Dem Senate candidates talk about federal debt
‘We cannot force American workers, the elderly, the poor and the sick to shoulder the burden alone,’ Martin Heinrich says; Hector Balderas says, ‘Now is the time to invest in education, infrastructure and renewable energy.’
Martin Heinrich supports pay-as-you-go budgeting and more transparency and accountability in spending to deal with the nation’s deficit, while Hector Balderas says the United States must invest in education and other programs to boost the economy before working to reduce the deficit.
Both Democratic U.S. Senate candidates say the wealthiest Americans should pay more in taxes. Heinrich said he supports ending the Bush tax cuts “for millionaires and billionaires.”
“We cannot force American workers, the elderly, the poor and the sick to shoulder the burden alone while the wealthy get wealthier,” he said.
In addition to ending the Bush tax cuts, Balderas said he supports implementation of the Buffett Rule – which would apply a minimum tax rate of 30 percent on those who make more than $1 million a year – and ending a loophole that allows individuals and corporations to avoid taxes by keeping money overseas.
The state auditor said such revenue-raisers should be coupled with efforts to combat fraud, waste and abuse, saying, for example, “reducing improper Medicare and Medicaid payments alone could save roughly $70 billion a year.”
Heinrich pointed out that he has fought to reinstate “pay-as-you-go” budgeting as a member of the U.S. House, and he said the United States must “demand transparency and accountability to guarantee all taxpayer money is used properly and that redundancies within the federal government are eliminated.” He cited his vote against the alternate F-35 engine that the Obama administration “does not want nor need” as an example.
To reduce spending, Heinrich also said it’s also time to bring American soldiers home from Afghanistan.
Before focusing on reducing the deficit, Balderas said, the federal government must work to create jobs and return revenue to “normal levels.”
“Until we solidify our economic foundation, we cannot cut back on federal assistance to states or funding for programs and initiatives that help the middle class,” he said. “Now is the time to invest in education, infrastructure and renewable energy.”
The Democratic U.S. Senate candidates made their comments in response to questions from NMPolitics.net about the economy. NMPolitics.net gave them no word minimum or limit, telling them to say what they had to say. The only criterion was that they not engage in personal attacks.
Here are the questions NMPolitics.net asked:
- The United States’ debt has become a major issue – politically and otherwise – in recent years, especially as nations like Greece, Italy and Portugal struggle to deal with overwhelming problems. How serious is the problem in the United States?
- What specific funding cuts and/or revenue increases will you support to get the problem under control?
- What policy changes, if any, are needed to address the problem?
Their responses, published in their entirety:
“New Mexicans can all agree that our nation’s large and unsustainable budget deficit must be addressed. But the approach we take must focus on responsible cuts, which will have a lasting impact on the deficit. How we fund our government is an expression of our collective ambition. We cannot force American workers, the elderly, the poor and the sick to shoulder the burden alone while the wealthy get wealthier.
“We need to end the Bush tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires, reinforce our commitment to PAYGO, and eliminate waste, duplication and inefficiencies within the federal government. It’s also time for our brave service men and women in Afghanistan to come home to their families.
“I fought to reinstate ‘pay-as-you-go’ (PAYGO) budget discipline in Congress, which is based on the simple principle of paying for what we buy. Used in the 1990s, PAYGO helped turn massive deficits into record surpluses.
“Finally, we must demand transparency and accountability to guarantee all taxpayer money is used properly and that redundancies within the federal government are eliminated. That is why I voted for an amendment to cut $450 million for the alternate F-35 engine, saving an estimated $3 billion to complete development and begin initial production over the lifetime of the contract. The Administration does not want nor need the extra engine.
“The act of cutting the deficit and reducing government spending is not easy, but will result in a stronger middle class and a brighter future for our children.”
“The greatest threats to our long-term solvency are a weak economy, an under-skilled workforce, and a lack of creative and entrepreneurial thinking. Congress impairs our ability to responsibly control the debt when it fails to respond to the jobs crisis in a meaningful way by investing in programs that will drive the future. Until we solidify our economic foundation, we cannot cut back on federal assistance to states or funding for programs and initiatives that help the middle class. Now is the time to invest in education, infrastructure and renewable energy.
“Investments in education, above all, provide the necessary fuel for long-term economic growth and deficit reduction. Everyone benefits when creative and skilled thinkers bring new ideas to the marketplace and start new businesses. We cannot starve our schools of the resources necessary to prepare students for this type of leadership in the global economy. The numbers alone also tell us that education gives rise to deficit reduction: Students who complete high school and college enjoy far more earning power while requiring fewer government resources.
“When economic growth does return to our country at a livelier pace – that is, when American workers have jobs and the government’s revenues return to normal levels – then it is the time to begin reducing the deficit. When that time comes, we must be careful not to succumb to knee-jerk plans that harshly cut the nation’s safety net and its support for the middle class. Such draconian measures would undermine our long-term economic growth, which is the greatest factor in our ability to manage our debt over the long run. Instead, we must take a balanced approach that combines increasing revenues and eradicating the fraud, waste, and abuse in many of our programs. For example, reducing improper Medicare and Medicaid payments alone could save roughly $70 billion a year.
“First, we must end the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Doing so would save billions of dollars. Additionally, implementation of the Buffett rule, which would ensure that the highest earners pay the same tax rates as the middle class, would further save the federal government $45 billion over the next ten years. We also have to make sure that wealthy individuals and corporations cannot evade paying their fair share by hiding money overseas. According to a recently released U.S. PIRG study, the United States loses out on $100 billion per year from this tax loophole, unfairly burdening the rest of us who do pay our taxes. New Mexicans alone shoulder approximately $300 million of this burden. Making sure that our government programs are run in an efficient, cost-effective manner will be another priority of mine. Allowing Medicare to negotiate prices for prescription drugs, for example, would help us drive down health care costs by hundreds of billions of dollars. I support policies like these because they are commonsense methods of reducing the deficit in a responsible manner.
“Ultimately, it is vital that we keep in mind future generations and the country they will inherit. When I think of my children and other New Mexican families’ children, I know that it is our responsibility to provide them with all the opportunities of a robust 21st Century economy. Any debt-reduction package that does otherwise is simply irresponsible. As New Mexico’s senator, I will work to help repair our economy and fight for safe, responsible debt-reduction strategies.”
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