Late on New Year’s Eve, a deal was struck behind closed doors in the Senate to avert the "fiscal cliff"—the return to Clinton-era tax rates and the implementation of deep cuts to defense and other discretionary spending imposed under Sequestration. The Senate, without having sufficient time to read the full bill, quickly voted to pass this deal and left town. The House met on New Year’s Day to take up the bill as passed by the Senate and 257 members voted in favor of passage. I voted against it.
Our nation currently sits at the bottom of a fiscal well, drowning in more than $16.4 trillion in debt—debt that has grown by more than $1 trillion in each of the four years since President Obama was first elected, and that is projected to continue its runaway growth into perpetuity. Rather than embracing a solution that addresses the roots of our current fiscal crisis—debt and spending—this deal raises taxes on job creators, makes no significant reforms to entitlements or cuts to discretionary spending, and increases our debt by an additional $4 trillion over the next 10 years. Furthermore, it doesn’t reasonably address Sequestration’s cuts to our national defense, but again kicks the can down the road.
Rather than cutting spending, the bill I voted against adds $134 billion in stimulus spending, extends for the 11th time the "temporary" unemployment benefits extension, re-establishes the death tax at a 40 percent rate, and continues the marriage penalty. And despite the President’s claims to the contrary, this bill does in fact raise taxes on middle class Americans. That middle class tax increase comes from the expiration of the two percent payroll tax cut. So, every American worker, regardless of income, will see a two percent increase in their tax bill. If you make $30,000 per year, your tax bill will increase by $600 this year.
The painful, uncomfortable truth we need to confront as a community of Americans is this: we cannot tax our way out of this crisis. Washington has a problem because it spends too much, not because it doesn’t tax enough. Even if we raise taxes on top earners to 100 percent, we still will not generate enough revenue to close our budget deficit and begin paying down our mountain of debt. In fact, according to House Budget Chairman, Paul Ryan, taxing top earners at 100 percent would only run the government for two and a half to three months. The fact of the matter is that government spending on entitlements and unnecessary discretionary programs has grown to unsustainable levels. The longer we take to confront this truth, the closer our nation comes to fiscal and economic ruin.
The President and his administration are correct that we need a balanced approach to deficit reduction, but their definition of "balanced" is unrealistic. In their minds, a deal in which we cut $1 in spending for every $41 in tax increases, while adding $4 trillion to the debt, is "balanced." That is the kind of math that put us in our current predicament, and it is a dangerous mindset for the people who are supposed to lead us on a path to prosperity.
A responsible, truly balanced approach to deficit reduction will include long-overdue entitlement reforms that restore sustainability to programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, and ensure their viability for future generations. A balanced approach will include tax code reforms that simplify our tax code, lower rates, and provide individuals and businesses with the certainty they need to achieve success. Finally, a balanced approach will eliminate wasteful spending on unnecessary government programs to ensure we have the resources to invest in the core functions of government laid out by our Founders in the Constitution.
The elements of a balanced approach I just laid out were conspicuously absent in the deal agreed to on New Year’s Day. I was not elected to this office to enable the irresponsible behavior that got us in our current predicament, and I will not be deceived by attempts to sugarcoat wasteful legislation. This is why I voted against the fiscal cliff deal, and it is why I will continue to fight for legislation that reins in wasteful government spending.