Inflation is impacting every person in this country, particularly those of us living in the so-called “flyover” states like Wyoming and Missouri. Families are being forced to make difficult decisions about what to buy at the grocery store, what bills to pay each month, and what trips to take, if any. On average, inflation is costing people in Wyoming more than $9,900 per year, and Missourians $8,900. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has also confirmed that inflation in rural communities — many of which we represent — is 130 percent that of urban areas. Rising prices are crippling Americans’ budgets, and at its core, inflation is a tax on rural Americans and the poor. Not a day goes by that we don’t rightfully hear about this from the folks back home.
The Federal Reserve is doing its part to try to combat inflation, but despite asset sales and the constant rate hikes — up 3.75 percent to date, the fastest increase in 40 years and larger than the past 15 years combined — inflation continues to persist. The Fed has a taller task because almost a third (29 percent) of all money in circulation in the economy today was created since February 2020. Higher interest rates so far have not had a significant impact on lowering inflation, but they are having a major impact on the housing market, as families are being priced out of the market. The average rate on a 30-year mortgage is 7 percent, more than double the average rate a year ago. Americans are also now being hit with the double whammy of not always being able to find the goods they need and pay higher prices when they do.
One of the chief culprits driving the spike in cost of living is Congress. At the beginning of 2021, Congress had already spent approximately $4 trillion since the start of the pandemic on the response. The CBO warned that no more federal stimulus was needed. Ignoring those facts, in March of 2021, Democrats chose to add $2 trillion to that total through the American Rescue Plan Act, even though there was still over $1 trillion in unspent COVID funds remaining on the books. Democrats should have known the catastrophic impact their excessive, inflationary spending would have on our economy. However, instead of heeding the warnings and focusing on targeted relief while curbing spending as the pandemic subsided, the Democrat majority in Congress used the excuse of a pandemic to continue to spend well beyond the country’s means, overheating the economy.
Congress must take real action to reduce wasteful government spending. Since President Joe Biden took office, federal spending has increased by $10 trillion over what was projected at the start of his presidency, a record increase for a president’s first 20 months. Giant, all-inclusive spending bills that no one has or takes the time to read or legislation that just maintains the status quo will not cut it any more. Congress must stop fueling inflation and stop throwing endless amounts of money at problems; it must carefully target where to spend Americans’ hard-earned tax dollars.
By cutting spending, Congress can send a powerful signal that it has heard the concerns of the American people and that it is serious about getting inflation under control and holding Washington accountable. With a realization that both Republicans and Democrats have culpability for our current $31 trillion debt, the last 20 months of single party Democrat rule in Washington has broken records for the size of debt added at $3.4 trillion. While we will fight efforts by Washington Democrats and the White House to use the upcoming lame duck session as an opportunity to increase spending even more before they pass the gavels of congressional leadership to Republicans, when Republicans gain control of Congress we must focus on a fiscal restraint and getting our economy back on the right track.
It is time to stop spending money we do not have on things we can live without. We must use every tool at our disposal and confront every opportunity that comes — including the next time Congress is forced to the debt ceiling — to combat the inflationary crisis created by President Biden.
Every American is making hard decisions about spending right now, and it is time Congress does the same.
Cynthia Lummis is the junior senator from Wyoming. She is a member of the Senate Banking Committee. Jason Smith represents the 8th District of Missouri and is ranking member of the House Budget Committee.