Each week, Congressman Adam Smith will answer your questions in Tacoma Weekly. To submit questions and read past responses, visit Tacoma Weekly online. Here is this week's question submitted by a reader for that ongoing effort:
QUESTION: Our country is facing the coming impacts of an unsustainable debt level. We could be facing the same unpleasant actions being thrust on Greece if we don't rein in the irresponsible financial path we're on. What are you doing to control and reduce our national debt level? I fear for the future prospects for my five grandkids.
ADAM SMITH: There is no question that to ensure America's long-term, sustainable economic viability we must prioritize making changes that will decrease our annual deficit and help get our massive debt under control. Given the size and scope of our fiscal problem, we must start by having an honest conversation about the debt we face and discuss the spending cuts and revenue increases that will produce a realistic path to fixing our budget without jeopardizing America's economic recovery in the process.
In 2011, the U.S. spent $3.6 trillion, while taking in only $2.3 trillion in revenue, resulting in a $1.3 trillion dollar deficit. Each year's deficit is added to the national debt, which currently exceeds $15 trillion. In finding a solution to lower our historically high national debt, we must find ways to cut our annual deficits by reducing spending and finding new sources of revenue.
Balancing our budget with spending cuts alone would devastate our economy. We would be forced to make around 40 percent in cuts across the board to vital programs such as Medicare, Social Security, education, and defense. Instead, I believe implementing a 10-year, comprehensive budget plan that balances spending cuts with increases to revenue would not only reduce our deficits but also return predictability to the marketplace. Simplifying the tax code and setting out a responsible, long-term financial framework would help restore confidence and free up private-sector investment to help expand businesses and create jobs.
As Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee, I recognize that a comprehensive approach to reducing the debt also includes examining defense spending. I have supported the President's proposed cuts to the defense budget, as it is a necessary reduction that will help us be more strategic in our spending priorities without jeopardizing our national security. I also support allowing some of the Bush-era tax cuts to expire. These sources of revenue could help offset the $1.2 trillion in savings required by the Budget Control Act of 2011 if a suitable compromise is not found.
Going forward, we must focus on two major strategic points. First, every piece of the budget should be scrutinized for possible cuts. Second, we are not going to be able to balance the budget this year or next, but with a long-term plan that balances spending cuts and revenue increases, we can get it under control. It is important now more than ever that we establish a comprehensive plan to scale back our annual deficits while making strategic spending and revenue decisions that provide a strong safety net for the middle and working classes and ensure the economic security of our future.