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Debt ceiling ideas differ
Among the area's congressmen
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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

By ASHLEY JACKSON - Bulletin Staff Writer

Virginia's congressmen have different ideas on dealing with the approaching deadline to raise the debt ceiling and on reducing government spending.

Sen. Mark R. Warner, D-Va., wrote in The Washington Post last week that the debt ceiling must be raised, and to do that, "both sides will have to give ground." Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., supports raising revenues, but not by hiking taxes on "ordinary, earned income."�

In the House of Representatives, both Reps. Robert Hurt and Morgan Griffith say they would support hiking the debt ceiling only if spending is cut dramatically and other changes are implemented.

Warner noted that business leaders have told him that "failing to raise the debt ceiling will increase interest rates, gut consumer confidence and drag down business investment and job creation. Every one-point increase in interest rates increases the national debt by $1.3 trillion over a 10-year period, and who knows how much rates could increase," he wrote in The Washington Post on July 6.

He wrote that federal spending is at a high of 25 percent of GDP (gross domestic product, or the output of goods and services in the country), and government revenue is about 15 percent of GDP, a 60-year low.

"It doesn't take an MBA to recognize that the only way to close that gap and restore fiscal stability is to attack both sides of the ledger. We must cut spending, including defense and entitlements, and we must find reasonable ways to increase revenue," he added.

Warner continued: "We need to raise the debt ceiling and ignore irresponsible politicians who would let us default. To regain fiscal health, we need a plan that cuts our debt by at least $4 trillion. It can achieve that only with spending cuts and greater revenue."�

Webb wants to see that revenue raised by other means, such as ending costly subsidies and tax loopholes or adjusting such measures as capital gains.

"Over the past four years, I have supported numerous proposals toward that end. I have introduced legislation to close the "˜carried interest' tax loophole which allows hedge fund managers' income to be taxed at low capital gains rates rather than as regular income. I have sponsored legislation to eliminate counterproductive ethanol subsidies. I have repeatedly voted to end costly agricultural subsidies which primarily benefit a few corporate food producers," Webb said in a news release.

"Taken together, such provisions could reduce the federal deficit by hundreds of billions of dollars and restore a measure of fairness to the tax code," he added.

Fifth District U.S. Rep. Hurt, R-Chatham, said he would be willing to consider raising the debt ceiling only if the White House and Congress agree on spending caps, a balanced budget amendment and significant short-term cuts.

"We don't need new taxes, we don't need more spending, we don't need more debt," Hurt said in a phone interview Tuesday. "If we don't get the spending under control, we are never going to get our deficit under control."�

"The American people understand that we didn't rack up a $14 trillion debt by not taxing enough," he added.

Hurt does not agree that if the debt ceiling is not raised, the nation will default.

"... It just means that we must cut spending" to pay the money back, he said.

"If we are not going to put our foot down now (to excessive government spending), then when are we going to do it?," he said. "Our children's and grandchildren's future depends on us getting it right."�

Ninth District U.S. Rep. Griffith, R-Salem, said Tuesday that he doesn't support raising taxes, and he would only support raising the debt ceiling if there are "significant cuts in the budget and significant changes in the way Washington does business."�

"We need to worry about fixing the debt problem first and worry about the default issue later," he said. "We don't have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem."�

Griffith favors a balanced budget amendment. "It would force the federal government to live within its means," he said.

He added that he is not supporting anything that would not help balance the budget in 10 years or less.

"I am a co-sponsor of two proposed amendments introduced by Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), which would require that total spending for any fiscal year not exceed total receipts, unless authorized by a greater vote than is currently required by law," Griffith wrote in a periodic column to newspapers in his district.

"Most states, including Virginia, have some form of a balanced budget provision. As majority leader in the Virginia House of Delegates, I have seen firsthand how a balanced budget works. In the bad times, we knew we had to make the cuts," he wrote.

In 1995, a balanced budget amendment failed to pass Congress by one vote in the Senate, Griffith wrote.

Now, he said, "We have the chance to pass the kind of systemic spending reform we need if the Senate is willing to stand with the House and fight to fix our spending problem."�

Some local residents are concerned with the debt issue and government spending.

"They should not extend it (the debt limit)," said Ronnie Eggleston of Fieldale on Tuesday while eating lunch at Liberty Fair Mall. "I'm all for cutting spending - there is entirely too much waste.

"The country needs to start living in its own means, like I have to," he said.

"I'm not sure what they should do, but Medicare and Medicaid should be addressed," Eggleston said, adding that he thinks the government probably will have to raise the Medicare eligibility age to 67 years.

He said people should start "taking care of themselves" and not rely on the government to support them because the country can't afford it. People wanting handouts "is taking over our society," he said.

One possible remedy to the debt issue is to raise taxes, but Eggleston said, "It is a bad time to raise taxes."�

He added that "a balanced budget amendment should be done right away."�

Robert Soper of Martinsville also said he feels the debt limit should not be extended.

"We don't have a debt crisis, we have a spending crisis," he said on Tuesday after shopping at Wal-Mart.

"We should cut programs that are useless," Soper said. "These programs need to be absolutely cut, but we can't with our society."�


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