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U.S. National Debt:

Focus Must Be On Jobs, Economic Recovery

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

Like many, I watched with great interest President Obama's recent State of the Union Address, in which he outlined his priorities.  Fiscal reform and economic growth should top the list of priorities for the President and Congress over the next four years.  The debt crisis is the most pressing issue facing our nation today.  In the midst of this crisis, the President and Congress have the opportunity to reform our badly broken tax system, address the federal spending problem and promote a sustainable economic recovery that will result in increased jobs.

Over the last four years, our national debt has increased $6 trillion to $16.5 trillion.  This spending spree must stop.  The President claims the actions taken in the last two years have nearly solved our fiscal crisis.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  The Congressional Budget Office recently issued a report stating that the United States is on an unsustainable fiscal path, pointing to spending as the cause.  Without a course correction, rising spending will fuel a $9 trillion increase in the gross debt, further slowing growth and hurting millions of Americans. 

Absent targeted, structural reforms, the Social Security Disability Insurance program will be insolvent before the President leaves office.  The Medicare program will be insolvent before our next President leaves office, and the Social Security program will be insolvent within a generation.  To date, none of the actions taken in recent years by Congress and the White House have had any measureable effect on improving the solvency of these programs, nor will any of the new tax increases proposed by the President.  Until we have serious leadership that addresses this looming insolvency head-on, the future of these programs remains at risk.

Further, it has been proposed that rather than replace the upcoming sequestration with prioritized cuts, we address our burgeoning debt with yet more tax increases.  Excessive taxing and our massive debt are weakening economic growth today, resulting in fewer job openings, smaller paychecks and more dependence on the federal government.  We need a comprehensive solution to our nation's fiscal problems that incorporates discretionary spending reductions, mandatory program reforms and pro-growth reforms to our tax code to improve our economy. 

The President talked about tax reform, yet his interpretation of tax reform means finding new ways to increase taxes on the American people, rather than comprehensive reform.  Tax hikes are not the answer-they will not grow the economy or create jobs.  We must dramatically simplify our tax code by eliminating complexity, favoritism and loopholes, broadening the base and significantly lowering the rates.  True tax reform would contribute significantly to reducing our national debt and creating jobs. 

There are other actions the President could take immediately to help spur job creation.  Beginning construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which has been on hold for several years, would create 20,000 jobs and stimulate the economy by $7 billion.  Eliminating excessive regulations like those included in Dodd-Frank, the new health care law and those imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency will promote capital formation and promote investment in American job growth.  Americans deserve a government committed to free enterprise and limited government, not more taxing and spending. 

Fiscal reform and economic growth, including reforming the tax code and curbing spending, are keys to job creation and increased global competitiveness, and must be our main focus during the next four years.  Real progress can only happen if both parties come together to develop solutions to these serious problems that affect all Americans.  We must find agreement on these issues where we can.  We must use this opportunity for real reform.

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