Like many Nebraskans, I watched the president's State of the Union
address hoping we would hear specific policy proposals to address our nation's
ongoing economic challenges, including our $16 trillion national debt.
I was disappointed that instead of offering realistic ideas to cut
government spending, the president focused his speech on plans to increase spending under the pretext of job creation.
While I agree we must address persistent unemployment, the answer
is not more stimulus-style "investment." We tried that in 2009 -- it didn't work
then, and it won't work now.
Hardworking Nebraskans know the best way to create jobs is to get
government out of the way. We can start by rolling back burdensome, unnecessary federal regulations, which cost Americans over $1.75 trillion each year. If every household across America paid an equal share of this cost, it would amount to a crushing $15,500. Instead of investing in new employees, small business owners are forced to subsidize a wasteful federal government.
Moreover, job creators require certainty to plan for the future, and Washington's bad habit of lurching from fiscal crisis to fiscal crisis undermines our ability to grow the economy.
Uncertainty has also undermined national security as the Department of Defense has been forced to maintain and modernize our military -- all while operating under temporary stop-gap spending measures, rather than a long-term budget. Trying to modernize a military without a budget is like losing your paycheck in the middle of a home renovation: you might end up with a new bathtub, but you can't afford the new pipes to bring in the water.
At the same time, the Pentagon has been compelled to absorb $500
billion in budget cuts and is likely facing another $500 billion in the coming
decade under an ill-conceived budget cutting mechanism called sequestration.
Rather than taking a scalpel to cut the waste, which I support, sequestration
cuts spending with a meat-ax, bluntly reducing expenditures equally between
defense and non-defense spending.
On February 12, I participated in a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, where our top military commanders advised that drastic defense cuts would devastate our defense readiness and jeopardize our national security, as well as our economy.
Secretary Panetta cautioned lawmakers last week that these cuts
would turn the U.S. military "into a second-rate power." The Washington Post
reported, "[Panetta] has warned that naval operations in the Pacific would
shrink by a third. All military training would slow to a crawl. And almost
every civilian employee at Defense could be furloughed, as much as one day a
week for the rest of the fiscal year."
Another recent, successful nuclear test by the North Koreans reminds us that the world is an increasingly dangerous place. The United States cannot afford an ill-equipped, degraded fighting force. Furthermore, we have a moral duty to our young men and women in uniform to send them into battle only if they are ready and trained -- and only if we have the resources to support them.
I was pleased, however, to hear the president express a willingness to avoid this "doomsday scenario." To that end, the House of Representatives has twice passed legislation to replace these across-the-board cuts, and I believe it's time for the Senate to pass similar legislation offering responsible spending reductions.
While I agree we must prevent drastic budget cuts, I reject the false choice between jeopardizing national security and raising taxes. Just one month ago before I arrived to the Senate, Republicans compromised, agreeing to a tax hike of $600 billion to avoid the fiscal cliff. Now it's time for both sides to compromise and find ways to identify responsible spending cuts that are required by law to sensibly target government waste and not damage critical national security programs.
I look forward to working with the president and my colleagues -- Republicans and Democrats -- to cut spending, protect national security, and work toward achieving a balanced budget.
Thank you for taking part in our democratic process, and I'll visit with you again next week.
United States Senator