Taxes, war spending focus of first super committee session

At its first public session, the congressional "super committee" created by the debt ceiling deal had little to say about salary freezes, furloughs or other federal workforce measures for cutting government costs.

Coming after several months of legislation that would have imposed staff reductions and furloughs, along with a salary freeze that did go into effect, federal employees were concerned they would be a prime target for the panel. Instead, the members of Congress appointed to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction heard testimony by Douglas Elmendorf, director of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), and talked about unemployment and war funding.

"We all agree that we're facing an unsustainable financial future, and under the CBO's alternative fiscal scenario, the debt is going to reach 82 percent of GDP by 2021," said Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) "It's higher than in any year since 1948, and we all agree that we can't let that happen."

Kerry argued that the country made some wrong turns more than a decade ago. "Some would argue [it's been] even longer," he said. "You have economic meltdown, two wars, rounds of the largest tax cuts in history that did not produce the jobs some had predicted and then efforts to forestall larger economic collapse -- all of these contributed."

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said the fastest and most efficient way to reduce the deficit long term is to lower unemployment and to take a balanced approach that -- contains savings achieved from modernizing certain programs, as well as savings gained from simplifying. He also urged reforming the tax code to generate more revenue.

"Addressing a problem of this magnitude requires shared responsibility in order to grow our economy and reduce the deficit," Van Hollen added.

Elmendorf pointed to the aging population and increasing costs for health care as factors that will push up federal spending, requiring significant changes in spending policies and tax policies.

But changes must be thought through and cannot be done haphazardly, Elmendorf warned.

"Implementing spending cuts or tax increases abruptly would give families, businesses and state and local government little time to plan and adjust, he said. 

About the Author

Camille Tuutti is a former FCW staff writer who covered federal oversight and the workforce.

Reader Comments

Thu, Sep 15, 2011 DEFENDER OF THE FREE WORLD

Jim, brilliant, let's legalize it. So next time your family gets on the school bus, the driver is a pot head, you go for a jog down the road and get run over by a pot head, or the airline pilot is stoned out of his mind. Sure you can say there are a lot of people in society who are doing it now, but if it is legalized, there will be an epidemic of new people who will use it as well. You people never fully think thru the consequences of what you think is a "good idea"...

Tue, Sep 13, 2011 Jim Prokop New York City

Wanna eliminate the deficit and boost the economy? One simple step will do it...legalize marijuana. The law is supposed to be determined by common practice. Fact is marijuana use is common practice. Let the law follow thru as is just and right, in my humble judgement.

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