Fixing dire mess depends on Congress

By Mark Begich
I just returned from another busy trip home, and whether I’m at a town hall meeting or the grocery store, Alaskans often come around to the same two questions: How did we as a country get into this trillion-dollar deficit mess? How do we get out of it?
The first answer is easy. The second is difficult, but not impossible.
Both political parties are to blame. Beltway “group think” got us here and Democrats and Republicans alike played along. Turns out it’s not free to wage two wars halfway around the world, launch a massive new prescription drug plan and give major tax breaks to millionaires. You just can’t balance a budget that way.
How we fix it starts with Congress. My colleagues must recognize we are truly out of time and that this is the time to come together, because the consequences of inaction are so dire.
We’re facing the so-called fiscal cliff because we’ve put off tough decisions for too long. It’s like crashing your mom’s car — telling her will be painful either way, but the pain worsens the longer you wait.
It’s time to tackle the government’s bottom line with an understanding of your family’s bottom line. If Congress doesn’t pass a responsible plan, this country faces a grim forecast. Taxes will go up for everyone. And, because last year’s deficit talks stalled out, the first round of $1.2 trillion in automatic budget cuts begins.
To some, that might sound good. But because this fallback plan involves no new tax revenue, the cuts will be deep and severe: Major reductions in defense spending, fisheries management, schools, oil and gas permitting, heating assistance — the list is long.
Resolving this will take sacrifice. Even a moderate deficit-reduction plan must include cuts to important services, and also some new taxes for those who can best afford them. We’ll still face a smaller cliff, but through bipartisan compromise we can make the landing smoother.
Along with budget cuts, the package must include tax reform and smart investments to build the economy. All federal agencies will have to be part of the solution; no free passes.
Here are some of my ideas for budget cuts:
A continued pay freeze for members of Congress; taking back unspent “orphaned” earmarks; ending a wasteful $400 million mobile missile-defense system the military doesn’t want; winding down the $700 million program that bailed out major banks. You can see more of my ideas at
On tax reform, we need to protect the middle class while asking the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share. I am working on a bipartisan bill with Senators Wyden and Coats to simplify the tax code, hold down rates for families and provide tax relief for businesses to invest and grow.
Our bill creates a single corporate tax rate, lowering it from 35 percent to 24 percent. For families and individuals, it lowers and replaces six tax brackets with just three.
It protects mortgage, retirement and other tax incentives to give families financial security, and also encourages investment by protecting capital gains. Under our bill, American families can file their taxes on a simple one-page form.
The final piece of deficit reduction involves smart investments to grow our economy – in education, infrastructure and energy. This will make us competitive worldwide, create new jobs, and bring back jobs from overseas.
We can do all of this because the economy is slowly coming back. When I came into office the economy was hemorrhaging over 700,000 jobs a month. Today, unemployment is below 8 percent; housing starts are up; and consumer confidence is improving. If we’re smart about deficit-reduction we can keep building on these positive trends.
A steadily strengthening American economy is the best answer of all. We can get out of this trillion-dollar mess by working together to build a responsible budget, a fair tax system and a platform of investments to spur continued economic growth.

Mark Begich, an Anchorage Democrat, was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2008.

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Posted by on Nov 21st, 2012 and filed under Point of View. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

1 Response for “Fixing dire mess depends on Congress”

  1. john says:

    “Our bill creates a single corporate tax rate, lowering it from 35 percent to 24 percent”

    I’m afraid that is going backward. In order to pay down the debt, the government must raise revenue which means raising taxes, not lowering them.

    The idea that lowering taxes creates jobs, is a Republican party meme created by drug addled thinker Rush Limbaugh, and has been disproved by recent history.

    The most prosperous time in America was when taxes were at their highest level, between the 1940s and the 1970s. When taxes are high, Business will hire more workers, buy more equipment, and reinvest more in an effort to lower their overall income and pay less in taxes. That is a fact. When taxes are already low, there is no incentive to spend, so the money is hoarded as evidenced by our current economy.

    In order to pay down our debt and be responsible citizens, we need tor return to the tax rates of the last great Republican President General Dwight Eisenhower, who had tax rates at 91% in order to pay off WWII. What kind of irresponsible generation would ask for tax cuts during a time of two wars and big government programs like Homeland Security? Who is the lamest generation expecting to pay their credit card debt as they demand more tax cuts?

    I would think the older generation should be thinking about how to act more like Eisenhower if they would like to be respected by the young people of today. Try to Imagine what they will be saying about your generation after you are gone, and act accordingly.

    As for this statement of Mark Begich “Resolving this will take sacrifice. Even a moderate deficit-reduction plan must include cuts to important services,”

    The American people will sacrifice nothing. We have paid into our Social Security which was put in a separate fund for our retirement and health care. The politicians choose to steal that money for tax cuts during war time, and now they must find a way to pay it back and it will not be on the backs of America’s retirees and Veterans. You can start by cutting your own salary, retirements and health care. You all spent the money, you can feel the pain. Then you can cut the defense department slush funds and Homeland Security slush funds.

    I find it odd that Senator Begich would not mention the bill he introduced to lift the Social Security Tax cap which would make the program financially secure for the next 7 decades. Social Security is not even in trouble. Reagan increased the amount of FICA taxes in order to pay for Baby Boomers and there is plenty of money in the fund. The politicians borrowed that money for tax cuts for corporations and now they don’t want to pay it back. We have not been paying double for all these years just so corporations could have more tax breaks, and tell us we need to sacrifice. This week JP Morgan CEO Jamie Diamond, who took billions from the US treasury in the bank bailout, explained that Americans need to feel the pain for overspending. I really don’t think the American people are going to put up with this brazen looting and sociopathic hypocrisy much longer.

    Please be the one real Democrat in the Senate telling the truth. The budget has nothing to do with Social Security. It is separately and well funded. Stop blaming retirees for wanting what they paid into their entire lives and put the blame where it belongs, on wasteful spending by politicians in DC who ‘balanced’ the budget by stealing our retirement. And now they want even more tax cuts, when all that proves to do is enable the hoarding of trillions in the cayman islands, stalling our economy. Stop enabling the looting and tell the truth.

    Just the facts- Bring a chart of the economy and tax rates to the Senate and explain…very slowly…how when taxes were higher, the economy was booming, the middle class was exploding, prosperity was everywhere. Our tax rates are now at their lowest and our debt is at it’s highest…and you all want to lower taxes more. That doesn’t make sense. It is simple Math. It is simple logic. I can’t understand how so many incompetent illogical people made it to our Congress. But we sure as hell shouldn’t be letting them make decisions for our country.

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