Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, CA), a Member of the House Agriculture, Armed Services, and Transportation and Infrastructure committees, today issued the following statement on President Barack Obama's proposed budget:
"On the whole, President Obama's budget provides a balanced approach that strengthens our economy, creates jobs, and makes America more resilient while responsibly reducing the deficit. There is much to admire in this plan, but I have deep reservations about the proposed change in Social Security policy.
"President's budget would help keep our economy moving forward. I'm glad to see manufacturing policy front and center, with a commitment to strengthening industries America needs to preserve a vibrant middle class. The emphasis on clean energy is important, and the call to make the production tax credit (PTC) for wind and other clean sources of energy permanent is something I've been working on for years. If we're going to Make It In America, we need to incentivize the development of the industries and energy sources for the future.
"Restoring research and development that was crippled by sequestration is also an essential step, and one that pays for itself with the return on investment that comes through innovation. The President is right on the mark with the need to invest in transportation and other infrastructure, including the establishment of an infrastructure bank. I only wish there was more investment in infrastructure, as there are many roads and levees in my district that need a facelift.
"President Obama's tax policy is something I can generally get behind. The American Opportunity Tax Credit, Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, and Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit are all smart tax rebates designed specifically to help working and middle class families, and I certainly support preserving them. The President is also looking at savings that I think are long overdue. There's no good reason to continue giving Big Oil a big tax rebate, and I'm glad to see that this $4.4 billion a year boondoggle is eliminated in this budget. I also think it's just commonsense that a billionaire should pay a tax rate of at least as much as his or her secretary.
"The President's education policy is strong. preschool for all is something I've long championed. Our economy needs a much more robust investment in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education at all levels, and the competitive grants to colleges that offer an affordable education make a lot of sense. I hope a portion of these funds go toward California community colleges that offer good classes at a great value.
"After years of working with Congress to improve services for veterans, the President continues this commitment with funding for veteran's health services, career transition, and homelessness prevention. The VA backlog is an issue that hits my district especially hard, so I'm glad to see $136 million budgeted to expedite claims, but frankly, I'm not convinced that's enough. Our veterans deserve prompt health coverage, especially considering that many of their injuries are service-related. This is a portion of the budget I will be monitoring closely.
"The President's budget presents a "smart power' vision for defense that preserves the missions at Travis and Beale Air Force bases and helps servicemembers better transition to civilian life. The focus on suicide prevention among active and retired personnel is also admirable and needed. As one of the most vocal opponents of the ongoing war in Afghanistan, I'm thrilled to finally see the 2014 drawdown in writing, although I wish the language were more definitive on a specific timeline. It's time to bring our troops home as quickly as possible. I will need more time to thoroughly go over the Department of Defense provisions in the House Armed Services Committee, but so far I like what I see.
"I look forward to discussions in the weeks ahead on trade policy. I have misgivings with the Trans-Pacific Partnership as currently envisioned, but the general emphasis on exports in the budget is certainly welcome news for many farmers in my district.
"I'm glad to see the President avoid calls to cut benefits in Medicare and Medicaid, and the billions in savings in this budget through eliminating waste and engaging in best practices will go a long way toward keeping Medicare and Medicaid solvent. I would have liked to see the President argue for allowing Medicare to directly negotiate drug prices and to allow drugs to be imported from countries with strong safety standards, and that is a deficit reduction that I will continue advocating for.
"Where this budget is most off the mark is in its proposal to shift Social Security from a standard Consumer Price Index (CPI) to a chained CPI. While this would have a minimal impact in the short term, for Social Security recipients 10 or 20 years down the line, this could lead to a noticeable reduction in benefits. The average Social Security recipient receives only $14,800 a year, and Social Security is capable of paying 100% of all benefits through 2036 even if Congress is asleep at the wheel for the next two decades. Social Security should be discussed on a separate track than the current debate over reducing the deficit.
"Social Security hasn't even reached its peak surplus yet, and it's worth noting that under current law, Bill Gates pays as much into Social Security as a Costco manager. There is no compelling reason to cut benefits in Social Security.
"Budgets are, at the end of the day, statements of values. My values compel me to support good jobs, assistance for working and middle class families struggling to achieve the American Dream, balanced deficit reduction, and investments in the building blocks of our future, including education, research, health care, the environment, and infrastructure. My values also tell me that it is wrong to cut benefits in Social Security when all of us deserve to retire with dignity.
As we move forward, I will advocate for a budget that reflects the best American values.