Kansans gathered together over the holidays with hopes of spending time with family and friends, and reflecting on the many blessings we enjoy as Americans. Instead, they were forced to spend Christmas and New Year’s Eve enduring the ups and downs of the “fiscal-cliff” debate.
With the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, Americans were facing more than $4 trillion in tax increases on Jan. 1. These increases were bound to affect all income levels. In fact, Kansans earning $43,000 a year would have seen a $3,000 increase in their taxes – $250 every month.
My goal has been to make certain that tax increases affect the fewest number of Americans possible. I am glad we were able to pass a deal that, while imperfect, protects 99 percent of Americans. It also limits the tax increases on dividends and capital gains. Most important to Kansas farmers, ranchers and business owners, the deal permanently reduces the estate-tax rates and locks in a $10 million-per-couple exemption.
It is important to note that this deal only addressed one aspect of the fiscal cliff. What is missing is the larger and much more damaging problem of government spending. This year’s deficit reached $1.1 trillion, the fourth straight year of trillion-dollar deficit spending. This out-of control government spending has increased our national debt to a record $16 trillion and counting.
President Obama has spent this political season trying to make the case for tax increases on higher-income Americans as the solution to our deficits. But the reality is that the tax rates the president was successful in raising will bring in enough revenue to cover our government spending for just 16 days.
In February, the Treasury Department will ask Congress to raise the debt ceiling for the fifth time since Obama assumed the presidency to allow the federal government to borrow and spend even more money. A debt ceiling is meaningless if Congress simply extends the Treasury’s borrowing capacity each time the limit is reached. I voted against an increase to the debt ceiling two years ago and want Kansans to know that I will not vote to allow the Obama administration to borrow any more money unless we substantially change the way the government does business and significantly reduce spending.
While some may say it is irresponsible to not raise the limit, our nation finds itself at a point of such indebtedness that it is more irresponsible to extend the debt ceiling without significant reductions in federal spending. There is no flexibility here – our country’s future is at stake, and our children’s ability to pursue the American dream is at risk.