The Ledger - Rep. Dennis Ross: Why I Voted No

Op-Ed

By:  Dennis Ross
Date: Aug. 17, 2011
Location: Unknown

The credit rating of the United States is downgraded and many, including The Ledger editorial page, are looking to assign blame. It was the tea party, the president, the Congress or rating agencies that caused this crisis. Or if you just read The Ledger, you would think it was solely my fault because of my militant intransigence and hatred of the elderly, the poor and the middle class. (I am being slightly sarcastic.)

If you can't take credit, the next step in the political arena is to assign blame -- truth be damned.

So let me tell you the truth. Tell you who is to blame, tell you why I voted no on the latest debt deal out of Washington and tell you what I do support.

Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan. The truth is there is a lot of blame to go around:

A GOP Congress that, from 2000 to 2006, along with President George W. Bush, forgot that, when you cut taxes, and grow the economy, you shouldn't outspend growth. Presidents, in both President Bush and President Barack Obama, who came to Washington with pet causes they believe deserve tens of billions of your tax dollars annually, regardless of their outcomes or propriety.

A Democratic Congress from 2006 to 2010 that added trillions to the debt and put big spending on steroids. Then there are wars that went unfunded during both Democratic and Republican congresses, social engineering via the tax code that causes Warren Buffett to pay less in taxes than you and I do, and a government takeover of health care that accelerates the death spiral of Medicare.

This theatre of the absurd is what I stepped into in November and what I promised my constituents I would put an end to. We are $14.5 trillion in debt, borrowing 43 cents out of every dollar we spend and, for everyone reading this, know your children each bear a $50,000 debt burden at birth.

Put simply, did the latest debt deals, in all their incarnations, solve this problem and avoid a downgrade? The short answer is, no way.

The deal signed by the president, which I did not support and which was followed by a downgrade, authorizes the treasury to seek another $2.4 trillion in debt over the next year and half.

The deal also authorizes $22 billion in spending cuts. Our budget shortfall, just this year, is $1.65 trillion. In other words, 1 percent of our deficit will be cut, while our national debt will rise another 17 percent. Also, because in our system, no Congress can bind any future Congress, only the spending cuts enacted this year have any force of law.

The deal creates a committee to address further cuts of $1.4 trillion over 10 years. To make matters worse, the cuts will not come from waste or broken programs, but instead are supposed to come from Medicare and Defense.

I support real solutions, not sound bites.

The Ledger asserts I support a "cuts only" approach. Not true. I have made clear, publicly and privately, that I support the president's call to end all corporate tax loopholes. They distort the market and are anti-competitive. This would bring in $1 trillion over 10 years. In exchange, I believe that money cannot just be used to finance more out-of-control spending binges. Therefore, a balanced-budget amendment, in effect in 44 states, supported by 75 percent of Americans and the only way to bind future Congresses, would be a fair compromise.

I also hear many on the left extol the virtues of Clinton-era taxes. I am more than willing to discuss and support a return to Clinton-era taxes if we return to Clinton-era discretionary spending. Adjusted for inflation, Clinton-era spending caps would save $6 trillion over 10 years, more than enough to avoid a downgrade.

If I told you I supported cutting taxes to three brackets of 12 percent, 23 percent and 28 percent, reducing the corporate tax rate, cutting 10 percent of the federal workforce, and ending loopholes, The Ledger would, no doubt, call me a corporate crony. Yet I support all of these measures. They also came directly from President Obama's fiscal commission.

There are many compromises and collaborative efforts I support. Those who follow me -- on Twitter @RepDennisRoss at www.twitter.com/repdennisross and Facebook at http://on.fb.me/ncCdfK -- know this. What I don't support is business as usual. A true recovery and return to fiscal sanity will be painful. But it will be more painful when disinformation ruins honest debate. Figuring out my position on an issue is pretty easy these days. All one has to do is ask me -- something The Ledger never bothered to do.