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U.S. National Debt:

Failing At Its Business

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

It is a basic concept - stay until the work is complete. In fact, Congress has a responsibility to establish the federal budget every year, but yet again failed to do so and did not complete its work. Worse, before departing, Congress passed a stopgap measure extending recent double-digit increases in funding for federal agencies. I opposed this measure because such increases are irresponsible, and Congress needs to stay and focus on the needs of American families.

Out of control federal spending must be reined in, trillions of dollars in tax increases on American families must be prevented from taking effect in a few weeks and unreasonable government mandates negatively impacting America's small businesses and economic recovery must be curbed. This includes keeping the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from unilaterally regulating greenhouse gases and enacting legislation to enable Idaho to manage gray wolves at the state level. Congressional leadership instead misspent months on bailouts, federal government takeovers, stimulus packages and a health care law driving up federal spending. Then, Congress departed without establishing a budget, without enacting any of the required annual-government funding measures and failing to halt job stifling tax hikes while there is a nearly ten percent unemployment rate.

Without congressional action by January, every American taxpayer will immediately face higher taxes and smaller paychecks. The Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) will be imposed on 26 million middle-income Americans. Marriage tax penalties will be reinstated, and the child tax credit will be cut in half. The death tax on family businesses will increase from zero to fifty-five percent. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, half of all small business income will face higher taxes. Based on expert analysis, businesses employing less than 250 employees and approximately twenty-five percent of the American workforce are the most likely to be subjected to the tax increases. The tax increases could smother job creation, as the U.S. Small Business Administration estimates that two-thirds of all new jobs are created by small businesses.

I cosponsored the Tax Hike Prevention Act to prevent these tax hikes from taking effect. The legislation would make permanent individual income tax relief, continue the elimination of marriage income tax penalties, maintain a robust child tax credit and increase the AMT exemption to reduce the number of American families affected. Additionally, the bill would provide a thirty-five percent estate tax rate with a $5 million per-individual exemption and a stepped-up basis for inherited assets. Unfortunately, this common sense legislation was not passed before Congress was sent home.

Therefore, taxes on all Americans are slated to go up, while the federal government fails to reduce out of control spending. U.S. debt has swelled by more than $2.8 trillion since January 2009 to more than $13.5 trillion. This increase adds up to nearly $24,000 per-household. Unsustainable federal spending amounts to inter-generational theft, as it will bankrupt future generations. Entitlement programs are an $81 trillion liability that may soon be insolvent. Immediate focus on entitlement programs is imperative to truly rein in federal spending and address expected program shortfalls.

Failing to address federal spending and tax policy creates overwhelming uncertainty for Americans trying to make sound financial decisions and threatens our fiscal standing. Understandably, many small businesses facing this ambiguity are reluctant to invest, expand and hire, which impacts our nation's economic recovery. Congress should have stayed at work, finished the job and eliminated this unnecessary and stifling confusion.

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