Our country is at a crossroads. After four straight years of trillion-dollar deficits, our national debt now stands at over $16 trillion. If we don’t change course, based on the policies contained in President Barack Obama’s most recent budget proposal, we’ll continue to have trillion-dollar deficits as far as the eye can see.
This is unsustainable. The country is headed for bankruptcy, and my generation is in danger of being the first to leave America worse off than we inherited it. Regardless of what political party one belongs to, we simply cannot countenance this — 2013 must be the year we fix it.
Clearly what this country needs right now are policies that grow our economy, restructure federal programs, and reduce spending. We certainly have the “know-how” to get that done — the question is do we have the political will to tackle this crisis. I believe we do.
Starting with the basics — we have a constitutional design that, in the absence of political consensus, maintains the status quo. Our founders purposely created this system to protect our liberties while providing for limited and effective government. Consensus can be forged by single-party control with a unified position or through bipartisan agreement during periods of divided government. Clearly, if we desire to change, we will need to work together.
In 2010, President Obama commissioned a deficit reduction panel led by former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson and President Bill Clinton’s former chief of staff, Erskine Bowles. They produced a viable bipartisan proposal that reduced the deficit by over $4.2 trillion over a decade.
By the end of this 10-year span, the annual deficit would be less than the interest payments on the debt, allowing for a fully balanced budget in the years that followed.
Regrettably, Simpson-Bowles went nowhere. To date, President Obama has not embraced it, nor has he provided a workable alternative.
Now, we’ve reached the borrowing limit for our country and have only approved federal spending through March 27. These factors combined with the looming threat of “sequestration” — over $110 billion in immediate, across-the-board cuts — demand that we act now.
Unfortunately, precisely at the moment we need leadership that unites us, President Obama has struck a more confrontational tone. While the Republicans in the House passed responsible legislation to extend our debt ceiling this week, he has refused to negotiate.
The “No Budget, No Pay” bill prevents the economic chaos of a default, and forces Congress to begin to address our spending and debt crisis by passing a budget. This is a common-sense first step in fiscal responsibility that the Senate has been unable to achieve in nearly four years.
In the long-term, we need a reasonable, bipartisan approach to unite our country and move us forward.
Last March, 38 of us (16 Republicans and 22 Democrats) voted for the Cooper-LaTourette budget. This pro-growth, fiscally responsible budget was a modification to the Simpson-Bowles framework. Our plan reduced the deficit by nearly $4 trillion over 10 years.
This budget incorporates comprehensive tax reform that closes and caps outdated loopholes. This allows for lower marginal tax rates across the board while protecting deductions used by middle-class families, such as the mortgage interest deduction. Lower marginal tax rates will drive up consumer consumption and help small businesses grow.
We lost over $300 billion a year in revenues when our economy went into a recession in 2008, and our level of revenues in relation to GDP is the lowest in over 50 years. To recapture that revenue, we must put Americans back to work.
Cooper-LaTourette also includes significant spending reductions — putting everything on the table, including defense. If we think differently and enact comprehensive national security establishment reform, we can be safer for less money. In addition, we get savings from incorporating Obama administration proposals to reform Medicare and changing federal agriculture policy to save money in a way that helps family farms.
Let me be clear, Cooper-LaTourette is a compromise. Both political parties will have to accept less than their ideal if we want to get something meaningful done.
Now that the House has acted to prevent default, the President and the Senate must come to the table to enact a solution for the future. Passing a significant bipartisan agreement, a plan modeled after Simpson-Bowles, is the answer.
Getting that done in 2013 will ensure our best days are still in front of us.
Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, represents the 19th Congressional District in the House of Representatives. The district includes all or part of 11 counties, including all of Otsego, Delaware, Schoharie and part of Montgomery County.