Each day, our nation inches closer to what's being called a "fiscal cliff," the date when current tax rates suddenly rise up to higher levels, while at the same time devastating spending cuts take effect. If no action is taken to reverse the looming fiscal policy changes, everyone will be impacted on January 1, 2013 - individuals, families, and small businesses - which will be disastrous for our economy as a whole. The American people cannot and should not have to continue to wait while Congress fails to act to prevent this disaster from happening. That's why I voted to keep Congress working in Washington throughout August.
On August 22, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released an important but alarming report detailing what will happen if our nation reaches the fiscal cliff -- meaning, if Congress fails to act in time. Often, bills passed by Congress have impacts that seem more long-term than short-term, with the results not being implemented or felt for several years. Inaction on this issue, however, will be felt immediately. CBO estimates that in the first six months of 2013, our overall economy would shrink by a rate of 2.9%. Economic growth is absolutely critical for Americans to get back to work and for our economy to recover, and a tightening of this magnitude would be catastrophic for the nation as well as the world. In addition, the report estimates that if Congress doesn't act, the unemployment rate, which is already too high, would continue to rise in 2013. Combine that with fewer take-home dollars in our taxpayers' wallets at the end of each month, and it's clear that the impact on all Americans would be astronomical.
This report shows a need for honest leadership in Congress. It adds to the pressure on Congress and the President to pursue rational, commonsense solutions to avoid putting the country's economy in jeopardy. It also shows clearly the dangerous track that our country's deficit is taking. Unfortunately, the federal government has gotten into the habit of spending recklessly and without regard for our children and grandchildren who will shoulder that fiscal burden. Washington simply must change its spending habits. The report also emphasizes the need for responsible tax reform that restructures our tax code to make it fairer and simpler.
The House passed legislation with my support earlier this month to extend current tax rates for all American taxpayers (H.R. 8), as well as legislation to lay out the principles for a comprehensive tax reform package (H.R. 6169). Less than two years ago, the president signed legislation to extend our current tax rates for all Americans because our economy was simply not growing. Economic growth remains sluggish today, and raising taxes on Americans would be severely harmful for our economic recovery as a nation. I encourage Congress and the president to work together to prevent our nation from hurtling off the fiscal cliff in January.
Our nation has been through challenges before, and we will undoubtedly experience more in the future. But if there's one thing I know about Americans, it's that we never give up in the face of struggle. The fabric of our nation's history is full of challenges, and yet America still stands strong today as the greatest country the world has ever known. We can prevail in this struggle, and I know that we will. True inspiration can be found today in stories from Main Streets across America, and I know that rational solutions will come from these places too. As this debate continues, I hope that you will continue to keep in touch with me. As always, I can be reached by telephone at (202) 225-4261, through my website (www.wittman.house.gov), on Facebook (www.facebook.com/reprobwittman), or via Twitter (www.twitter.com/robwittman).
Congressman Rob Wittman represents the First District of Virginia. He serves on the House Natural Resources Committee and the House Armed Services Committee where he is the Chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee.