THE BLOG

Louisiana Can Make Difficult Decisions, Why Can't Washington?

07/15/2013 02:37 pm 14:37:07

While budget negotiations in Louisiana last month were certainly tense and yielded a less-than-perfect final product, it was ultimately forged on the backs of bipartisan compromise. The budget process serves as a clear sign that when forced to do so, legislators can compromise on difficult decisions, and I applaud their leadership in doing so.

Yet in the nation's capital, Republicans and Democrats continually fail to lead or pass meaningful legislation, let alone put forth a thoughtful budget that addresses our nation's mountain of debt.

There is perhaps no better example of this than the inability of leaders to reach common ground at the end of 2012 and avoid implementation of the sequester. That plan was designed to create $1.2 trillion in reductions over the next nine years, yet was created to be so arbitrary that it would force our leaders in Washington to come together to implement a more responsible plan.

That, of course, has not happened, despite Congressional Budget Office projections showing that even if sequestration were to remain in effect for 10 years, our national debt would continue to increase as a share of our economy.

Even further away is something resembling compromise or a grand bargain.

I agree with Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles that we must "replace dumb cuts with smart reforms." At a minimum, we must repeal most of the sequester and phase in changes so that 95 percent of the deficit reduction occurs in 2016 and beyond. The economy is projected to be much stronger then. In addition, cuts should be focused on the drivers of the debt and redundant, wasteful, ineffective, and unwarranted federal spending.

We need larger, more gradual and sensible spending reductions and pro-growth tax reform. I hope that such a deal would tweak our entitlement programs to cut costs over the long-term.

Moreover, Congress and President Obama must reform the tax code in order to raise the money needed to pay for the vital services we all want our government to provide -- including those affected here in Louisiana, such as hurricane recovery funds, Head Start and military programs.

Broadly speaking, policymakers should acknowledge that our growing debt is a serious threat to the economic well-being and security of our country. It is urgent that we put in place a plan to stabilize the debt as a share of the economy and put it on a downward path.

In order to succeed financially and politically, a fiscal plan must be bipartisan, and reforms to all areas of the budget should be included. The plan should reform Medicare and Medicaid, improve efficiency in the overall health care system and limit future cost growth. It should also strengthen Social Security so that it is solvent and will be there for future beneficiaries. And it should include comprehensive and pro-growth tax reform, which broadens the base, lowers rates, raises revenues and reduces the deficit.

All told, the plan should be conducive to long-term economic growth, protect the vulnerable, include credible enforcement mechanisms to ensure that debt reduction is achieved and leave the next generation better off.

I find recent developments in our nation's capital an encouraging sign that some leaders are trying to address our nation's biggest issue. Therefore, I am convinced that our Louisiana leaders in the Senate and House of Representatives are working together to address long-term solutions that tackle our growing debt without compromising important programs.

In the end, the ability to compromise and find common ground defines us and makes us a stronger nation. I hope those in D.C. can take a page from our state's Legislature.