Congress should use this year’s debate over raising the debt ceiling to reach a deficit-reduction proposal that will require candid discussion of across-the-board sacrifices – including the elimination of many tax exemptions, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson told a group of business leaders on Monday.
The morning address to the Cobb County Chamber of Commerce was the first of two groups Isakson was to deliver his message. During a second appointment with the Atlanta Press Club, Isakson endorsed the idea of allowing states to declare bankruptcy.
Isakson, who won a second term in November, told his morning audience that the federal deficit threatens national security. If nothing is done, he said, “there’ll be no commerce to chamber.”
”We don’t have much time. In fact, I think we’ve got nine months to begin the process. By the end of September, the 2012 elections will be driving what everybody does in Washington D.C. And getting something done is going to be very, very difficult.”
He recommended using the December proposal of the 18-member, bipartisan deficit reduction commission as a starting point. That panel issued a prescription of serious spending cuts, a broad overhaul of Social Security, and the elimination of much-cherished tax exemptions.
Isakson, who has championed home mortgage interest deductions in the past, said everything must be on the table. (U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss said much the same thing last week. )
Isakson said he was working on a bipartisan approach with U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H. He’ll be sitting with her during Tuesday’s State of the Union speech by President Barack Obama.
Passing any measure will require a change in the way we talk about issues, Isakson said. This was the meat of his speech:
”We’ve got to change the process by which we spend, tax and entitle…..it’s going to take shared sacrifice. You’re going to have to sacrifice. Public officials like me are going to have to sacrifice. Beneficiaries of entitlements are going to have to sacrifice.
“The media is going to have to sacrifice. Everyone always perks up when I say that. We’ve gotten into an environment where we take isolated sentences in a speech, pull them out, and it becomes the whole speech. And it’s a slip-up it becomes the whole image of the public official.
“You take one tax benefit and people dwell on it on an hourlong cable show at night. Next thing you know, it’s the entire subject. We isolate individual parts of the problem and never get to the macro solution. What’s micro in our conversation becomes macro in our country. And that’s just not right.
“But it’s easy to do. It’s easy for me to do when I’m running against my opponent, trying to find one little bad thing. But I don’t like to do that….
“Same thing with our solutions. We need to give them enough time to be heard, to be debated, and to be shared, for everyone to understand if shared sacrifice will work.”
Isakson said the federal government needs to build up a cash reserve system, rather than tapping the deficit in emergencies. He also noted that the deficit-reduction commission recommended a shift to biennial budgeting, which Isakson said he has backed for six years.
On the crucial issue of taxes:
”The deficit commission made a terrific recommendation on tax reform. This is where the shared sacrifice comes in. ..It says first you do away with all deductions – except the child deduction and the family deduction on your tax return. You might add a couple back, but you’ve got to pay for them if you do.
“But then you lower the corporate rate from 35 percent to 28 percent. And the individual from 35 percent to a top rate of 23 percent….If you do that, you gain a trillion dollars which you automatically put against the debt. And you declare that any increase from revenues that come from the reduction of taxes have to go against the deficit and the debt….
“Some parts I like, some parts I don’t like. But I’m not willing to pick out the things I don’t like until we all get in the boat together and share the sacrifice.”
Cobb County sheriff’s deputies were a substantial presence at the chamber event. Two escorted Isakson back to his car — a sign of how the Gabrielle Giffords shooting has shaken things up.
The Associated Press has filed these early paragraphs about Isakson’s Atlanta Press Club appearance:
Sen. Johnny Isakson says bankruptcy could be a good solution for struggling states straining under pension debt.
The idea has become part of a growing discussion about how states will grapple with their budget woes, some due in large part to pension payments.
…Isakson said bankruptcy is not a term to fear but can be a fix. He says following the example of private sector companies like Delta Air Lines, which filed for bankruptcy in 2005 and emerged two years later.
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider