Fiscal Responsibility and Taxes
Last year, then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen called the nation’s debt “our biggest national security threat.” The national debt has surpassed $16 trillion, and under current law, will continue to grow in the coming years. One rating agency has already downgraded our credit rating, and two others have issued warnings that they might do the same. Our social insurance programs, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, which protect millions of American senior citizens, are on an unsustainable long-term path. These programs need reform to stay solvent, but I am committed to making sure they remain intact and in place for generations to come.
Meanwhile, our future needs—from rebuilding our transportation infrastructure to reforming an education system that’s leaving far too many children behind—are pressing. Slashing such investment--eating our seed corn--will only set us further back. This presents us with a thorny and urgent problem.
We didn’t get here overnight. In fact, just 11 years ago, our nation was running surpluses. Two unfunded wars, large tax cuts, undisciplined spending growth and the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression have drained federal coffers. But that doesn’t tell the whole story.
We currently spend about six percent of the federal budget paying interest on the national debt. Under current law, this amount will increase substantially. Interest rates are at a modern low, but will not remain so forever. If we do nothing to reduce the deficit, by 2040, we’ll be spending more to finance the spending of the past than to invest in the future.
Crucially, health care costs are growing faster than the rest of the economy. At the same time, our population is aging, so more people are depending on Medicare and Medicaid. As a result, these very important programs are becoming more expensive every day. The single most important thing we can do for our long-term fiscal stability is to wrestle health care costs to the ground. Health care reform took a major step in the right direction, but those reforms will take years to yield the level of deficit-reduction we need. Making our system of health care better and more efficient must be an ongoing project.
We must cut our deficit, but if we want America to continue to lead the world, we need to invest in the future. China is building faster trains and investing in renewable energy. Students in almost every industrialized country test better in math and science than our children. Meanwhile, high speed internet is still a dream for many Americans, our electrical grid is aging and inefficient, and our bridges are crumbling.
Moving forward, we need to develop a comprehensive plan that restores our nation’s fiscal sustainability. Everything must be on the table, and we must be honest about the task at hand. Any successful plan to reduce the deficit will include fair and well-timed spending cuts, tax reform, and long-term improvements to entitlement programs. Despite the politicking that is leading the deficit debate in Washington right now, a number of reasonable solutions have been proposed.
The Simpson-Bowles Commission put forth a comprehensive plan that reforms federal budgeting over time and with fairness. Although I don’t agree with everything in the Commission’s proposal, it was a solid step in the right direction. The plan will generate $4 trillion in savings over the next 10 years. It achieves this with three key changes to the budget: cuts to spending, including reducing both tax subsidies and defense; reforming entitlement programs for future recipients; and simplifying the tax code by eliminating loopholes and lowering overall rates.
Like Simpson-Bowles, any successful deficit-reduction plan will cut spending and invest in the future without damaging either the tentative economic recovery or the interests of the least well-off. There isn’t a magic bullet, and the choices are hard. Our success will depend on our willingness to make those difficult decisions. I am confident we can rise to the challenge. We must.
More on Fiscal Responsibility and Taxes
WASHINGTON, DC— Today Congressman Jim Himes (CT-04) released the following statement on the Republican Senate healthcare proposal:
Today, I cast a vote against the National Defense Authorization Act. The $605.6 billion bill that ultimately passed uses funding tricks to bypass the cuts set by the sequester. By shifting billions of dollars from the baseline budget to the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) war funding account, this bill technically falls in line with sequester levels, but it’s all smoke and mirrors hiding a higher price tag, which is partially why the President has threatened to veto it.
WASHINGTON, DC—The Campaign to Fix the Debt has named Congressman Jim Himes (CT-4) one of 32 inaugural “Fiscal Heroes” for placing a priority on fixing the debt. The Campaign to Fix the Debt is a non-partisan organization dedicated to putting America on a better fiscal and economic path.
WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman Jim Himes (CT-4) released the following statement after voting against a fiscally irresponsible permanent extension of the research and development tax credit.
WASHINGTON, DC—Congressman Jim Himes outlined today what exactly is at stake if Congress fails to raise the debt limit. Should Congress fail to act by Thursday, October 17, the resulting default will force homebuyers to pay more on their mortgages, drain funds from workers’ retirement accounts, delay Social Security checks and disabled veterans benefit payments, increase the cost of student loans, and force doctors and hospitals who treat Medicare patients to go without compensation.
WASHINGTON, DC—Congressman Jim Himes (CT-4) released the following statement regarding the bipartisan deal to open the government and raise the debt limit.
“I’m pleased that we have averted a default on the United States’ obligations and that we are finally opening the government, but it should never have come to this. We will vote on a plan today that we have known for two weeks both the House and Senate could pass.
WASHINGTON, DC—Congressman Jim Himes (CT-4) released the following statement regarding the shutdown of the United States Government and its ongoing effects on his constituents.
“As my constituents cope with furloughs, diminishing levels of government services, and anxiety over what may come next, I will not accept my congressional salary until my colleagues in Congress can agree to reopen the government.”
Himes Statement on Bridgeport Head Start Closures Stemming from Government Shutdown
Calls on Irresponsible Tea Party to Reopen Government
WASHINGTON, DC—Congressman Jim Himes (CT-4) released the following statement regarding the shutdown of the United States Government. House Republicans continue to insist on holding the government hostage to their failed attempts, 44 in all, to eliminate or delay the Affordable Care Act. The President has made clear he will veto legislation that weakens health care reform.
WASHINGTON, DC— Congressman Jim Himes (CT-4) today joined 185 House Democrats in sending a letter to President Barack Obama stating their support for a clean debt ceiling increase that ensures the full faith and credit of the United States of America and avoids a Republican default. Below is the full text of the letter:
September 25, 2013
The Honorable Barack H. Obama
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President: