The episode of sequestration – the $85 billion in automatic,
across-the-board spending cuts that took effect at the end of last week –
reminds us of what happens when legislators cease to legislate.
Sequestration was originally devised as an inducement to compromise – a
mechanism so indiscriminate and devastating to our economic interests that
it would compel Congress to finally enact a comprehensive, long-term
solution to our nation’s fiscal challenges. Yet even this outrageous set of
cuts was insufficient to form a compromise.
Consequences will be felt by families in Northwest Indiana and across the
country. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that
sequestration will cut economic growth in half for the remainder of 2013 and
threaten up to 1.4 million jobs. Significant reductions in operating budgets
for defense will threaten our military readiness. Americans can expect
delays at the airports, due to furloughs of critical air traffic controllers
who ensure our skies are safe, and nearly 2,270 fewer Indiana children will
receive vaccines for common diseases.
I am frustrated that Congress lurches from crisis to crisis, with each side
seeking to cast the outcome as the fault of the other for partisan political
gain. This is no way to run a country. We have a national debt of over $16
trillion, and an increasingly competitive global economy demands that we
make the strategic investments that will protect the jobs we already have
and create new jobs in the future. Our challenges are too great for us to
suffer from self-inflicted fiscal wounds. We must govern, invest, and lead
while addressing our fiscal problems.
We must responsibly reduce federal spending and I have been working to cut
spending wherever possible. As a member of the House Appropriations
Committee, I worked with my colleagues in both parties to make funding
reductions. According to the Congressional Budget Office, we have already
cut discretionary spending by $62 billion from Fiscal Year 2010 to Fiscal
Year 2012. We went line-by-line, evaluating each program on its value to our
country, making cuts to programs that have lost their usefulness while
making critical investments where needed.
I am also dismayed that we cannot decide how to fund the daily operation of
the federal government. This isn’t a social policy issue that inflames the
passions. It is deciding how to fund border security, food safety, veterans’
services, and other basic functions of our government. It is keeping the
doors open at federal entities few could disagree with, like the National
Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Weather Service, and the
United States Patent and Trademark Office.
A truly balanced, comprehensive plan must responsibly reduce discretionary
federal spending. It must honestly also address how best to secure the
long-term viability of the other two-thirds of our government spending so
that the benefits earned by Social Security and Medicare recipients are
preserved today and for the next generation. A comprehensive plan must also
increase federal revenue by eliminating inequities in our nation’s tax code,
that among other things require our local public safety officers to pay more
of their income in taxes than hedge fund managers who make in many instances
hundreds of millions of dollars annually. I have joined with a number of my
colleagues on both sides of the aisle to advance such a solution.
I assure you that I will continue to urge my colleagues to act immediately
to pass a comprehensive plan that puts our nation on the path to a
fiscally-sustainable economic future. We must act now to send the signal
that America’s leaders are serious about tackling the problems of our
unacceptably high unemployment rate and our deficits and debt.
We have a country to run and a future to invest in, and I will continue to
work as hard as possible on these twin endeavors.
Congressman Pete Visclosky represents Lake, Porter, and portions of LaPorte
Counties. He will host an interactive “How Would You Balance the Federal
Budget?” event with the Concord Coalition on Monday, March 11 from 6-8 PM in
the Grand Ballroom of the Radisson Star-Plaza in Merrillville. Constituents
may RSVP for this event by calling (202) 225-2461 or (219) 795-1844.