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U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre says constituents across the 7th Congressional District are reaching out with their individual solutions to and worries about the “fiscal cliff” that leaders in our nation’s capital may well be workshopping over the holidays ahead.
But the congressman said he’s among officials concerned that a bipartisan agreement won’t come before the end of the 112th Congress, and he noted this week the failure to reach an agreement and implement careful deficit reduction “could have very negative consequences for our economic and national security.”
The Lumberton Democrat, in response to cliff-related questions from Port City Daily, said he joined a number of colleagues recently in signing a letter to House Speaker John Boehner and other leaders in the chamber “to urge them (to) include a long-term, comprehensive deficit reduction plan that also protects Medicare and social security, and to emphasize that savings from various areas of the national budget and real reform of our tax system will be necessary to stabilize our debt and assure America’s fiscal and economic well-being.
“Ensuring that each and every federal dollar is invested wisely should be at the core of these discussions,” McIntyre said.
But Boehner, in an address streamed over the Internet Thursday, reiterated his view that President Obama isn’t working with Republicans’ spending-cut approach and that the White House “is so unserious about cutting spending that it appears willing to slow-walk any agreement and walk our economy right up to the fiscal cliff.”
The speaker acknowledged the importance of revenue growth, but not without a central focus on reduced spending.
“Spending is the problem,” Boehner said. “Republicans want to solve this problem by getting the spending line down.”
As the U.S. rings in the New Year, a massive medley of federal tax breaks–including the 2001 and 2003 “Bush tax cuts” and 2-percent payroll tax “holiday”–is set to expire. At the same time, $109 billion in spending cuts are to begin. Together, they make up what commentators are calling the “fiscal cliff.”
The effect would be a deficit reduction that may amount to $560 billion in 2012-2013, or a few percentage points of gross domestic product, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which projects a subsequent recession in the first half of the new year.
“The resulting weakening of the economy will lower taxable incomes and raise unemployment, generating a reduction in tax revenues and an increase in spending on such items as unemployment insurance,” CBO said in a report issued in May, well before the matter received hot light.
To the Obama administration, the top 2 percent of earners can handle the tax-break expirations and would be a fair source of revenue. He wants to preserve the breaks for America’s remaining 98 percent.
“What is required is agreement by Republicans to some specific revenues that includes raising rates on the highest earners,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said during a briefing Tuesday.
Third Congressional District Republican Walter Jones, however, says raising more money to spend isn’t the key solution and that the president hasn’t offered enough in the way of cuts.
“America is broke because Washington spends too much,” said Jones, whose eastern North Carolina district now includes a chunk of New Hanover County and most of Pender County, both of which used to fall entirely in McIntyre’s district.
His ideas of responsible spending cuts include eliminating foreign aid and the U.S. Department of Education, ending bailouts for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, repealing the Affordable Care Act, reworking entitlements, “and stopping the war in Afghanistan. The administration would be well advised to consider these,” said Jones.
Obama’s latest proposal to Republicans included $1.4 trillion in new tax revenue. Although that’s down from the $1.6 trillion noted in a November version from the president, Boehner and fellow Republicans have said that’s still too much.
Carney, speaking generally of compromise Tuesday, said Obama “has said that he’s not wedded to every detail in this plan and that he understands that compromise requires all sides to accept something short of the ideal, and he’s committed to doing that.”
Americans can’t expect a play-by-play of the negotiations, though, Carney said: “… what we’re not going to do is give a daily or hourly assessment of whether or not progress is being made, or what specific items are being discussed, because we don’t think that’s fruitful or helpful towards achieving the goal that we think we all share, which is reaching a compromise that Congress can pass and the president can sign into law.”
Boehner, during a House-floor address Tuesday, assured he’s ultimately an “optimist. I’m hopeful that we can reach an agreement.”
McIntyre says the time is now.
“While there have been divisions in the past about how to solve this difficult challenge, the time is now to move forward with a bipartisan, common-sense solution,” he said. “Constituents from all across eastern North Carolina have contacted our office with varying views on what they believe is the best course of action. Please be assured that I am reviewing and listening to their concerns about this critical issue.”