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Debt solution must be fair and balanced

Posted: July 25, 2011 - 9:39am

Social Security checks to nearly 80,000 Alaskans could be delayed. Medicare benefits to 65,000 Alaskans may be affected. More than 25,000 active duty Alaskan military personnel might have trouble getting paid on time.

These are the tip of the iceberg of potential problems for Alaskans if Congress fails to approve a new debt limit, and the federal government defaults on its financial obligations.

I can’t think of a more irresponsible predicament. That’s why I’m working every angle possible to pass a responsible federal budget which also sets a new debt limit.

Unless Congress acts before Aug. 2, the ramifications could set back our nation’s recovery from the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression.

It’s easy to point fingers at how we got here. Politicians from both political parties share blame for borrowing to pay for U.S. engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan, and extending tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. That alone cost the federal treasury $4 trillion.

In early 2009 to stimulate the economy, Congress and the Obama administration further increased the national debt by investing in public infrastructure and providing even more tax breaks.

Today, this nation is more than $14 trillion in the hole. Continued deficit spending slows economic growth and forces future generations to pay the bill.

Some in Washington intentionally mischaracterize the need to increase the federal borrowing limit as incurring new debt. That’s simply not true.

The ceiling on federal debt has been raised 74 times since it was established, including five times under President George W. Bush.

No less a fiscal conservative than President Ronald Reagan warned about serious consequences of failing to raise the federal debt limit in 1983, when he said: “The full consequences of a default or even the serious prospect of default by the United States are impossible to predict and awesome to contemplate. Denigration of the full faith and credit of the United States would have substantial effects on the domestic financial markets and on the value of the dollar in exchange markets.”

Now’s the time to make the politically painful but necessary choices to tackle the debt and put the nation on firmer financial footing. I favor an approach that achieves three simple goals: cut federal spending, grow jobs and the economy, and is fair and balanced for all Americans.

Cut spending: The Senate Budget Committee, of which I’m a member, just produced a plan to reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over 10 years. Its foundation is $1.2 trillion in cuts to virtually all federal agencies, plus savings in Defense which now represents nearly a fifth of all federal spending.

Our plan also protects Medicare, Social Security and veterans benefits while imposing a three-year freeze on congressional pay and cutting federal travel.

Create jobs: With the national jobless rate still above 9 percent, any deficit solution must continue the economic recovery. Our plan protects key investments in education, energy and infrastructure which are vital to help grow the economy. Overall spending would be reduced to the same level as during the Reagan administration.

Treat all Americans fairly: I favor a solution that’s balanced between cuts and new revenues so no group of Americans is singled out. A plan just passed by House Republicans is dubbed “cut, cap and balance.” In truth, that plan cuts Medicare and Social Security benefits for seniors while capping taxes for millionaires and billionaires, which isn’t balanced at all.

I’m working to repeal the tax give-away to the richest 1 percent while eliminating tax shelters and loopholes. I support simplifying  the tax code for working Americans, reducing tax brackets from six to three and encouraging small business expansion.

With much of Washington mired in partisan inaction, financial agencies already are looking to downgrade federal bonds. This means increased interest rates, raising the cost of mortgages, utility rates, food and gasoline.

Action is needed now to cut federal spending and grow our economy in a way that’s fair and balanced for all Americans and puts us on a course toward economic sustainability.

Mark Begich is the junior U.S. senator from Alaska.

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cheapersmokes 07/25/11 - 12:33 pm
How about this plan?

How about reducing the Federal pension payments to all retired members of Congress down to the poverty level since they contributed nothing to the fund and are the main cause of this massive debt with their out of control spending habits just to bring home some "pork projects" to ensure their reelection. The military has to serve for 20 years to retire at half pay so why should a member of Congress get full pay for serving only 6 years all the while taking money from every lobbyist they can find.

beckster 07/25/11 - 03:14 pm
Who are you trying to fool Mark?

I've read elsewhere that the foundation of the Senate's $4 trillion plan is pulling troops out of Iraq and Afganistan. Why not start today Senator? President Obama has said he supports the House plan to cut the social security cost of living allowance. It's currently zero, but you know that because you voted to keep the payments flat. Protect social security from who Senator? Treasury, Congress? The money going into the trust fund this month is more than enough to cover checks going out to seniors next month unless Guitner steals it to pay bills. Stop trying to scare our seniors, that's evil.

Capping Congress' pay and travel amounts to a pimple on a blue whale - not even worth mentioning. Going after the richest 1%, you mean like the hedge fund managers? The same managers you've been threatening to go after for the last three years. Why not do it today? Or are you going to wait until the end of the 9th year of the plan to collect that revenue?

Default on the debt? Only if Guitner or the President is stupid enough not to take 10% of the money coming in and pay the bill on the interest. Doubtful as the impeachment paperwork is already prepared if that happens.

Skip the next talking points letter and do something better with your time. I'd rather hear what you've done rather than what your going to do.

denali8 07/27/11 - 07:19 pm
they think we are all fools

they think we are all fools

bob99507 07/28/11 - 07:00 am

I would like to ask the junior senator if we are so short of money why are we picking up 25% of the tab for the United Nations?Why are we borrowing money from China so we can bail out Greece?But my main question to Begich is why don't you resign?

JOAT 07/28/11 - 07:10 am
Can anyone say, "used car salesman"?

So, in just 2 years they increased the federal deficit from $10,000,000,000,000 to over $14,000,000,000,000, but they now have a "plan" to bring it back down to what G.W.Bush left us, but it will take the next 10 years? Are you kidding? Most of these guys will not be in office in 10 years, so it sounds really nice to say you have a plan that far reaching, but the way the federal budget works, the longest they can actually work any given plan is 1 year. Then they have to make a brand new plan for the next year, etc. As the current administration only has 1.4 years left in office, this "plan" is all smoke and mirrors (I wonder what they're smoking).

When they say they have to pay for Iraq & Afghan... don't forget that they also have to pay for the new wars in Libya and Yemen that this administration has drug US into.

In the event that they act on the claim that they can't pay all of the government workers, who do you think will get paid first... Congress or members of the Military?

robert white
robert white 07/28/11 - 09:53 am
Mark Begich

Talks the talk but can't walk the walk. SS is covered into august, I wish mark would get facts straight. His election has already cost this state millions of dollars in earmarks that every other state got, why? he was asleep at the wheel. How can you expect a person to understand the complexity of american ecomonics with just a HS education... mind boggling...

lindalou12462 07/28/11 - 01:35 pm
As someone on social

As someone on Social Security, who's going to raise MY debt ceiling if I can't pay my bills? NOBODY!!!

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