Our nation is in the midst of a fiscal crisis. Washington is deficit spending $1.5 trillion each year, and our national debt is now $14.5 trillion and growing. No less an authority on national security than Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said that the greatest threat to our country is not al-Qaida; it is our growing debt and deficit.
Last year, the government spent at a rate of 25 percent of gross domestic product and took in revenues of 14.5 percent of GDP. Each number is, respectively, a historic high and low. Coupled with the aforementioned $14.5 trillion debt that must be repaid, this is obviously unsustainable. Our children and grandchildren will pay a very high price if we continue to ignore the tough decisions required to get America back on track.
The danger of this crisis is substantial, imminent and predictable.
With these facts in mind, instead of sitting on the sidelines, I decided that the only way to solve America's fiscal crisis was to get into the fray and tackle it head on. I joined five other senators to identify the difficult issues and make the hard, necessary decisions to address the twin challenges of our deficit and debt.
It's important to understand that our focus has always been on a long-term solution to America's debt problem, not on short-term issues like the debt ceiling that we're faced with now.
Among other provisions, our proposal reduces the debt by $3.7 trillion over the next 10 years, stabilizes our publicly held debt by 2014, and imposes tough and honest budget enforcement. We achieve these objectives by reducing discretionary spending, reforming entitlement programs, simplifying the individual and corporate tax code, and lowering tax rates.
Our outline combines spending cuts with tax reform — getting rid of special-interest loopholes that everyone else pays for — to lower rates and grow the economy.
In terms of tax reform, for example, we eliminate the alternative minimum tax that ensnares the middle class. We broaden the revenue base significantly, lowering all individual and corporate tax rates, to make our tax code more competitive for U.S. businesses here and abroad.
This is a proven path to prosperity that President Ronald Reagan implemented in the mid-1980s.
When it comes to tax policy, just as it has done through stimulus programs, the government has picked too many winners and losers.
To be clear: I am in favor of keeping tax deductions that provide real benefits to Americans. There is no question that deductions for mortgage interest, charitable giving or health care expenses have provided a significant benefit to many Americans and should continue.
However, there are hundreds of provisions in the tax code that solely benefit special interests but that do not provide benefits to most Americans. We all end up paying for these loopholes for a few. Lowering the tax burdens for individuals and corporations while removing these kinds of expenditures will provide more equity in the tax code and more growth in the economy.
As my voting record demonstrates, I don't believe raising taxes is the answer. Our tax code has become too burdensome and complex. As we go forward, my pledge remains to protect taxpayers and not special interests.
I was a proud co-sponsor of and voted for the Cut, Cap and Balance Act, but that vote ultimately failed in the Senate. Now we must try other avenues.
A solution to this crisis must be based on spending reduction and raising revenue through economic growth. Americans have demanded that their leaders make the necessary changes to put our nation on track to sustained economic growth and real job creation.
These choices may not be ones we would like to make, but ones we must make — now.
Saxby Chambliss, a Republican, is the senior U.S. senator from Georgia. You can reach him at 416 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510, 202-224-3521; 100 Galleria Parkway, Suite 1340, Atlanta, GA 30339, 770-763-9090; chambliss.senate.gov.