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Debt panel's failure frustrates Jay, Manchin, Capito

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia members of Congress expressed frustration Tuesday after the supercommittee failed to agree on any plans to reduce the nation's $15 trillion debt. They said they'll keep trying, and noted that some cuts have already been made.

"The debate in Washington on our long-term fiscal outlook is far from over," said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va. "I want West Virginians to know that Congress has taken important steps this year to address our debt situation by cutting billions from the budget while still trying to protect the middle class.

"The Budget Control Act immediately cut $917 billion over the next decade and includes additional automatic across-the-board spending cuts of $1.2 trillion starting in 2013," Rockefeller said Tuesday.

The Congressional Budget Office, a nonpartisan federal agency, recently reported the national debt would decrease significantly if those spending cuts are maintained and the Bush-era tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003 for wealthy Americans are permitted to expire.

In December 2010, the Obama administration agreed to renew the Bush tax cuts for two years.

Rockefeller said the CBO "told us that if we maintain these spending cuts, and avoid spending $1 trillion extending the Bush tax cuts for wealthy Americans [over the next decade], then our debt will be at a level most economists consider to be healthy by 2021."

Rockefeller believes Congress "must enact a tax policy that reverses the deep divide between the very rich and everyone else, protects West Virginians from harmful cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, and makes sure Social Security is not jeopardized for current or future generations of retirees."

Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., expressed "frustration and disappointment" that the debt committee did not reach a deal to reduce the federal deficit by $1.2 trillion.

"The last few years have been hard on everyone, from the senior on a fixed income who hasn't received a [cost-of-living increase], to the small-business owner who feels crushed by regulatory uncertainty, to the neighbor who wants a job but can't find one.

"Our debt is about to take over the size of our economy.  Our credit rating has already been downgraded once. Fourteen million of our neighbors can't find jobs," Capito said. "We have no choice -- we cannot walk away from these challenges."

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., expressed his disappointment in an earlier statement released Monday.

"America is facing a bleak fiscal picture, with our national debt exceeding $15 trillion for the first time in history and projected to hit $21 trillion in 2021."

Rising interest on our national debt, Manchin said, could reach the level of our current defense spending in 10 years.

Earlier this year, the Economic Policy Institute, an independent Washington-based think tank, published a paper by Rebecca Theiss about factors causing the growing budget deficit.

The Bush-era tax cuts, Theiss wrote, are creating 19 percent of the current deficit.

"Spending on the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and other overseas operations represent another 15 percent of the projected 2010 deficit," she wrote.

Federal economic recovery efforts, such as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, account for 16 percent of the current deficit, Theiss said. But that calculation, she added, could be overstated since those federal expenditures employed millions of workers who now pay taxes on their salaries in the United States.

Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjnyden@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.

 


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