Moderated by Rick Badie
Automatic spending cuts set to start in 2013 could slash government spending by $1.2 trillion in the next decade. It also could cost jobs — more than 2 million, according to a study by the Aerospace Industries Association. Will a lame-duck Congress let those automatic cuts occur? Two congressmen from Georgia share their views. Phil Gingrey says the impact of the cuts would devastate our national security and economy. David Scott writes the fiscal cliff could be avoided through compromise.
Cuts will batter U.S. defense
By Phil Gingrey
The national security implications and economic impact of sequestration — automatic spending cuts slated to occur over the next 10 years because Congress failed to cut $1.2 trillion as called for in the Budget Control Act in exchange for raising the debt ceiling — on Georgia and the United States as a whole would be devastating.
“Providing for the common defense” is the federal government’s most important responsibility as prescribed by the Constitution. It is the cornerstone of our freedom upon which all other liberties and guarantees rely. Our nation’s ability to protect its people must remain the foremost priority for the president and Congress.
A strong national defense not only allows the U.S. to react to acts of war quickly and effectively, but it also serves as a deterrent toward those attacks from hostile nations or groups. This requires providing the Department of Defense with the necessary resources to do so. That said, to responsibly address our nation’s record debt, DOD’s budget must be scrutinized and cut where possible, just as with all other federal agencies.
However, it would be hard to argue that President Barack Obama’s approach to defense spending has been responsible.
Since taking office, he has taken $350 billion from various weapons programs, and put in motion a plan to take $487 billion out of defense budgets between 2013 and 2021.
On top of these cuts, slashing an additional $600 billion — as would result from the pending sequestration, which disproportionally affects the DOD — will drastically reduce our nation’s defense capabilities at the same time that potential adversaries are ramping up their defense budgets. This would obviously exacerbate the effects of the substantial defense cuts already in the pipeline in a negative and profound way.
To combat this, House Republicans passed the Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act, HR 5652, earlier this year. This legislation would cut $7.7 billion in federal food-stamp spending in the first year, require federal workers to contribute more to retirement plans, end grants for health insurance exchanges, put limits on Medicaid payments, implement other entitlement reforms and trim federal spending.
While halting the first year of crippling sequestration cuts from taking effect, the bill also would save $243 billion over 10 years.
Unfortunately, the president and Sen. Harry Reid continue to oppose this plan while refusing to produce their own.
Democrats claim sequestration hits defense and other programs equally by splitting the $1.2 trillion in required cuts down the middle, but that’s not the case. In fact, only 14.8 percent of sequestration cuts would come from entitlement programs. This would be a reduction of less than 1 percent of all entitlement spending.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said sequestration will have dire consequences for our nation’s defense because it was developed without consideration for national security strategy, force structure, technology needs or operational reality.
Across-the-board, arbitrary sequestration cuts would shrink our ground forces to the smallest size since World War II, the Navy to the lowest level since World War I. Contrary to the Pentagon’s past guarantees, the Defense Department now concedes that funding for training programs and benefits for our servicemen and women would be jeopardized.
These draconian cuts will not only leave us with a weakened national defense, but also with an even weaker economy. Sequestration stands to further devastate our manufacturing sector. Lockheed Martin announced it must send layoff warnings as soon as October to most of its 123,000 workers.
In fact, a recent study reported that Georgia stands to lose more than 54,000 jobs and $5.5 billion statewide. Because of this, Georgia is counted among the 10 states most negatively impacted by these cuts.
Nationally, this could result in a loss of more than 1 million jobs by 2014. With an unemployment rate about 8 percent for 41 consecutive months, not only can the DOD not withstand sequestration, but Americans simply cannot afford it.
Congressman Phil Gingrey represents Georgia’s 11th District.
Leadership vital to fix mess
By David Scott
The Budget Control Act of 2011 was drafted to match spending cuts with targeted revenue increases to prevent the federal government from defaulting on its debts. A short-term solution of $1 trillion in spending cuts was approved, but our long-term budget problems were not solved.
Unless Congress finds another way, larger automatic cuts will start. At the end of 2012, massive automatic cuts will slash $1.2 trillion from the budget over 10 years.
This budget time bomb, called sequestration, was created as a measure of last resort in the Budget Control Act. It was designed to be painful so that both parties would be forced to negotiate away from partisan orthodoxy on spending and taxes to find agreement on a balanced budget. Unfortunately, that did not happen and we are left with sequestration.
The quick enactment of such large cuts will create shock waves in the U.S. economy. I asked Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke about these cuts in a recent Financial Services Committee hearing. He responded by citing a Congressional Budget Office report that expects 1.2 million fewer jobs if sequestration is implemented.
Republicans are concerned about cuts to defense with little care about hits to spending for education, infrastructure or seniors.
I, too, care about ensuring a strong national defense, but I also care about a strong nation. These devastating cuts will cause hardships for families and local communities at a time when our economy has not fully improved.
Georgia will lose more than $7 million in child care development block grants, which help residents with child care expenses while they work or attend school.
Georgia would lose more than $15 million for Head Start and more than $30 million for special education programs. Not only will these education support programs be cut, but the teachers and child care providers also will be fired. A recent study by a George Mason University economist estimated that the state would lose more than 54,000 jobs in defense and nondefense-related jobs.
Republicans say they want balanced budgets, yet sign pledges to Washington lobbyists to protect tax breaks for the very wealthy and corporate special interests.
They vow to protect every dollar of defense spending while billions of U.S. dollars are being wasted on Afghan warlords and Pakistani armies who support the Taliban and other enemies.
We can find ways to carefully pare military spending and still protect America’s borders.
There are also ways to preserve tax cuts for middle-income families, while asking millionaires to pay the same rates they paid during the Clinton years.
Republicans talk a big game on defense but they don’t want to pay for it. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were funded with massive borrowing in the 2000s.
While we were sending thousands of men and women into harm’s way, we were spending our surpluses and borrowing more.
In addition, taxes were slashed, which created massive deficits. The fiscal situation needs to be repaired before hard-set ideologues bankrupt America.
I can respect people who want smaller government, but imploding our economy in the process hampers our ability to plan for future challenges in educating our children, researching new discoveries, and investing in our roads, bridges and ports.
We must find agreement now on how to solve these problems.
The Constitution was created out of a series of compromises among great leaders.
Not unlike today, our history is full of passionate debates on how to build a great America.
But it was our forbearers’ ability to work together that made our country strong. We are staring at a fiscal cliff.
There is still time to slow down, check our map and turn in the right direction.
Congressman David Scott of Georgia represents the 13th District.