Saxby Chambliss Calls For “Tough Choices” To Fix Deficit

Senator Saxby Chambliss, along with Senator Mark Warner, have been leading a bi-partisan group to look at potential structural changes to the tax code, entitlements, spending, and any other elements that comprise the federal budget deficits.  Today, the two released the following Op-Ed:

It’s Time To Make Tough Choices

All of the talk about short-term spending resolutions and potential gridlock in Congress might lead you to believe we have lost an opportunity for serious action on our country’s longer-range deficits and debt.

However, we remain convinced that our country is at a critically important moment.

Since this economic downturn began, families across America have had to make tough choices to make ends meet. It is time for Washington to do the same.

As a Republican elected from Georgia and a Democrat from Virginia, we have been working in a bipartisan partnership to seize this opportunity to get our fiscal house in order for the long term.

Since last summer, we have been working together to make this a priority in Washington. We are working with a bipartisan group of Senate colleagues to try to turn the recommendations of the President’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform into legislation.

The bipartisan commission spent much of last year exploring issues surrounding our short-term deficits and longer-term debt, and made a series of recommendations that will address these challenges in a responsible way. Unfortunately, the commission fell three votes short of achieving the supermajority required to send those recommendations to Congress for an up-or-down vote.

Here are the facts:

Our current national debt stands at more than $14 trillion. If adopted in full, the commission’s recommendations would gradually reduce that debt by $4 trillion over the next 10 years.

Unfortunately, the current debate is too often centered on deep cuts in short-term, discretionary and nonmilitary spending, which only makes up about 12 percent of the overall federal budget.

The simple fact is, drastic and even painful cuts to these individual programs alone will not fix our larger structural budget problems.

We believe we must address these fiscal challenges in a more comprehensive and responsible way. We should work together to control government spending, simplify our tax code and begin to eliminate our deficits.

That is the only way we will be able to fix our nation’s balance sheet over the long term.

The deficit commission’s recommendations, while far from perfect, represent a courageous first step in tackling our national debt in ways that will make our nation competitive for the 21st century:

• The commission laid out a plan to accelerate health care savings in Medicare and Medicaid, and it provides a responsible road map to strengthen Social Security for the next 75 years. The commission’s plan protects Social Security, and does not use Social Security funds to balance the budget.

• The math is indisputable: In 1950, there were 16 workers for every Social Security recipient. Today, it’s two-and-a-half workers per beneficiary. And let’s acknowledge this: When Social Security was started in 1935 and the retirement age initially was set at 65, the average life expectancy was 62. Today, average life expectancy is approaching 80.

• The commission’s proposals dramatically simplify a tax system in serious need of an overhaul. It proposes closing loopholes and doing away with, or amending, some income-tax deductions while simultaneously lowering overall tax rates on families and businesses. And remember: 70 percent of individual tax filers today do not itemize deductions, so those taxpayers ultimately would benefit from lower overall income-tax rates.

• It puts everything on the table, including entitlement programs and defense spending. We believe that this has to be part of the discussion, too.

As you might imagine, various political opponents and special-interest groups already are mobilizing to short-circuit our work on this legislation, which demonstrates why this has always been such a difficult challenge.

It also shows why Washington’s typical political response has always been to push the tough choices to another day. Yet every day we put off these difficult decisions, an average of $4 billion is

added to the national debt.

Every dollar that we spend simply paying the interest on our nation’s staggering debt is disappearing into a fiscal sinkhole. These are resources that cannot be targeted toward creating jobs, expanding the U.S. economy or addressing any of our other shared priorities.

While there are plenty of recommendations in the commission’s plan that we would not have chosen, this much is clear to the members of our bipartisan coalition: We simply cannot postpone this difficult discussion any longer.

What we’re suggesting is a thoughtful, reasonable, phased-in approach that acknowledges we’re in a hole and stops digging. It puts in place a responsible plan of our own design and on our own timeline.

If we do this right, we can send a powerful, bipartisan signal to the rest of the world and to global financial markets that the United States finally is serious about getting its fiscal act together.

It also will position America to better compete, and ultimately win, in the global economy.


  1. Junius says:

    Kudos to Saxby for stepping out in front of this issue. It is refreshing to see some leadership.

  2. Saxby, here’s a tough choice:

    Vote “no” on Medicare Part D when it comes up.

    Oh yeah, too late. Saxby “knee problems from a football injury” Chambliss is a fiscal fraud. And despite the fact that Charlie and others on here think he has “learned from his mistakes”, this proposal makes it clear that he hasn’t.

  3. seenbetrdayz says:

    Glad to see he is at least acknowledging that we need to cut defense spending (good to hear from a ‘Republican’, but then again, we’d have to wait until a ‘Republican’ is in the White House to see how objective of a look Saxby is willing to take).

    Of course, we have to realize that much of ‘our’ defense spending isn’t even for ‘our’ defense. It’s more like ‘subsidy’ spending for other nations that are perfectly capable of funding their own defense. Seems like that should be the easiest stuff to cut, but somehow, someone somewhere still thinks we need 70,000 troops in Germany to protect against the Rooskies.

    • Joshua Morris says:

      Let’s cut entitlement spending first. We spend twice as much on it as we do on defense.

  4. gcp says:

    This Op-Ed merely restates the problem. What are the specific cuts and the specific tax proposals?

  5. slyram says:

    Junius: I agree with you. Chambliss seems to have the swag of a senior senator who came to town to do big things and no one tells him not to discuss big issues with the other side….seems rather Nunn-ish.

  6. Harry says:

    I’m withholding judgment until the likely federal shutdown in about 10 days. If Chambliss et al let that happen, then they have my full support. It’s the only way to start to cure the debt disease.

    • B Balz says:

      Oh Harry,

      There are some very conservative folks in WDC that believe the shutdown will benefit the Congressional minority. Shutting down the government, ask Newt how that all went.

      • Charlie says:

        I’ll have a bit more time while up here to do a temperature check later in the week, but my gut feel right now is that both parties think they win if there’s a shut down. Thus, I expect one.

        • B Balz says:

          Well, Charlie,

          With all respect to your admirable gut, my COS trumps. We’ll see. I was there early March, which is like a hundred years ago….in politics.


          GOTO Ebbett’s and listen in, DC Coast as well…

  7. saltycracker says:

    I thought Obama gave similar speeches running for office – we gotta deal with this deficiency….
    At $4 [email protected] day & $14 trillion down we are freaking over $61 bil. and going nowhere.

    There doesn’t seem to be any real positive reform going on in any sector, health care, foreign aid, worldwide military, immigration, drugs, federal agencies, tax codes, public pensions, subsidies, judicial systems or most needed, term limits.

    But it is just wonderful in the administration for alumni of Goldman Sachs.

  8. “Our current national debt stands at more than $14 trillion. If adopted in full, the commission’s recommendations would gradually reduce that debt by $4 trillion over the next 10 years.”

    So we can rack of $4T worth of debt in just a couple of years or so, but it’s going to take us 10 years to pay it off? BS. Find more to cut.

  9. John Konop says:

    I have to give Saxby credit for moving in the right direction. He sounds like a responsible adult dealing with a difficult problem. Some of you would rather rant than actually deal with the problem.

    • Harry says:

      “Case-Shiller Data: Home Prices Down 3.1% in 20-City Index”
      “The Washington D.C. housing market continues to boom, prices rising 0.1% in January and now 3.6% higher than a year ago.”

      • B Balz says:

        Good factoid, Harry. And when the real pain starts, when the effects of cutting $4T more or less from our budget hits, where do you think people will go with their pitchforks? Middle-class America marching on WDC.

        Pentagon City is an actual place, and let me say it is quite an amazing place. Imagine a five story Phipps Plaza on top of the Peachtree Center MARTA station, with a Ritz attached. Surrounding by a mile in every direction of high end food/bar operations. And beyond that, gated, high dollar residential multifam condo’s/apts/coops.

        When we say military-industrial-complex this place is a direct result. I am not against it, it is what it is. We are terribly out of balance in the US budget, but we are not broke or poor.

        Markets seek equilibrium, so when the re-adjustment occurs, we will witness the greatest changes the US has seen in 40 years.

        It will happen by our choice, or by the reaction of events. If we choose to act in a timely manner, we will choose our destiny. We may make errors, but will will prevail, and be better off as a result. Remember: Pentagon City was not built in a day.

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