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Opinion column: We cannot ignore our debt

Posted: Thursday, Feb 21st, 2013

This week, President Obama delivered the annual State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress. The speech is a great tradition, and it is an important opportunity for the president to share his vision with Congress and the American people.

While there were positive elements of the speech, I was disappointed President Obama did not say anything to indicate he has a serious plan to address our nation’s most urgent problem – out-of-control federal spending and debt.

In fact, the president seemed to double down on the same tax, spending and regulatory policies which have failed to create adequate economic growth and which have added trillions of dollars to the national debt.

In the State of the Union address, the president proposed billions of dollars of new spending with no plan to pay for it. However, he still claimed, “nothing I’m proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime.”

The president made a similar claim in 2009 when making the case for his health care reform legislation; “I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits – either now or in the future.” Yet, we now know the president’s health care law will add more than $1 trillion to the national debt over 10 years.

We cannot continue to ignore our fiscal problems. Our national debt has soared to more than $16.5 trillion, fueled by several straight years of trillion dollar deficits. Despite the massive increase in government spending, our economy remains stalled, and the national unemployment rate remains unacceptably high four years after the so-called “stimulus” bill was signed into law.

House Republicans have repeatedly voted to reduce spending, remove government barriers to private sector growth and make the difficult but necessary decisions to put American on a more sustainable fiscal path. However, the House cannot make these reforms alone; we need action from both the Senate and the White House to pass our bills into law.

There is reason for hope. The Senate has announced it plans to pass a budget resolution for the first time in four years. Restoring regular order to the budget process will force the Senate to participate in a debate over spending levels and will hopefully lead to some progress toward reducing the budget gap.

The House is also leading the effort to reform our overly-complex, burdensome and uncompetitive tax code. Comprehensive tax reform would simplify the code for all Americans and would help grow our economy. After all, the best way to increase tax revenue is not raising taxes; it is generating strong economic growth.

This week, the Committee on Ways and Means established 11 bipartisan working groups to review specific areas of current tax law and to report back to the committee after compiling data and information from a wide range of sources. I will be leading the Financial Services Working Group along with Congressman John Larson (D-Conn.), and I am optimistic we can help enact comprehensive reform during the next two years.

Rather than continuing the failed policies of the past, American taxpayers, families and job creators need Washington to take a different approach. There is much more to be done, but I believe we can make progress in addressing our deficit and debt even in divided government.

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