Close Menu Congressman Kurt Schrader

reducing federal deficit

Schrader Op-Ed: At the cliff's edge, good politics trump good policy

It is hard for us on Main Street to understand what is going on in our nation's capital with all the campaign-style misinformation out there. The latest D.C. buzzwords like "fiscal cliff" and "grand bargain" don't mean much in the context of dysfunction that Congress is mired in.

The expiration of the $4 trillion in Bush tax cuts that helped drive our immediate deficits and the impending across-the-board cuts, half in defense and half in all other discretionary programs, was supposed to drive real budget reform in Washington. It was intended to get our debt and deficit under control, give the business community certainty, spur a $2 trillion cash investment to create American jobs and re-establish the United States as the world's economic power. But politics got in the way.

Instead, what we got was a continuation of 99 percent of the Bush tax cuts and a two-month postponement of the across-the-board $1.2 trillion in cuts, which Oregonians and folks across our country can ill afford. Oh, and we got a promise by recently elected extreme conservatives to put our nation's ability to pay its bills and debts at risk in March, risking yet another downgrade in our credit rating. What we didn't get was a meaningful discussion of tax reform or Medicare reform to help create a strong economic future for you and your family. Medicare is the single biggest contributor to our nation's long-term economic debt, growing more insolvent every day and ensuring that the children of the middle class won't have the same safety net we enjoy.

According to the Medicare Boards of Trustees, more than 40 percent of Medicare is already subsidized with income tax dollars that should be going to education, health care, research and economic infrastructure. As we baby boomers retire, fewer workers pay in per beneficiary and quality health care costs go up. Medicare is projected to consume an increasing portion of our income tax dollars.

The president and congressional leaders acknowledge that our children's future depends on us avoiding Europe's fate. That means tough decisions now, not in two months or at some point when it is politically convenient. That means at least $4 trillion in revenues, entitlement reform and spending reductions set forth by the president's debt commission, commonly referred to as the Bowles-Simpson budget plan. We have already done almost $1.7 trillion in spending reductions since the commission and 2011 Budget Control Act. This recent fiscal cliff deal that netted less than $650 billion in revenue got us to the commission's zero starting point. We are not getting any more "tax increases." We have cut spending in annual appropriations, but your gutless Congress refuses to tackle the most important issues to make our nation's businesses competitive, preserve our senior safety net and create real jobs here in Oregon.

When the 113th Congress convenes in mid-January, demand the members agree to $800 billion in entitlement reform and another $800 billion in tax reform. Demand they put policy over politics. Only then will our children have the future they deserve.