I wrote to my Representative Sam Graves a few days ago asking him to stop holding the middle class tax cuts hostage. He sent back a pretty boilerplate letter, which I have cut and pasted below the fold.
Here is my response to his boilerplate.
While I agree that there are serious issues with our tax code, and the deficit is indeed a problem, as a computer programmer I feel that you are in error in your approach to these issues.
The first rule of programming is to break the problem down into manageable parts, and the first part of these issues that needs to be addressed is the middle class tax cuts. I am fortunate to have a good job, so fortunate that these tax increases in income tax and FICA are going to cost me somewhere around $6000.00 next year. That means that I can't afford to replace my 10 year old car, since that $500.00/month would be my car payment.
So that's one car that won't be sold next year because the Republicans are holding that $6000 hostage in an effort to solve the entire universe of problems in some 'grand bargain'.
Fix the pieces that are fixable and worry about the rest in small chunks that are manageable and easy to explain to the public.
You want to improve the public perception of the Republican party? Start acting like people who are actually concerned about the common good, and less concerned about what party is in power.
I would much rather see 100 pieces of legislation that address 100 specific problems, rather than one huge omnibus bill that is impossible to understand, let alone implement.
Thank you for your time,
December 13, 2012
Mr. Paul McNary
Thank you for contacting me regarding the budget and the impending "fiscal cliff." I appreciate hearing from you on this vital issue and welcome the opportunity to respond.
Over the past two decades, various independent events and policy decisions have compounded to create a federal deficit problem unlike any this country has faced since its inception. While each party must hold some responsibility for allowing our nation's debt to reach such a precarious and potentially devastating level, we must now come together as Americans and say no more to the reckless spending ways of the past.
As spending cuts should be Congress' top priority in any deficit-reduction negotiations, I believe that we can raise federal revenues through tax reform and by eliminating loopholes, not singularly focusing on raising rates on one particular segment of the American population. I support comprehensive tax reform – including the institution of a national consumption tax – that will lower rates, eliminate tax deductions and add some much needed certainty to the market. If we can create familiarity with the tax code and implement something that more Americans will understand and be able to comply with, we can simultaneously stimulate the economy and increase the revenue the federal government collects on an annual basis.
In the end, I believe the real solution to our nation's budget problems is to hold the line on spending and force the government to live within its means. We must examine all areas of the federal budget, including defense, for waste and inefficiencies, as massive national debt and trillion dollar-yearly deficits pose a tremendous threat to America's long-term security. This is why I support a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution. Many states are required to balance their budget each year and those that do often have lower taxes and less intrusive government than states that deficit spend.
I also favor the appointment of a special bipartisan sunset commission that would make recommendations regarding the utility of government programs. In Congress, there is no such thing as a temporary tax or temporary government program. Our budget is littered with hundreds of programs and spending line items enacted years or decades ago that have long since outlived their usefulness. A sunset commission not only provides a means of identifying such programs, but can help consolidate duplicative programs and identify waste as well.
Also critical to any serious discussions on deficit reduction is the effort to reform and protect Social Security and Medicare for the long-term. These programs are not entitlements, as they are often referred, but rather contracts between the federal government and the American people that must be honored. However, claims that Social Security and Medicare do not contribute to the federal deficit are simply not true, and those in Washington who choose to perpetuate these fallacies are flat out ignoring the enormity of the problems we face. Although each system is financed primarily through taxes and co-pays, Social Security's expenditures exceeded non-interest income in both 2010 and 2011 for the first time since 1983, while Medicare faces a $75 trillion long-term unfunded liability. According to the non-partisan Social Security and Medicare Boards of Trustees, which, among others, includes various members of President Obama's cabinet, "Projected long-range costs... are not sustainable under currently scheduled financing and will require legislative action to avoid disruptive consequences... If lawmakers act sooner rather than later, they can consider more options... [give] the public adequate time to prepare" and "also help avoid adverse impacts on vulnerable populations."
Estimates for Fiscal Year 2013 spending project Social Security and Medicare to account for approximately 35 percent of this year's federal budget, or $1.343 trillion in total funding. Despite the enormity of the current price tag, the cost of these programs will continue to rise as 20 percent of our population reaches the age of 65 or older by 2035. Congress must consider real, meaningful reforms to ensure those who have paid into the system throughout their lives will receive the benefits they were promised, and to preserve the programs for future generations of Americans. We must remember that current members of the workforce help finance Social Security and Medicare for today's seniors in the same way this older generation funded a majority of the benefits for the generation preceding it. I want my three children to one day be able to take advantage of the great protections these programs provide, but this will only be possible if we as Americans are willing to make the tough decisions to restore solvency to Social Security and Medicare.
I believe that a combination of various proposals can help make this goal a reality, including gradually raising the age of eligibility on future generations and instituting forms of means testing for beneficiaries, among others. Let me be clear, however, that I will strongly reject any proposals that modify or reform benefits for those currently enrolled in or closely approaching the eligible age for these programs. I also believe that before any substantial changes are made to these programs, Congress needs to hold public hearings, allow public input, and provide the American people with full transparency. These crucial decisions should not be made behind closed doors or hastily thrown into legislation at the last minute.
Finally, and worth repeating, the United States should do something about our inefficient and intrusive tax code. According to the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) own estimates, approximately $350 billion in taxes owed to the government goes uncollected each year due to non-compliance with the tax code. At more than 54,000 pages, it's the tax codes complexity that provides those with the motive to cheat the system with the means to do so. The President's Commission on tax reform also estimates that it costs Americans more than $200 billion in order to comply with the tax code and that our economy loses a potential $1 trillion in economic activity every year due to its complexities. We should scrap this code and replace it with one that is simple, fair and more conducive to economic growth. Our nation also has the industrialized world's highest corporate tax rate, which compromises American businesses' ability to compete globally and must be addressed in our discussion to comprehensively reform the tax code.
As Chairman of the House Small Business Committee, I understand that government taxation and overregulation hinder business growth and job creation. I firmly believe that small businesses and the innovation of American citizens are the keys to improving the economy – not the Federal government. And by forcing government to live within its means, keeping taxes low, and inciting certainty in our markets and confidence in our government, we can help create an environment for businesses of all varieties to thrive.
Once again, thank you for contacting me. Please know I will fight to ensure Congress addresses the critical problems facing our nation rather than pushing them aside for our children and grandchildren to bear, and rest assured I will continue advocating for serious but prudent budget reforms in response to the impending "fiscal cliff." If you have any further questions regarding this or any other matter, please do not hesitate to contact my office at (202)-225-7041 or visit my website at www.house.gov/graves.