A picture of Representative Earl Blumenauer
Earl B.
Democrat OR 3

About Rep. Earl
  • Doing Our Business Differently

    by Representative Earl Blumenauer

    Posted on 2013-03-04

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    BLUMENAUER. What's so maddening about the sequester drama, just like the earlier fiscal cliff drama and the looming government shutdown drama, is that it is hopelessly beside the point.

    The path to fiscal sustainability is not merely cutting budgets, raising tax rates, or closing a few loopholes. It is about fundamentally doing business differently.

    Health care costs demand that we accelerate health care reform, which we're already working on in Oregon and in a number of other communities and health care systems across the country. These reforms, if put into effect nationally, would save more in health care costs over the next 10 years than the entire $1.2 trillion sequester.

    Everybody is getting excited about across-the-board cuts in the Department of Defense, but no one is talking about how we fundamentally change [[Page H820]] our philosophy of military compensation, benefits, and the size of the force to come to grips with the cost of an all-volunteer Army.

    Of course, at a minimum, we should also dramatically reduce and shift resources away from the vast nuclear weapons stockpile and the three redundant delivery systems which we haven't used in 68 years and probably never will. We have 10 times more nuclear firepower than we need for deterrence. It is past time to scale down that archaic symbol of the Cold War and save hundreds of billions of dollars at no risk to American security.

    It is time for Congress and the administration to work meaningfully for agriculture reform to give more support for America's farmers and ranchers at a fraction of the cost. We should reform the outrageous, inefficient, and unproductive crop insurance program. We should restore investments in nutrition, conservation, research, and marketing that will make a difference for most farmers and ranchers, improve long-term productivity, and support value-added agriculture. This saves money in the long run and doesn't distort our trade position or make Americans unhealthy.

    By all means, we must reform our Tax Code, but reform is not likely to raise anything near what a growing and aging America is going to need.

    Yes, close more of the egregious loopholes, but we need another broad-based source of revenue. A carbon tax would fit the bill, help reduce the deficit, and help us protect the planet from increasingly catastrophic weather events and the budget-busting disaster relief that inevitably follows.

    We should, for the first time in 20 years, increase the gas tax, as recommended by the Simpson-Bowles report, a user fee that will help enable us to provide more support for transportation, put more people to work rebuilding and renewing America.

    We might take a lesson from the history and our failed 14-year effort to prohibit alcohol, where the government spent a fortune in a fruitless effort to enforce prohibition, lost a fortune in revenue, and made a fortune for the Mafia, the underworld cartels of the 1920s, that haunts us to this day.

    {time} 1210 We ought to treat marijuana like we treat alcohol: the Federal Government regulates and taxes while the States decide what they want to do to legalize for medical or recreational use. Given what's already happened in 23 States and the District of Columbia, let's save money on enforcement, raise revenue from taxation, and invest in drug treatment and efforts to keep drugs out of the hands of children.

    Let's take a break from the endless debates that are basically beside the point. Let's commit to doing business differently with health care, the military, enact broad-based taxes to both raise money and fix a broken Tax Code, stop cheating the majority of farmers and ranchers and the environment.

    This is not rocket science. We could start now if people address the big issues in a thoughtful way. Even when some of the measures may be controversial or hard, it's a whole lot better than doing stupid things that alienate everybody.


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