Modesto Bee: DENHAM: President's 'sequester' solution ignores debt issue

Feb 28, 2013 Issues: Spending Cuts and Debt

As a small-business owner and farmer, I'm always faced with choices about how much money I spend, how much debt I have and how I will increase revenue. A responsible person considers all of these to avoid default and financial ruin.

Friday, across-the-board spending cuts, totaling $85 billion this year and $1.2 trillion over 10 years, are scheduled to hit through a process known as "sequester."

This occurred because our government has failed to reach an agreement on managing the national debt. The treasury is approaching a debt of $17 trillion — that's over $52,000 for every person in the U.S. and a problem in need of correction now.

The most common question I'm asked by constituents is, "How did Washington get us into this mess in the first place?"

That answer is simple: Our government has a spending problem. House Republicans realize the need to make reasonable and responsible spending cuts and reforms so Washington starts spending within its means. The House has twice acted on a bipartisan basis to replace the cuts of sequester with common sense spending reductions and reforms, thereby achieving budget savings without harming all federal programs. However, the president's "sequester" plan, written into law as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011, was the wrong way to reduce the deficit.

The sequester cuts will come from both domestic and defense spending, however many safety-net programs such as Medicaid, Social Security and nutrition assistance will be exempt.

It is important to note that while defense spending makes up only 19 percent of the federal budget, it will account for 50 percent of the deficit reductions in sequestration. There is widespread and bipartisan agreement that these cuts would have a severe impact on America's national security and harm the economy.

In addition to passing legislation to avoid sequester, the House has voted to prevent the massive tax hike and laid the groundwork for pro-growth tax reform that will help reignite the American economy. Unfortunately, despite support from Republicans and Democrats, neither measure has been voted on by the Senate.

Even more disappointing is the insistence of the president that any solution involve hundreds of billions in tax increases. An additional tax increase, so soon after the $600 billion in tax hikes the president demanded be included in fiscal cliff agreement, would be unacceptable and further hurt the job market.

I've carried legislation to rid the federal government of unused properties with a savings of over $1.6 billion. Unfortunately, the Senate hasn't allowed a vote on many common-sense issues that cut waste. Instead, it casts blame on those of us actually proposing solutions. We may not agree 100 percent of the time on how best to reduce our nation's annual deficits and over $17 trillion debt, but we can do better.

My priorities remain focused on reducing spending, growing the economy, expanding opportunity for valley residents. We can do this without raising taxes or letting the president's sequester go into effect.

Denham, R-Turlock, represents the 10th Congressional District, which includes southern San Joaquin County and all of Stanislaus County.