This week, President Barack Obama formally asked Congress to authorize U.S. military force against the Islamic State. His request is long overdue and demands thorough scrutiny. Appropriately, the debate will focus enormous attention on boots on the ground, geographies and timelines. But I fear that, as usual, there will be little discussion of a long-term strategy to stop terrorism at its source.
Since its enactment four years ago, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law has helped American consumers and the financial system. The law represents the most significant overhaul of our nation’s financial regulatory structure in decades, one that imposed tough new rules to level the playing field for the consumer, while preserving the underlying health of the nation’s mechanism for investing savings productively.
As a tool for highlighting political hypocrisy, the debt limit is unimpeachable. Members of Congress routinely vote to cut taxes or raise spending, both of which require borrowing that they then vote against. That's like running to the store, buying a flat screen TV, and then making a big show of not paying your credit card bill because of your mounting debt.
But this time, the sham has become deadly.
DEBT LIMIT COMMENTARY: 'No one wins if we send the economy into another Great Recession,' says U.S. Rep. Jim Himes
Failure to pay any of these bills would almost certainly trigger the loss of our nation's AAA credit rating and send the world economy into a tailspin. Interest rates would rise, causing the cost of home mortgages and student, small business, and car loans to follow suit, not to mention the extra $140 billion per year our nation will pay to finance the debt for every percentage increase in the interest rate.
We absolutely need to cut our debt, but holding our economy hostage is neither smart nor responsible.
Recently, like so many parents, I watched nervously as my daughters, hidden under impossibly overloaded backpacks, marched into their first day of school. It’s a staggering act of trust. We know that a child’s education is pretty much the whole ballgame. Employability, good citizenship, a life richly lived, all depend on it.
The reality is that everyone has a powerful shared interest in a financial sector that innovates, extends credit, employs people and pays taxes, but which does so safely. The new reform strikes that balance, and will go a long way to restoring the faith of the American consumer in the financial system.
It was perhaps my most difficult moment as a Congressman. How do you thank an 18 year old who has raised his hand and said, essentially, “I — and my family — will sacrifice, perhaps all, so that you and your values and ideals can be secure?” You can’t, at least not adequately.
Like all major change, health reform is not without risk. Some cost savings ideas will fail. The system will be subject to political pressure just as it is today. But the risks associated with maintaining the status quo far outweigh the risks of reform. Health care costs currently consume one in every six dollars we spend. We spend twice per person what the average industrialized country spends with far worse results, the very definition of inefficiency.
Perhaps most importantly, after a century of failed attempts by Presidents going back to Teddy Roosevelt, through Eisenhower, Nixon, and Clinton, we are finally able to offer all Americans access to life-saving medical care. Now, we can say without reservation that we Americans look after our own.
This week, families across Connecticut will receive in the mail a short, 10-question form from the 2010 Census. I encourage everyone to complete their survey and return it promptly.
Social Security and Medicare, which have saved millions of elderly Americans from poverty and made the US a world leader in the area of senior health were enormously controversial when passed and continue to pose policy challenges. But almost no one would wish they had never been enacted. So it will be with health reform. It will be refined and improved in years to come and will in time, I believe, become as essential thread in the moral and social fabric of our nation.
Health care reform must have two primary goals: provide Americans with stable access to high-quality care, and substantially reduce the costs in the system. Fail in the first goal, and we will continue to live with the moral and economic costs of a broken system. Fail in the second, and we will simply accelerate the unsustainable trajectory of this system.
The Recovery Act has come under substantial criticism in the last week, some fair, much unfair. Let me set the record straight.