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Grijalva: Don't ‘choke' government with cuts that hurt most vulnerable
U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva cautioned that “choking” government is not the way to address the federal budget deficit.
“I don't think we can cut our way out of this fiscal situation,” Grijalva told the Yuma Sun prior to speaking at the Western Arizona Council of Governments Conference on Aging on Thursday.
Calling himself a staunch defender of Medicare and Social Security, the Democrat from Arizona's 3rd Congressional District noted that for some people, Social Security is their only source of income.
Grijalva also warned of an impending fiscal “perfect storm,” when several critical issues must be addressed in the next few months.
By March 1, automatic spending cuts known as sequestration will go into effect “unless we come up with an alternative,” he said.
March 27 is the expiration of the stop-gap budget, or a continuing resolution that keeps the federal government running.
“We're looking at a potential governmental shut down,” Grijalva said.
On May 19, Congress must again address the debate over the debit ceiling and decide whether to suspend the limit and allow federal government to continue to borrow to meet its obligations.
“People make the presumption that nothing has been done up to this point,” Grijalva said. But he pointed out several rounds of cuts that have already saved trillions of dollars.
While Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare “have been made the centerpiece” of the debate, the congressman pointed out that “Social Security didn't create the deficit, it's a trust fund that's separate.”
Grijalva agrees that Social Security needs to be reformed. He noted that the majority of proposed cuts would affect the “most vulnerable.”
“People say you must cut benefits, raise the age limit, change eligibility. These are serious cuts,” he said.
“We have people calling, telling us we must balance the budget – cut, cut, cut – but they're the first ones to call and say, ‘What happened to my HUD fund, what happened to my Meals on Wheels, what happened to the school resource officers, what happened to my road you said you would fix?'”
Instead, Grijalva proposes a “dollar per dollar” plan – for every dollar cut, another dollar has to be generated.
“We have to make cuts but also generate revenue. You cannot do this on cuts alone. The pot will dry up,” he said.
Among his proposals is closing international tax loops, which he says would result in $161 billion additional revenue; ending gas and oil subsidies, which would save $41 billion over 10 years; and lifting the Social Security cap, allowing high earners to pay more of their “fair share.”
“Mr. Jones, who owns the yacht and the jet, should put more into the pot,” he said, noting that currently lower income individuals pay taxes on all their earnings while the high income earners do not.
For Medicare, drug prices should be negotiated, leading to $156 billion in savings, he said.
“We have tough choices to make, devastating choices ... We understand it's difficult. We will have to reduce spending somewhere, but it took 15 years to get in the hole, we can't do it overnight.”