Op eds

This op-ed by Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.)  first appeared in the American Press on August 20, 2023.

After a busy summer with rambunctious kids, most parents welcome the back-to-school season. This year, though, the end of the summer comes with a sting for many families: the sticker shock of school supply prices.

Following two years of national economic mismanagement, the cost of notebooks, pencils, crayons, and other school supplies has increased by 24 percent. The average family expects to spend $597 per student to cover supplies — and that’s just the start of back-to-school spending.

Since President Biden’s first full month in office, the price of the food that fills up lunchboxes and makes after-school snacks has increased by 19 percent. That’s because bread costs 29 percent more, oranges are up 20 percent, and potato chip prices have risen 28 percent. Dessert may be beyond the budget, too, since ice cream prices are up 18 percent.

The price of new jeans, shirts, and sneakers that growing kids need to start the school year increased by eight percent. Filling up the minivan’s gas tank to shuttle kids between school and home now costs 73 percent more in Louisiana. And the average price of all the other goods American families need to live a normal life is up 16 percent.

In total, inflation is costing the average Louisiana family an extra $9,180 per year, and Washington’s out-of-control spending habit is to blame.

At Biden’s direction, the federal government has grown faster than America’s economy. From 2020 to 2023, federal spending jumped by nearly 33% percent. In just the past 12 months, federal spending increased nine percent — or roughly half a trillion dollars.

Some of the spending at the start of the pandemic was necessary, but a lot of it was short-sighted and foolish. It has done more to hurt Louisianians than help them. We paid workers to stay home.

We paid schools to stay closed. We even paid dead people $1.4 billion in stimulus checks!

We weathered the pandemic, but Washington’s spending spree never ended. Here are just a few of President Biden’s budget blow-out bills I’ve opposed: A $1.2 trillion fake “infrastructure” package, $1.9 trillion in COVID spending, $240 billion in a pet project funding package for Big Tech semi-conductors, and two Goliath government funding bills that totaled $3.2 trillion. I also opposed the deceivingly named “Inflation Reduction Act” — an inflation bomb that experts now claim will cost three times what we were told, or $1.2 trillion.

All this spending floods our economy with cash, causing prices to float far above what many families can afford. As families tried to keep up with skyrocketing prices, consumer credit card debt hit a record high of $1 trillion. The average personal savings rate approached an all-time low. And nearly two in five families said they cannot afford to cover an unexpected $400 expense. Congress has also saddled our children with more debt than we’ve ever seen before.

Bidenomics has kneecapped the American Dream, yet some Democrats in Washington are hoping to normalize this high inflation rate to continue their spending spree. This inflation isn’t normal, though, and I won’t let the coastal elites forget that.

In the Senate, I’m working to draft innovative policies that can save taxpayers money and reduce the burden of inflation. For example, I introduced the Affordable Insulin Now Act to ensure that every American has access to a month-long supply of insulin for no more than $35 per month. This bill would not only relieve the burden of families who were paying upwards of $300 per month for insulin, but it would reduce the federal government’s spending on emergency room visits and other long- term treatments that are needed when patients cannot afford to take their insulin as prescribed.

I also introduced the Ending Improper Payments to Deceased People Act so that the Social Security Administration can let other government agencies know when Americans die so we don’t keep cutting checks to dead people — a policy so obvious only Washington would need it in writing.

I’m sorry that some in the federal government have left Louisianians with soaring debt and inflation. Some of our federal spending is as foolish as it is dangerous, and I’ll continue to work to find new ways to get our spending back under control. In the meantime, I believe my colleagues in Washington could learn a lot by watching families make tough decisions to afford this back-to-school season. Parents know what it means to live within a budget. They stretch each dollar to its fullest potential every day. Think how much stronger our country could be if Congress stuck to its budget, too.