Whatcom’s congressman offers his take on deficit reduction

Nov 18, 2011

The Bellingham Herald

By John Stark

November 18, 2011

U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, has staked out a position on the debt reduction plans now being thrashed out by the bipartisan “supercommittee.” Larsen says he agrees that the nation would benefit from a big deficit cut, but he fears that Republican proposals would harm Medicare and Social Security and the people who rely on them, while making it harder for the US to invest in the future.

Larsen sent out a press release outlining his position after he voted against a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. That amendment was defeated in the House. Here’s CNN’s report.

Here is Larsen’s press release:

WASHINGTON—Rep. Rick Larsen, WA-02, today voted against a Republican balanced budget amendment that could require steep cuts to Medicare and Social Security.

“I voted against the amendment because it would balance the budget on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens,” Larsen said. “I am a strong supporter of restoring fiscal discipline through responsible means. I recently sent a letter to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction calling on them to ‘go big’ by presenting a bold plan that would reduce the deficit by $4 trillion. (Stark note: Larsen is one of 100 members of Congress from both parties who signed this letter.)

“The latest proposal to amend the Constitution that Republicans put to a vote today would have disproportionately targeted Medicare and Social Security, while allowing corporations and the highest earners to benefit from massive tax cuts. It would have also barred the federal government from taking on debt to invest in the future of our economy—from infrastructure improvement, to clean energy to education. Without this sort of investment, our economy will not be able to grow and provide the jobs that Americans need.

“Former Washington Governor Daniel Evans recently called the balanced budget amendment ‘an impractical idea’ for which the consequences ‘could be disastrous.’ (Links to Evans’ op-ed piece in Seattle Times.)

“Independent analysts argue that the balanced budget requirement, if applied to the current fiscal year, would require cuts totaling $1.5 trillion, resulting in the loss of 15 million jobs. That would double the unemployment rate from 9 to 18 percent.

“The path to real deficit reduction and a balanced budget requires sacrifices from all Americans. From reducing spending, like cutting agriculture subsidies and accelerating the drawdown in Afghanistan, to increasing revenue by closing tax loopholes for massively profitable companies and restoring tax rates on the highest earners, we can achieve our aims through shared sacrifice and bipartisan compromise.

“While some in Washington, D.C. want to slash entitlement spending, we must protect the benefits that our seniors have earned. Medicare must remain a guaranteed benefit and not converted to a voucher system. Social Security’s long-term solvency can be ensured if we lift the cap on earnings subject to the Social Security tax.”

“We can achieve major deficit reduction without shredding the social safety net, but we will only do so if we set partisan gimmicks like this balanced budget amendment aside and work together on these sensible solutions.”