Last week, the deficit Super Committee failed to reach agreement on a long-term plan to reduce the deficit. This is a missed opportunity of epic proportions that could have corrected the fiscal course of the country.
We are currently facing a deficit crisis, with a debt of over $15 trillion. Each American's share of this debt is $48,000, which is more than the average household income in the state of Oklahoma. This is simply unacceptable.
With this staggering debt level, it is impossible to make the kind of investments in education, job creation, and technology that will allow us to remain globally competitive. This also presents a national security threat if we are unable to fund our defense efforts. We have reached a point where action is the only option.
The Super Committee, a bipartisan group of six Senators and six Congressman, was created in August with the passage of the Budget Control Act, and tasked with recommending at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction steps over 10 years. Everything was on the table, including revenue increases, tax reform, military spending, and entitlement reform (including Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid).
This was an opportunity to make serious changes to get America back on track, and many of my colleagues and I were hopeful that they would go even further and cut the deficit by as much as $4 trillion. But the Super Committee failed to agree to any deficit reductions, and as a result, there will be automatic, across the board cuts totaling $1.2 trillion. These cuts will be split between national security and domestic arenas. Far from ideal, this so called "trigger mechanism" was created in order to pressure the members of the Committee into coming to an agreement. Now we are forced to accept these arbitrary cuts as a result of their inability to cross party lines and reach a compromise.
The Super Committee was doomed from the start. It was formed of fiercely partisan members who were never going to reach across the aisle to find an agreement that would move our nation forward and put us on the path to economic recovery. Republicans were unwilling to compromise on raising taxes, and Democrats would not accept cuts to entitlements. But the solution that we need is bipartisan, and involves a shared sacrifice on both sides with tax reform and spending cuts.
When it comes to taxes, our system is in dire need of reform. We need to flatten out the tax rates and close the many loopholes. Many multi-millionaires pay lower tax rates than the average middle class household, and this needs to end. One possible solution is to cap the mortgage interest deduction on those who own multiple homes. We need to dramatically simplify our tax code so that everyone is paying their fair share.
On the spending side, there is a great need for entitlement reform. This does not mean that individuals who have paid into the system should lose their benefits, but it does mean that changes have to be made. I suggest that entitlements should be means tested, which would mean that people with enough income to not really need the benefits would not receive all of them. I would also gradually raise the retirement age for Social Security and Medicare. This would allow the programs to remain sustainable into the future, without compromising the benefits for those who need them most.
Unfortunately, due to the inability to look past partisanship, the Super Committee was unable to pursue this kind of a bipartisan compromise. There is now talk of reaching some kind of an agreement to prevent the automatic cuts from being triggered, so Congress has input in what those cuts would be. It is imperative that Congress learn from this recent failure and create a plan for action. But any efforts going forward will be unsuccessful without the input of moderates on both sides of the aisle.
It is imperative that American voters realize that we are in this situation because they have elected hyper-partisan Members of Congress, and have punished those who seek bipartisan solutions. As a result, many moderates are now leaving Congress just when their input is most needed.
We have a responsibility to future generations of Americans to put a plan in place that will reduce the deficit, balance the budget, and lay the groundwork for sound fiscal policies over the long term. It is time to bring down the debt, restore faith in our economy, and create jobs. I hope both Democrats and Republicans will work together to do what is necessary to get America moving again.