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The Journal Gazette - No Better Time to Break Washington's Old Habits

Op-Ed

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By Representative Marlin Stutzman

As Hoosiers look forward to spending the upcoming holidays with family and friends, Washington is on the cusp of its latest fiscal crisis, and the menace of tax hikes on Jan. 1 is casting a shadow over what should be a joyful season. Unfortunately, this scene is all too familiar to the American people.

Despite numerous opportunities, Congress and the White House refuse to come to grips with out-of-control spending and offer long-term solutions to solve the federal government's $16 trillion debt crisis.

Hoosiers have every right to be frustrated and discouraged with Washington, D.C., as the country heads toward bankruptcy, our nation's broken entitlement programs teeter on the verge of insolvency, and looming tax hikes threaten thousands of Hoosier jobs.

The facts are alarming. Washington borrows more than 40 cents of every dollar it spends, Medicare's own trustees have calculated that the program will reach insolvency in just 12 short years, and President Obama's tax proposals jeopardize more than 15,000 jobs here in Indiana.

Despite his promise to cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term, Obama increased the national debt by more than $4 trillion. In just four years, this administration has stacked up more debt than every president from George Washington to Bill Clinton combined. A child born today inherits a $52,000 share of Uncle Sam's borrowed spending. Meanwhile, their grandparents are left with the empty promises of a broken entitlement system.

Each day, 10,000 baby boomers reach retirement age and Medicare's worker-to-beneficiary ratio grows weaker. In 2000, four current workers supported each beneficiary, but that number is on pace to fall below three. As that number declines, health care costs continue to climb. Nearly one in three primary care doctors is limiting the number of Medicare patients they see, and that number will only grow as Obamacare continues to be implemented. That's unacceptable to the millions of seniors who were promised that the program would be there in their retirement.

Although Hoosiers understand that our economic crisis is, at heart, a debt crisis, Obama has focused nearly exclusively on tax hikes to fuel more deficit spending. Hoosiers know Washington can't tax its way out of a spending mess. Under the most optimistic projections, Obama's taxes will only cover eight days of government spending.

Despite these facts, the focus of the current fiscal cliff talks seems to remain on taxes, and when politicians focus on taxes instead of cuts and reforms, they leave middle class families out to dry. If we're serious about fixing these fundamental problems, we have to rein in Washington's runaway spending, give permanent tax certainty, and do the tough work of entitlement reform.

We need immediately to cut spending, responsibly cap future expenditures and put our nation's finances on a path toward healthy balance. The House-passed budget, The Path to Prosperity, would have reduced the fiscal year 2013 deficit to less than $800 billion and put us on a path to paying off the debt.

Instead of threatening families and small businesses with the constant threat of higher taxes, we need to give certainty by extending the current tax rates for all Americans. In August, House Republicans and some Democrats voted to prevent these looming tax hikes, setting the stage for real tax reform in the year to come. The Senate should pass that extension without delay.

In addition, we must save Medicare while there's still time. House Republicans have shown that we can reform Medicare for future generations without making any changes for current seniors. By expanding opportunity and empowering patients, younger workers can choose plans that meet their individual needs. We offer multiple guaranteed coverage options and, if it meets their unique needs, patients can choose the traditional Medicare plan.

In Indiana, we know that problems are only solved with honesty and hard work. Washington has an opportunity to tackle these challenges. This is difficult work, but no one was sent to Washington to make easy decisions.

As the new year approaches, there's no better time to break Washington's old habits and fix what's broken.


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