Senator Jay Rockefeller today released the following statement:
"West Virginians know the importance of being responsible stewards of their money. Our people make tough choices about family finances every day. And so must our
government, with choices that are responsible and smart and that build a better future and a strong middle class.
"Republican Alan Simpson and Democrat Erskine Bowles chaired a national commission on how to get our country's finances in order. There are no easy fixes, and it is no secret that I disagree with parts of the Simpson-Bowles plan, but I deeply respect their work to find common ground on big issues, and I appreciate their visit to West Virginia to keep that dialogue going here, too.
"There is no question that there are places we can and must cut back in the federal budget. One example: with the Iraq war behind us, and our troops in Afghanistan coming home by 2014, we can find sizeable savings in military spending. Eliminating waste and duplication at the Pentagon will free up even more funds. The Simpson-Bowles plan calls for reduced Pentagon spending and I fully support that.
"I also support some of the health reforms laid out in the Simpson-Bowles plan -- like asking big drug companies to pay fair rebates to Medicare prescription drug plans. These savings are a win-win that reduce our deficit and put more money back in West Virginians' pockets.
"Perhaps most importantly, Simpson-Bowles recognizes that cuts alone will not balance the nation's checkbook. The Simpson-Bowles plan says that we must include revenue increases in any deficit reduction deal, and I strongly support this crucial principle.
"Now, they propose a ratio of 4:1 for cuts vs. revenues, meaning 80 percent of the deficit reduction would come from spending cuts, while 20 percent would come from revenues. My view is that the burden needs to be shared much more equitably -- at least 50:50 -- because it's neither effective nor fair to cut programs that children, seniors and families build off -- from education and job training to transportation, law enforcement and basic health care -- unless we are also closing tax loopholes and demanding that the very wealthy go back to paying a reasonable share.
"Our goal must be to help lay the foundation for opportunity and prosperity, today and for future generations. Recklessly cutting safety net programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, is simply not in the best long term interests of this country. And to me, it runs counter to our ideals as Americans, hurting those who need our help the most and undermining the American middle class.
"I've closely studied our nation's finances. Under the budget deal passed into law last year, we will have cut fully $2.1 trillion in spending without asking the very wealthy and big corporations to pay even one additional dime. Most West Virginians I talk to see that course of action as irresponsible and unjust.
"Simpson and Bowles agree that we've got to have a more balanced plan in order to succeed, and they have made an enduring contribution to the dialogue that needs to happen -- and is happening -- all across our country.
The bottom line is that we should reduce our deficit in a way that reflects the best of our American and West Virginia values. Top-down policies benefitting only the privileged few have failed every time, because the path to prosperity runs through a strong and growing middle class."