Moderated by Rick Badie
Can the “fiscal cliff” be averted? President Barack Obama and Congress must strike a deal to prevent nearly $600 billion in tax hikes and spending cuts that kick in Jan. 1. Republicans want spending cuts. The White House and Democrats favor higher taxes on the rich. A Georgia congressman from each party writes about the need for bipartisan compromise.
Finding balance will avert fiscal cliff
By David Scott
On New Year’s Day, America will either wake up clear-headed and positive with better days on the horizon or start the New Year with a nauseating hangover called the “fiscal cliff.” Our nation is, indeed, facing a financial crisis of soaring magnitude.
Congress is gridlocked in addressing the national debt. Businesses face great uncertainty. Continued bickering and gridlock could ruin our fragile economic recovery and plunge it into a deepening and long-lasting recession. This would be devastating. We cannot let it happen.
There is a tremendous hunger in America for Democrats and Republicans to work together and agree on a balanced approach of cutting spending and raising revenue to prevent our nation from going over this dangerous and destructive fiscal cliff.
Without our action, the Bush tax cuts for all incomes will expire Dec. 31. Automatic cuts will immediately slash $55 billion from defense and $55 billion from domestic programs, across the board, without any consideration of the terrible consequences for the American people. We must stop this irresponsible sequestration of automatic cuts.
My beloved state of Georgia leads the nation in bank failures. We are near the top in home foreclosures. Our job losses are worse than the national average. Education budgets are already cut to the bone.
In my district, in Cobb County, many Lockheed-Martin employees could lose their jobs. And proposed cuts to our hospitals would be devastating. Our college education and research programs face steep cuts, which caused the presidents of UGA and Georgia Tech to join in a well-written column recently in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Through the November elections, the American people spoke loudly that we must have both spending cuts and increased revenue. As proposed by Democrats in Congress and President Barack Obama, our balanced budget plan was the clear winner in this election. The distinction between President Obama and Gov. Romney was very clear. The majority of the American people agree with Democrats — that it is not asking too much for some of our wealthiest citizens to help just a little more; that we keep the Bush tax cuts for the middle class and small businesses; and that we protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
My Republican colleagues do not have to give up their beliefs to find agreement with Democrats. President Bill Clinton found budget-balancing success by working with a Republican-led Congress. Tremendous economic growth followed.
Going forward, we must grow the middle class by investing in education, science, technology, infrastructure and health care and increasing manufacturing in our country.
Our nation is great because we have a history of rising to great challenges, working through our differences, and seizing victory for the American people. And we will rise to this challenge. We will avoid this fiscal cliff. And, once again, we will seize victory and move America forward.
U.S. Rep. David Scott represents District 13.
Revenue, spending cuts key to fixing debt woes
By Johnny Isakson
Now that the election has been decided, we face a critically important deadline in a matter of a few weeks.
If Congress and President Barack Obama fail to address the “fiscal cliff” by Dec. 31, tax rates will increase to 15 percent on the bottom end and 39.6 percent on the top end. The capital gains tax rate will rise from 15 percent to 20 percent; the estate tax will increase to 55 percent; the dividend tax rate will increase to the marginal rate of the taxpayer; and the child tax and earned income credits will expire.
Additionally, the Budget Control Act’s sequester will go into effect and will trigger across-the-board cuts, including $55 billion to $65 billion in cuts to defense spending alone.
We are in a dangerous position if we don’t act now. In September 2008, we faced another kind of fiscal cliff and Congress failed to act quickly. Five years later, we are still recovering from the drop in the markets because of our slow response back then. If we don’t address the current fiscal cliff in this lame-duck session of Congress, we will put the nation in the same precarious position.
Sitting down at the table to find common ground is the first step. We all agree that we must address this by tackling three things: spending, revenue and so-called entitlements.
In terms of spending, we should cut discretionary spending, but that alone will not solve our debt and deficit problem. Congress should return to a responsible budget and appropriations process focused on savings and accountability. As for defense spending, the consensus is that arbitrary cuts would be devastating to our defense. Instead, we should cut spending through a responsible, strategic approach.
When it comes to Medicare and Social Security, I don’t consider these programs to be “entitlements” because Americans have paid into them their entire working lives. That’s why we must take steps to preserve these programs for those who have paid into the system and for future generations as well. I propose extending the age of eligibility for Social Security for our children and grandchildren, just as President Reagan and House Speaker Tip O’Neill did in 1983. Medicare is a tougher issue, but converting from a fee-for-service program to premium support and means testing is a first step.
As for the tax code, it would not be difficult to come up with a plan that lowers rates and raises revenues. For example, a possible solution could be means-tested deductions.
Jumping off the fiscal cliff is not an option. I’m ready to sit down at the table with anyone who is willing to find solutions. Georgians sent me to Washington expecting no less. We need a game plan for the next decade to reduce our deficits and reduce our debt. When we do, we’ll return to the greatness America has always known.
Sen. Johnny Isakson is a Georgia Republican.