Former Idaho congressman Walt Minnick has weighed into the federal debt debate. In a guest opinion today, Minnick blamed extremists in both parties for torpedoing a deal to cut the deficit by $4 trillion over 10 years.
Tea party Republicans refused to sign on, preferring to protect "egregious" tax loopholes, said Minnick, a Democrat who was elected in Idaho's 1st Congressional District in 2008 before losing in 2010. Minnick also blamed liberal Democrats for resisting "modest changes" to Medicare.
Minnick also touted the "Gang of Six" deficit plan co-authored by Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and five Senate colleagues. "Yes, we must raise the debt ceiling so we can pay our existing bills, but let’s do so by enacting fundamental reform like that advocated by the Gang of Six, which sets the nation on a fiscally responsible course for less federal government debt and renewed private sector growth."
P.S.: In case you were wondering, Minnick told me in an e-mail today that he has no intention of again running for office."
Here, in full, is the Minnick guest opinion:
Does any serious person believe the United States should cease or delay paying its debts? Social Security? Military retirement? Only in Washington, D.C., where extremists in both parties torpedoed a bipartisan agreement between President Barack Obama and Republican House Speaker John Boehner to cut the deficit over 10 years by $4 trillion by slashing government spending, reforming entitlements and closing tax loopholes while simultaneously reducing federal tax rates.
Sensible Republican House leaders who understand the need for compromise, including my former colleague, Mike Simpson, were unable to sell this agreement to their tea party base because it closed some of the most egregious tax loopholes like those which enable hedge fund billionaires and General Electric to pay little or no taxes on their annual earnings. Liberal Democrats also balked, refusing to make even modest changes to Medicare, such as charging wealthy seniors slightly higher premiums.
As a consequence of this failure the nation is now teetering only days away from default. A financial catastrophe which would dramatically raise interest rates on everything from credit cards to home mortgages, cause a sharp drop in the value of the dollar and cost the country perhaps millions of additional lost jobs. All because too many in Congress believe “my way or the highway” is superior to splitting the difference and compromise.
Let’s not just kick the can down the road until after the next election with a weak smoke-and-mirrors solution to the debt ceiling impasse, like those fallback plans now being discussed, which kowtow to the extremes but once again fail to solve the growing deficit problem. Instead, let’s use the crisis to adopt a tough-minded debt control compromise like that hammered out by “The Gang of Six,” a group of three Republican and three Democratic senators led by our own Mike Crapo, after nearly a year of difficult give-and-take negotiation between senators representing every part of the political spectrum. Waiting just makes the problem harder — and the solution more painful.
The Gang of Six proposal would reduce or eliminate many of the tax expenditures and loopholes, which cost the government over $1 trillion per year, using the bulk of that revenue to cut federal income tax rates dramatically and just a little to reduce the deficit. The plan would eliminate the feared Alternative Minimum Tax forever and bring down the highest individual and corporate federal tax rates to 23 percent — less than at any time since the lowest rates of the Reagan administration. It would make our corporate tax rate again comparable to those of our foreign competitors and tax business only on its U.S. income, reducing the incentive for American companies to ship American jobs overseas.
In addition to much-needed fundamental income tax reform, the Gang of Six proposal modifies both Medicare and Social Security in ways to protect the benefits of those currently retired while ensuring that both programs will be solvent for the next generation. Most importantly, it attacks the deficit head-on by making meaningful cuts in virtually all federal expenditures, including formerly “sacred cows” like defense and farm subsidies, slashing $3 of federal spending for every $1 of new revenues.
Like Greece, whose economy crashed because it kept borrowing to expand government spending until international bankers refused to lend, the time has come for the United States to face up to the reality that our federal government must stop spending ever more borrowed money that our children will have to repay. To avoid collapsing like Greece, we must act now — in the next few days, not after the next election — to make the hard fiscal decisions which will allow us to live within our means.
Yes, we must raise the debt ceiling so we can pay our existing bills, but let’s do so by enacting fundamental reform like that advocated by the Gang of Six, which sets the nation on a fiscally responsible course for less federal government debt and renewed private sector growth. Demand all of our members in Congress agree to compromise their differences, work with the president and stop acting like children.