Seattle Times Guest Columist - Patty Murray
I accepted the challenge of co-chairing the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to represent the families and small business owners across Washington state who desperately want their government to work for people like them. And although I was deeply disappointed that we were unable to come to a balanced and bipartisan deal by our deadline, I am not going to stop working to boost the economy, create jobs, and reduce the deficit in a fair way — because I feel very strongly that we can't simply leave it for the next generation to deal with.
Over the past few years, I have heard from so many people across Washington state who were struggling in this terrible economy. I've talked to workers desperate to get back on the job, families fighting to stay in their homes and small-business owners who didn't know how they were going to keep their doors open much longer.
From the moment I started working on this committee, my priorities were clear. I wanted any proposal coming out of the committee to be balanced and fair to the middle class. And I wanted to help our government deliver the kind of results that Americans expect and deserve from their democracy.
My fellow Democrats and I came to this job willing to make deep compromises to get to a deal. We were certainly not willing to allow Medicare or the safety net that families and children rely on to be privatized or dismantled — but we put serious offers on the table to responsibly reduce spending so the security these programs provide would be in place for future generations. In short, we were willing to make painful concessions to come to a deal, but we weren't willing to let average Americans pay the price for a bad one.
Democrats felt very strongly that the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations should share in the sacrifice of reducing our debt. In fact, we think this is so obvious that it shouldn't have even been up for debate. Every previous bipartisan commission had come to the same conclusion — solving this crisis would take balance between painful spending cuts and new revenue. During this crisis, all Americans would be asked to contribute.
Particularly while so many families were struggling, we thought it was more than fair to ask the richest Americans to pay a little bit more, especially after they have been benefiting for years from the lowest tax rates in generations. While we were scouring programs that so many rely on for fat to trim, we thought it made sense to scour the tax code in just the same way and eliminate the egregious loopholes that the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations take advantage of. And while oil and gas companies are making record profits, we thought it made sense to end the handouts they get every year from U.S. taxpayers. This just seemed fair.
Unfortunately, this is where the negotiations broke down. Republicans were simply not willing to put real new tax revenue on the table, and they insisted that the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations be protected from paying a penny more. They wanted to focus solely on cutting spending and slashing Medicare and Social Security — and they had no interest in making sure that the sacrifices were shared.
In fact, they even put forward one proposal that would lock in the Bush tax cuts permanently and reduce rates for the wealthiest Americans. And I find it very concerning that so many Republicans continue to put a pledge made to a Republican lobbyist named Grover Norquist ahead of finding a balanced solution to our debt crisis.
We also had some serious disagreements about how to respond to the current economic turmoil. I believe that while it is important to reduce the deficit and debt over the long run, we also have a responsibility to boost the economy and get workers back on the job immediately. So Democrats fought hard to make sure that any deal included a jobs plan that would put money in families' pockets and Americans back to work.
Finally, our nation's debt crisis is not going to get better on its own; it's going to get worse. So it's not a matter of whether our country tackles this issue, but how — and what kind of values and fairness will be maintained when we do.
I come out of this committee the same way I went in: hopeful for compromise, open to fair concessions and, above all else, focused on balanced and fair solutions that work for middle-class families. I was proud to work with my co-chair U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, and the other members of the committee.
But for me, this is not the end of a process — it is the beginning of one. And I urge elected officials from both parties and every American to join in.
- The Seattle Times