We need to pay off the more than $14 trillion in national debt looming over future generations — a debt that grows by $58,000 per second — and cut up the federal government’s credit card.
That’s what 3rd District Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, of Camas, said during a town hall at Centralia College last week, and she’s right.
We’re at the point where we won’t be leaving our children and grandchildren with a better nation than we inherited — for the first time in United States history, she said. Instead, we’ll be leaving them a crushing burden of debt.
“Our problem is that we’re spending too much,” she said, adding that “both parties got us to this point.”
Herrera Beutler also pointed out that 47 percent of our nation’s debt in 2010 was held by foreign nations, primarily China, compared to 19 percent in 1990 and 5 percent in 1970. That makes paying off our debt a national security concern, she said. I agree. When I look at what the federal government should do, national security tops the list.
To reduce entitlement spending, she supports plans to leave Medicare alone for people who are over 55, but wants to offer younger people who retire the option of selecting among government-approved health insurance programs, similar to Medicare Advantage offered today.
“If no action is taken, Medicare goes bankrupt by 2020,” she said. “We can address this and still keep our promise to current seniors and future generations.”
Herrera Beutler said she supports replacing President Obama’s health care proposal with alternatives such as association health plans, purchase of insurance across state lines, and medical malpractice insurance reform. She noted that only 11 percent of Washingtonians are uninsured, and half of those are 32 or younger.
“We don’t have to break the whole system to fix it for those people,” she said.
Someone asked why increasing taxes isn’t an option.
Increasing federal income taxes on people earning more than $200,000 isn’t the answer, Herrera Beutler said, because many small businesses fall into that category. “You and I know that small businesses are the backbone of our economy,” she said.
“What about the millionaires?” a woman behind me shouted. “Tax the millionaires.”
Hmmmm. I had to wonder about that one. Do people actually teach their children that they’re entitled to share the salaries of high-wage earners, the fruits of someone else’s labor?
I was raised to believe everyone can achieve the American Dream, as long as they’re willing to acquire skills and education and work hard. Of course, unless the government curtails spending, those opportunities may be fading quickly.
As to tax fairness, the Washington Times reported last summer that the wealthiest 20 percent of Americans pay nearly 70 percent of all taxes collected by the federal government — and 86 percent of all federal income tax.
I agreed with the woman who asked why Congress doesn’t consider eliminating entire bureaucracies. She mentioned federal money supporting the arts. “We have a grandfather charging his grandchildren for his music lessons!”
Herrera Beutler said lawmakers are trying to identify duplication within government, noting the existence of more than 50 federal teacher-quality programs. She also said the Environmental Protection Agency under the Obama administration has added 4,000 new rules.
As a federal lawmaker, Herrera Beutler said, she weighs expenditures by asking — Is it in the Constitution? Is it effective and efficient?
“The problem is we’re going so far beyond what we’re responsible for, we’re not doing a good job with anything,” she said.
Julie McDonald, a personal historian from Toledo, may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.