We want our elected officials to balance the budget, take the Constitution seriously, and for Pete’s sake, stop yelling, posturing, and playing dirty tricks.

As of this year, the federal debt now exceeds Gross Domestic Product—that is all of the goods and services produced annually by the US economy. The money the government owes creditors and entitlement obligations exceeds $15.7 trillion—that’s more than $138,000 of debt per taxpayer.

As long as politicians run deficits, the debt will continue to grow. One sobering report calculated that the government borrowed 40 cents of every dollar it spent this year. Last year, the government spent $1.3 trillion more than it received in taxes. This is the highest deficit since World War II. Spending is out of control.

We owe more than we can possibly repay in a lifetime. That means that the debt will ultimately fall to our children and grandchildren. Right now, the annual interest on the debt exceeds $225 billion. Imagine what it will be in a few years. Our debt rating has already been downgraded. If this continues, the dollar will weaken and inflation will become a very real possibility.

Spending may benefit politicians who think it will garner votes at election time or the support of special interests, but it betrays taxpayers and leaves a cruel inheritance for the next generation. Moreover, research shows that as government spending increases, economic activity slows. We must demand that politicians balance the budget and stop spending more than we pay them in taxes.

There are many ideas on the table. Last year, the nonpartisan US Government Accountability Office released a report that revealed numerous overlapping federal programs that cost taxpayers billions of dollars. For example, there are 47 federal programs for job seekers, 56 programs for financial literacy, 82 programs for teacher training, 20 programs for homelessness, and 80 programs for economic development. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Elected leaders need to ask themselves a couple of important questions for every dollar they wish to spend on programs, subsidies, grants and bailouts: Is the program effective? Is it already being done? Is this a program that could be conducted at the state or local government level? After all, why send dollars to Washington when they can be directed locally. Could the program be conducted at the community or philanthropic level? What does the Constitution say the federal government should focus on?

These are the questions political leaders should be answering. A $1.3 trillion deficit and a nearly $16 trillion debt are unconscionable. Politicians need to stop posturing and accept responsibility for balancing the budget and paying down the debt they have incurred.

Did you know that the federal government borrowed 40 cents of every dollar it spent last year?