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Goodlatte talks budget

Story by Chris Graham

goodlatte1.gifRein in federal spending, and the economy will grow.

And when the economy grows, the federal budget gets into balance.

And when the federal budget gets into balance, you can begin to pay down the national debt.

It didn’t necessarily work in the Reagan years, and it’s not exactly working now as the last months of the George W. Bush era are counting themselves down. But Sixth District Congressman Bob Goodlatte is still a believer.

“The problem is there are many, many, many requests that come from worthwhile causes and projects that are incorporated in various programs in the federal government or are sought by individual members of Congress. But either way, whatever the request is, when you do not have a requirement that the bottom line is balanced, what you wind is with is a situation where it’s easier to meet more of those requests than you are fiscally able to do so, and then kick the can down the road with another big budget deficit that gets added to this national debt,” Goodlatte said Monday at a news conference in Weyers Cave in which he shared his thoughts regarding the 2008 federal budget.

Congress and the Bush administration will be working out the details of the $3 trillion-plus budget over the course of the next several months. You read that right – the budget is now at and beyond the $3 trillion mark, almost doubling in size during the W. years.

To give Goodlatte, a Republican, some credit, he has made it a point to criticize the president and congressional Republicans who were in charge on Capitol Hill for the first six years of the Bush administration for their profligate-spending ways.

“Each year, I vote for the tightest budget that is offered. And many of those would get into balance after two, three, four years,” Goodlatte said. “The president finally did offer some tighter budgets in the last two years. Last year’s budget is scheduled to be into balance in five years. He’s submitted a budget this year that he maintains will be in balance in four years. Staying on that track, I think it could be tighter and leaner than that, and we will offer that type of budget in the debate this week.”

The Goodlatte mantra is based on the famous Laffer curve – cut taxes, and government revenues will rise through the stratosphere. He brought along a handful of charts to illustrate his case to that point with him to the press conference on Monday, though significantly the pie charts didn’t have an answer for why the sharply increasing government revenues that we have seen in the past five years have not been sufficient to keep the budget from moving toward massive-deficit stage.

But going with the theory and how it is supposed to work, I asked Goodlatte for specifics on areas in the budget that could be cut and cut right now to bring spending into line.

“The only thing that I think you can take off the table is Social Security,” he answered. “Everything else needs to be examined very, very carefully. There’s wasteful government spending in every part of our economy. I have cosponsored legislation for what is called the SAFE Commission that would create a bipartisan commission to look at entitlement programs, to look at discretionary spending, to look at tax policy, and to make some very tough decisions about what needs to be done. I think that’s a very good measure – it was introduced by Congressman Frank Wolf, and I support it. I think we need to go beyond that, and in addition to the agreement that we’re going to do all these things, we need to have the hammer that says at the end of the day, you’ve got to be moving toward a balanced budget. The legislation that I have requires that it be balanced by 2012 and every year thereafter, except in times of national emergency.”

But of course, House Democrats – whose budget blueprint is drawing the ire of Goodlatte for what he and other Republicans are calling “the largest tax increase in history,” or what Democrats are calling the sunset of the 2003 Bush tax cuts that they feel pushed the budget into its massive-deficit phase – are projecting balanced budgets by 2012 and 2013 as well. And in fact, their budgets, according to their own numbers, actually show surpluses that could be applied in those years to the national debt.

I next asked Goodlatte if we voters can trust either Republicans or Democrats to get spending in line to the point where it could make a difference on the budget and on the economy.
“We have to. We have to make sure that the kinds of budgets that I’ve voted for for the past eight years and beyond, that are really tough budgets, that had they been been adopted by the Congress would have required Congress to instead of working through the year saying, I like this, I like that, let’s just pay for all of that, and borrow against the future, would have required much more tougher decisions, are options. Then utlimately a requirement that the budget should be balanced should be the solution. But those budgets that I voted for never passed. They get 100 votes, 120 votes, I think last year they got a few more than that. But you need 218 to pass the House, and then the Senate is even worse, the Senate is an even bigger problem,” Goodlatte said.

“That kind of discipline needs to be imposed by the people demanding that kind of vote from their representatives. And ultimately I believe that they need to demand a balanced-budget constitutional amendment to fund the federal government the same way state governments are run – which isn’t perfect, by any means, but in terms of the debt that has been piled up, it’s been piled up at the federal level,” Goodlatte said.

Chris Graham is the executive editor of The Augusta Free Press.

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