One of the biggest challenges we face is the wide gap between what the government collects in revenues and what it spends. When President Bush took office in 2001, the federal budget was in surplus by more than $100 billion. Through a combination of two wars that he charged to the national credit card, tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans, giveaways to the insurance companies, and the worst recession since the Great Depression, President Bush left President Obama with a deficit of $1.4 trillion — an unprecedented deterioration in our nation’s fiscal position.
Just as it took eight years to get in this fiscal hole, so will it take several years to dig out. In the near term, Sherrod supports a five-year freeze on spending subject to the annual appropriations process, which will save $400 billion. He also supports health care reform, which will save $143 billion in the first decade, and another $ 1 trillion in the next according to the Congressional Budget Office. And he supports returning the tax rates on the wealthiest Americans to where they were during the Clinton Administration, when our country created 23 million jobs.
Just as important as what Sherrod supports is what he does not support. Many politicians in Washington, DC have proposed that Social Security should be discussed as part of the solution to the deficit problem. Sherrod is adamantly opposed to any such proposals. Social Security is self-financed by payroll taxes — it does not add a penny to the federal budget deficit, and should not be cut.
Sherrod thinks savings have to begin at home, and supports legislation to eliminate the automatic cost-of-living increases for members of Congress. And he supports the Pay-As-You-Go (PAYGO) rules that helped produce balanced budgets in the late 1990’s.
To control deficit spending in the long run, Sherrod supports a constitutional amendment to require a balanced budget. Had one been in place over the past decade, the reckless fiscal decisions made by President Bush would not have been possible.
Finally, Sherrod will continue to use every opportunity to find savings on legislation that comes before the Senate. Here are some examples:
- During the 2008 Farm Bill debate, he fought for crop insurance reform and urged Secretary Vilsack to move forward with reforms. His crop insurance amendment, which was largely implemented administratively by USDA, would have saved more than $2 billion, while proving more stability in emergency assistance to farmers.
- Allowing more timely access to generic biologic drugs, the most expensive subset of drugs on the market. It is estimated that Medicare alone spent $13 billion on biologics in 2007. Allowing greater access to biologics would reduce government spending by $25 billion over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
- Closing loopholes that allow companies to offshore jobs;
- Imposing reasonable payment limits to prevent wealthy farmers from securing federal subsidies;
- Ending special tax breaks for favored industries like Wall Street and Big Oil.
- Ending the trillion-dollar off-balance-sheet spending from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The best approach to attacking the deficit is through economic growth. During the Bush Administration, private sector jobs actually shrank. Our country needs to continue to make smart investments — in things like education, infrastructure, research, and broadband — so that we can compete in the 21st century.