By Robert R. Woodall (R)
U.S. Representative for Georgia's 7th Congressional District
"The President wants to see taxes go up and he doesn't want to see spending go down, and the House wants spending to come down and doesn't want to see tax rates go up."
If you've turned on a television or opened a newspaper in the last few weeks, you've no doubt seen the so-called "fiscal cliff" conversation unfolding in Washington. The "fiscal cliff" is Washington-speak for the expiration of Bush-era tax rates coupled with across-the-board spending cuts on many domestic spending accounts.
While the fiscal cliff coverage continues to escalate as the January deadline draws near, I can tell you these discussions are absolutely nothing new. They are a continuation of every discussion that the House and the President have had during my two years in Congress: the President wants to see taxes go up and he doesn't want to see spending go down, and the House wants spending to come down and doesn't want to see tax rates go up.
Though this discussion isn't new, the culmination of so many parts of the discussion at Christmas is, and the Administration is certainly trying to use that to its advantage.
Today's federal debt is more than $16 trillion—larger than all parts of the U.S. economy combined.
By 2016, it will be $22 trillion.
During his first term, President Obama did a great job of convincing America that our spiraling debt crisis is a tax issue rather than a spending issue. Any analysis of the problem agrees that there is a tax revenue problem, and the problem is that millions of Americans are struggling to obtain a good job in the current economy, and if they can't earn an income then they don't pay income taxes. We need these Americans to be able to find work and thus pay taxes, and when they do, all economists agree that revenue will go up.
In August, the U.S. House passed our bill to raise tax revenue from its current levels today by ending loopholes in the tax codeand putting people back to work. I support bringing revenues back to pre-recession historically normal levels. That is easy to do and has broad support. I also support bringing record-high federal spending down to pre-recession historically normal levels. That effort has proven much harder as the House has yet to find a willing partner in the Administration or the Senate to work with us on that goal.
Federal spending under the President's budget continues to increase so fast that no amount of tax increases—no matter how high—can achieve a balanced budget. I understand that confronting runaway spending is hard, but it must be done, and every effort being made by the House during "fiscal cliff" discussions is targeted toward persuading the White House and the Senate to join us in grappling with how best to meet this challenge for America.
If you have any doubt about how hard it is to persuade Washington to confront its spending habits, you need only remember why the word "sequestration" has entered the American lexicon. Sequestration—the spending cuts going into effect in January—was never intended to occur. It was simply the hammer we put in place 18 months ago when the President asked to raise America's debt ceiling, and Speaker Boehner and House Republicans asked for dollar-for-dollar spending reductions to begin to confront the problem.
The consensus agreement was passed in the Budget Control Act of 2011, but over the last 18 months, the President and the Senate have failed to approve the required spending reductions. The House passed its bill way back in May of this year, and then passed yet another alternative in September, but even as I write this email, I have yet to see any proposal from the White House or the Senate to follow through on the commitment that they made back in August of 2011. Without the agreement (or in this case, even a proposal) from the White House or Senate on spending reductions, the across-the-board cuts now known as "sequestration" will most certainly take effect on January 1st.
To clear up any confusion, yes, the White House did make a proposal last week, but it wasn't a spending reduction proposal. President Obama sent Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to Capitol Hill to deliver a plan that simply raised taxes, proposed even more spending, delayed for another year all of the reductions that he agreed to in August of 2011, and put off making any tough decisions yet again.
This "plan" follows the same path as every other failed Washington plan of the last 40 years—raise taxes today, raise spending today, and promise to make the tough choices to reduce spending tomorrow. Taxes always succeed in going up today, spending always succeeds in going up today, but the tough decisions never seem to happen, and deficits and debts continue to pile up to cloud the future of our children and grandchildren.
No more! I am a willing partner in a comprehensive solution that shrinks the debts and deficits, but I will not be complicit in kicking the can down the road.
The President is looking at the same set of facts that we are: this nation is facing over $16 trillion in public debt—the largest public debt in American history. That's $55,000 for every man, woman, and child in the country. While I believe the President means well for this country, his ten-year budget plan does absolutely nothing to improve our economic trajectory over the next decade.
Will a Mayan Apocalypse occur if the Speaker and the President do not reach an agreement this month? Likely not, though I can guarantee an American economic collapse will come eventually if we allow Washington's profligate spending and record-setting deficits to continue. I remain optimistic that Congress will reach an agreement this month. America can accept nothing less than the small beginnings of a long-term effort to get America's budget and America's economy back in the black.
While I want to make big changes to restore our nation and our economy, to secure the President's support I could settle for only a half a step forward toward lower spending, but I will not agree to a half a step backward toward higher spending and continued record deficits.
I promise to keep you informed in the coming days as the Speaker and President seek consensus. I will continue our telephone town hall series from Washington as the debate continues. You can find out how to participate as well as see upcoming dates and times by clicking here. Also, you can watch my latest Special Order speech on the fiscal cliff by clicking here. I hope you will continue to provide me with your feedback by emailing me or logging on to my webpage.
Know that my door is always open to you and that I never forget that I work for you.
Thank you for your commitment to keeping America strong.
Editor's note: This first appeared in the Snellville Patch. Use the comment box below to respond to Mr. Woodall's letter to the editor.