Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sam Graves' 'straight talk,' clarified

Posted By on Tue, Feb 23, 2010 at 10:30 AM

click to enlarge Sam Graves
  • Sam Graves

Republican Congressman Sam Graves fancies himself a straight shooter. But on occasion his words need further unbending.

In a recent "Straight Talk With Sam" newsletter, Graves tried to explain why he can't support the bipartisan commission that will propose solutions for controlling the national debt. President Obama named co-chairs last week after an effort to create a commission fell short in the U.S. Senate.

In an essay titled "Congress Should Make the Tough Choices," Graves accused the president of usurping the Congress. Because if there's one institution the American people want to see operate with full authority, it's the Congress and its 18 percent approval rating.

Here's the full text of Graves' recent letter from Washington, with comments.


Last week, it was reported that a bipartisan group of people will study

the federal government's budget and make recommendations for spending

decreases and tax increases. At first glance, you might think they were

referring to the United States Congress. After all, that is what

Members of Congress are supposed to do.

Yeah, but they didn't.
The

President signed an executive order to create the National Commission

on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. The 18-member Commission will make

non-binding recommendations to Congress by December that are meant to

balance the budget by 2015.

The administration is finally bowing

to the reality that our country cannot sustain one trillion dollar

deficits year after year.

Sustaining $1 trillion deficits year

after year was never really the plan. After the stimulus years of 2009

and 2010, the deficit will fall below $1 trillion in 2011, according to

an independent analysis

of Obama's budget proposal last spring. But it's true that the U.S. is

on a course to borrow $9.3 trillion over the next decade.

Also worth noting: George W. Bush's policies, which Graves supported, account, by one reckoning, for one third of the $2 trillion swing between the budget surpluses envisioned when Bill Clinton left office and the deficits the U.S. will accumulate between 2009 and 2012.

The President said that everything would be on the table, including cuts to Medicare, Social Security and raising taxes.
What, there are other ideas?
There is no doubt that Washington needs to make tough choices about spending.
More precisely, Washington needs to make tough choices about entitlement programs. Discretionary spending -- such as the agriculture subsidies that Graves and his friends and family receive -- represents a substantially smaller portion of the total budget today than it did in 1970.
These choices will have an impact on every community and state. That is why Congress, elected by the people, should be the ones to make those

decisions. The whole reason we elect a Congress and President is to

make tough choices on behalf of their constituents.


I am concerned that this Commission will recommend small cuts and large tax increases. That would be the wrong way to go. Congress has not made

any tough choices when it comes to spending.

It's true that our political system has become allergic to hard decisions. But, again, to suggest that welfare, high-speed rail or, yes, farm subsidies are the problem is misleading. Mandatory spending, such as Medicare, is where the budgetary time bombs lie. Of course, during the health-care debate, Republicans demagogued possible reforms by making attempts to rein in Medicare's future costs sound big and scary.

Instead, it has simply taxed and borrowed more and more.

Total federal tax receipts, as a percentage of the gross domestic product
1980: 19.0%
1990: 18.0%
2000: 20.6%
2009: 14.8%
(Source: Office of Management and Budget)

Congress should not wait for a Commission; it should begin making tough spending choices today.

Sincerely,

Sam Graves

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