties that we’re having today.”

Bydlak believes there’s also an increased awareness that out-of-control spending is threatening entitlement programs Americans have taken for granted, including Social Security. His group is asking candidates to sign a pledge that they will not vote for any new programs or increase expenditures on existing programs without an equivalent offset somewhere else in the budget.

“If you want to spend on some particular program, that’s fine, go to town,” he said. "We’re not saying that you must absolutely cut this or that. The idea behind our pledge is that elected officials have to start recognizing the trade-offs that come with spending.”

Just four members of Congress – Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC), and Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) have signed the pledge so far, but Bydlak is undaunted. “Our goal is getting everyone who’s running for office and everyone who’s in office to sign this pledge.”

The coalition is also asking voters to sign their own pledge that says: “I will not support nor vote for any candidate who refuses to take the national debt seriously.”

“Like many Americans, we constantly found ourselves supporting candidates for public office who espoused pleasant-sounding rhetoric about balancing the budget, only to find them voting for trillions in new spending once elected. Our country’s escalating national debt is the challenge of our generation, and reducing spending is necessary to address this problem,” the group’s website states.

“The sort of lesson we’ve learned from the last couple of years is that rules that restrict spending are usually more effective than relying on the good will of politicians,” Bydlak added. His sobering message to members of his generation: “The [economic] situation is not going to get a whole lot better. If you want to see things change, you have to get involved.”