Plans Now Afoot to Bank, Not Deploy, More Taxpayer $
Lashing out at those in Congress who put ideology ahead of pragmatic problem solving, U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly was animated and colorful in his remarks to a joint luncheon meeting of the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce and the Merrifield Business Association Tuesday.
Connolly said that it amounts to “a criminal dereliction of duty” for any elected official to avoid job creating measures in the current economy.
There must not be, he added, those in Congress who say, “I choose not to believe,” in the face of empirical data, zeroing in on the Tea Party-backed legislators who have taken “no tax hike” pledges.
Their threats to disallow a rise in the national debt ceiling was “reckless and irresponsible” and “did damage to the U.S.,” contributing to the downgrading of the U.S. debt by Standard and Poors, who cited the Congressional impasse as a reason for their action.
“I come out of local government” Connolly told the business leaders, noting his service as the Providence District supervisor and then Fairfax County-wide board chair prior to getting elected to Congress in 2008. “When you are in local government, you are forced to be pragmatic. It’s all about filling pot holes, providing for schools and lowering the crime rate.”
“There is a lot of accountability at the local level, and you are forced to focus on results,” he said, contrasting that to the detached ideological decisions of the right wing in the U.S. Congress, those who have signed “no tax” pledges that function like the Sword of Damocles handing over their heads.
He looked to the Nov. 18 date when the so-called “super committee” of 12 House and Senate representatives must find a way to close a $1.2 trillion gap between revenues and expenditures in the federal government.
If an agreement is not reached by that date, it will trigger an automatic sequestration of $1.2 trillion in budget cuts over 10 years, half from discretionary programs and half from defense.
However, there needs to be not only spending cuts, but revenue enhancements (added tax revenues) to avoid a “dire result,” Connolly said, and the Republicans expressed no intention to allow any new revenue.
He said that with a failure to invest in national infrastructure, for example, “China is going to clean our clock,” because in China, India and other economies, no expense is being spared from developing high speed “bullet” trains, subways and other modes of enhancing their economic growth. By contrast, right now the U.S. is “net disinvesting in a crumbling national infrastructure.”
But, he said, “investment does not come free,” and the current situation, where taxes represent only 15 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP), is “way too low.” He noted that under President Clinton, the rate was 21 percent of GDP, the nation experienced four consecutive years of balanced budgets and was on a glide path for eliminating all of its debt for the first time since the 1830s, and only the second time in the nation’s history.
He noted how, in 1952, Republican president Eisenhower signed the Interstate Highway System Act, with the support of Republican Sen. Prescott Bush, that built a U.S. national infrastructure to spur 50 years of a “competitive edge” for the U.S.
Such as they would be “drummed out of the Republican Party today,” Connolly mused. “Today, they don’t realize that not all spending is the same.”
At the point federal stimulus dollars under Obama went to the U.S. advanced lithium battery industry, the U.S. produced only two percent of the world’s share, but now it produces 40 percent, he pointed out.
Connolly predicted that some parts of the jobs program outlined by President Obama earlier this week would get passed in Congress, although the Republicans have pledged to hang it up on revenue.
Obama was “very effective” in his remarks, Connolly said. “He pushed the envelope but didn’t ask for the sun, moon and stars, while insisting that we have to do something about jobs, and we can’t wait another 14 months.”
Connolly reiterated his opposition to some elements of Obama’s plan, such as capping mortgage interest deductions and capping charitable giving, but favored its “broad thrust.”
He said that Democrats “hopefully not allow themselves to be stampeded” on the issues of Social Security and Medicare. He said there are ways to introduce gradual reforms – such as increasing the retirement age of those now in their 20s – that will keep the system solvent for the next 50 to 75 years without a problem.
He debunked the GOP charge that Obama’s plan to raise taxes on the wealthiest is tantamount to “class warfare.”
“The last thing in the world it is is ‘class warfare,'” he intoned. “Is Warren Buffet, the second wealthiest man in the U.S., engaging in class warfare when he says it is unfair that he pays taxes at a lower rate than his secretary?”
“It’s about paying a fair share,” he said, noting the median household income has dropped over the last decade in the middle class, where it has skyrocketed for the top five percent.
Connolly said that he opposed the idea of removing the Bush tax cut for those earning above $250,000 a year last December, in favor of a temporary extension. But he said that the “Buffet Rule” notion of raising taxes for those earning over $1 million a year “is not a bad cut off point.”
Finally, Connolly chided Sarah Palin for claiming that Northern Virginia is “cushioned from the real world” because of its ability to function on federal dollars. “Alaska, where Sarah Palin was governor until she resigned, is the Number One state in the union in federal spending. If it wasn’t for federal money, Alaska would be nothing more than a refrigerator. Federal money paid for airports, buildings, roads, everything there. On its own, Alaska would not be a viable economic entity. Its population is half that of Fairfax County.”
But he cited Palin’s comment as typical of those who prefer ideology to facts.
“In reality, we are a knowledge, technology, federal employee and federal contractor-based economy, and I serve the wealthiest congressional district out of 435 in the U.S.,” he said.