We can't stay on this path. Twelve years ago President Clinton balanced the budget and put us on course to retire the nation's debt by 2013. But since he left office, America has accumulated a debt of over 15 trillion dollars. The gridlock in Washington has failed to solve our budget problems.
Today, nearly 40 cents of every dollar the federal government spends is borrowed. We've run up a debt about equal to our yearly GDP. And interest costs are the third largest federal expenditure.
The problems are clear. Many North Dakotans have asked me if I really believe these problems can be fixed. The answer is simple. Yes, we can get the nation's fiscal house back in order, but only if we send people to Washington willing to put our country ahead of partisan politics and focus on creating jobs and cutting spending.
Here are three things we can do to get our budget back on track.
Fix the Process
There is nothing stopping politicians in Washington, D.C. from balancing the budget, but recent history suggests that they just won't get it done. These days, too many politicians in Washington prefer to wage partisan fights instead of coming together to solve problems.
Instead of actually making the tough decisions, Congress simply kicks the can down the road with gimmicks that fail to produce meaningful solutions. The bipartisan "Super Committee" had more power to begin to fix the budget mess than dozens of blue-ribbon committees that went before. And still they failed.
Fiscal discipline won't come by itself. That's why I am committed to supporting a balanced budget amendment that doesn't put Medicare and Social Security on the chopping block.
Get Our Economy Moving
The recession has greatly contributed to our current deficit. That's why I'm focused on getting people back to work.
I'll continue to push for construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would invest billions of dollars in our economy and create thousands of family-supporting construction jobs.
Rather than temporary gimmicks and fixes -- which Congress all too often settles for -- I will push for corporate income tax reform that encourages companies to bring jobs home and expand their current number of employees in our country. Here are a few ways I will work to reform the tax code and encourage hiring:
Work to close loopholes and simplify the code. Focus on reducing the corporate tax rate overall and reducing rates further for manufacturing companies that grow their businesses and increase their payroll. The top marginal rate on corporate income, currently at 35 percent, is nearly the highest in the world. We must find ways to make our rates more competitive.
Give corporations an incentive to create new jobs in the United States by allowing them to bring back foreign profits with no tax liability if the funds they repatriate are used to help create jobs.
The "Returning Heroes" hiring tax credit, which encourage the hiring of unemployed veterans will expire in January. I will fight to extend it.
Small to mid-size businesses are the primary job growth engine in the U.S. economy and the recession has been especially difficult for them. We need to do everything we can to give them the confidence and capital to begin to grow again -- and that means making sure federal regulations don't get in the way of small businesses.
The Bank of North Dakota has given our state innovative programs that have helped small businesses get the capital they need to grow and hire workers. I will work to replicate those programs on the national stage and build on their success so our small businesses can expand -- such as finding ways to enhance access to loan guarantees through the SBA, and programs at the Bank of North Dakota where we wrote down interest rates for expanding businesses (PACE). I will also work to make sure our small town banks and credit unions can compete by working to reform banking rules so that local community banks and credit unions are not "too small to succeed."
Make Cuts, But Take A Balanced Approach
The federal government must stop spending money it does not have on things the public does not need. When people have to tighten their belts, government should too. I'm focused on a balanced approach to cuts so we can continue to make investments in education, our infrastructure and technology innovation.
For example, I've committed to not taking the automatic pay raises when the budget isn't balanced, and if the rest of Congress did the same, we ould save about $80 million. And allowing Medicare to negotiate for prescription drugs, like the Veterans Administration does, would save $200 billion.
I'll work with both parties to find areas of common agreement where we can cut spending. The federal government owns or leases enough vehicles to cover most people in North Dakota. Cutting the fleet by 20 percent would save $5.6 billion. Cutting the number of limos in the federal government alone saves another $115 million. Spending on government conferences has gotten out of hand. Cutting back could save $1 billion. Reducing the number of no-bid contracts in government would save another $2 billion.
I also believe those who earn more than $1 million a year should help reduce the deficit. Only 645 North Dakotans would be impacted by this change, and it would generate $46 billion for deficit reduction. Yet, Rep. Berg, who is the 14th wealthiest member of the U.S. House, has voted to give himself a $265,000 tax cut -- on top of his already low tax rate.