As a Democrat, I believe that government plays a seminal role in educating our kids, building our transportation and communications infrastructure, protecting our environment, and maintaining our national defense. All are essential to a strong America. But all are impossible in a broke America.
To ensure that the federal government can play that role and, in this way, help secure a bright future for America, we must act now to reduce the national debt. The facts surrounding it are chilling. As a nation, we are borrowing roughly 40 cents on every dollar that we spend. China, which is not exactly a loyal U.S. ally, is the largest foreign investor in our debt. Worst of all, the red ink that we are generating has an intergenerational aspect to it because we are depleting the assets of future generations to satisfy present desires. The situation is unsustainable, and it demands immediate bipartisan action. That’s what the American people want. That’s what the America people deserve.
The only way to get our fiscal house in order is by enacting a thoughtful, balanced program that includes spending cuts; reforms to medical, retirement, farm, and other programs; and revenue increases. At the same time, the plan must show compassion to low-income families and protect programs that strengthen the nation.
Restoring America’s Future, the new plan from the Bipartisan Policy Center‘s Debt Reduction Task Force, reflects that thoughtful, balanced approach. Over the past year, I attended the task force discussions on ways to increase taxes and cut spending. Led by former Senate Budget Committee Chairman Pete Domenici and former White House Budget Director Alice Rivlin, the task force includes 17 leading Americans of both parties — former White House and Cabinet officials, former Senate and House members, former governors and mayors, and leaders from business, labor, and the non-profit sector. If this ideologically diverse team of conservatives and liberals can agree on workable solutions, our ideologically diverse Congress can as well.
Restoring America’s Future would reduce the debt to below 60 percent of the economy, reduce annual deficits to manageable levels, and balance the ‘primary budget’ (everything other than interest payment) by 2014. It would rein in federal health care spending through Medicare and Medicaid; ensure that Social Security can pay benefits for the next 75 years; find savings in other entitlement benefits, such as farm and retirement programs; freeze domestic and defense discretionary spending for four and five years, respectively; and create a simple, pro-growth tax system that lowers tax rates, broadens the tax base, and establishes a 6.5 percent debt reduction sales tax – all of it enforced through strict budget rules.
Additionally, the plan proposes a “payroll tax holiday” for 2011, suspending Social Security payroll taxes for employers and employees in a move that the Congressional Budget Office estimates could create as many as seven million jobs. This will give working Americans an economic boost next year and will give businesses, especially small businesses, the incentive to hire additional people. Such a boost is needed to make sure the economy is growing again.
The BPC’s Debt Reduction Task Force plan provides a blueprint for public discussion and legislative action to ensure our long-term economic growth. Given the enormous threat that the rising debt presents to our future, it’s time to put partisan bickering aside and find common ground.
Democrats, Republicans, and Independents all want a strong and thriving America. As a long-time Democrat, I also want to ensure that we have a government with the resources to invest in our people and our future. We have always been the party of jobs, economic fairness and growth. But by failing to adopt a comprehensive plan to attack the debt, we are shirking our responsibilities and leaving our national security in the hands of other nations. We urge all members of the incoming Congress to carefully review our recommendations, work together, and take bold steps to tackle the nation’s debt so that we can avert an economic disaster.
To read Restoring America’s Future, please visit the Bipartisan Policy Center’s website, at www.bipartisanpolicy.org.