East Oregonian, 9/17/2011
By Joseph Ditzler
Another prominent Republican congressman, a member of the so-called super committee, Friday downplayed tax increases as a viable option to reduce the national debt.
U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., visiting the Pendleton Round-Up, echoed remarks Thursday by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who said the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction should rule out tax increases as a tool in reaching its target of $1.5 trillion in spending cuts.
“Most of us don’t mind new revenues as long as it’s not an increase in taxes,” said Upton. “But rather more people working and paying taxes.”
Upton, one of 12 on the bipartisan deficit-reduction committee, is also chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. He rolled along with his host, U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., and their wives Friday morning in a horse-drawn stagecoach in the Westward Ho! Parade in Pendleton. Afterward, the group ate lunch at the hospitality suite on the Round-Up Grounds before Walden and Upton met with reporters at the rodeo bucking chutes.
Upton said he bailed out of the parade partway to take a phone call related to super-committee business.
“I had a little cauliflower ear from standing in the Albertson’s parking lot for a little while,” he said. The committee convened for the first time Sept. 8. It meets again Tuesday.
The deficit-reduction, or super, committee emerged as part of a deal to raise the national debt ceiling in August and remove an impasse between the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and the Democratic administration of President Barack Obama. The public perceived the government as preoccupied in narrow partisan squabbling while the nation inched to the brink of default on its financial obligations, and with it economic ruin.
The super committee, comprised of six Republican and six Democratic members of the House and Senate, has until Nov. 23 to find $1.5 trillion in cuts in the federal budget. If it fails, automatic, across-the-board cuts will kick in.
Economic growth alone can solve the problem, Upton said.
“For every 1/10th of a percent increase in GDP (Gross Domestic Product), that is the equivalent of $300 billion in deficit reduction. So if you can raise the growth rate by a half a percent, from 2½ to 3, from 3 to 3½, that is the equivalent of the bottom line of what we need, one and a half trillion dollars,” he said.
Thursday, Boehner told an audience in Washington, D.C., that “tax increases, however, are not a viable option” for the super committee. Spending cuts and reform of entitlement programs are the way to go, Boehner said. His remarks were reported as a return to the entrenched partisanship that marked the debt-ceiling standoff.
Boehner did not rule out tax reform, but stressed reform that “will lower rates for individuals and corporations” while closing loopholes and exceptions for special interests.
Upton and Walden emphasized regulatory relief for small business, especially, as a path toward economic recovery.
“We’ve lost one in five manufacturing jobs in the last 10 years — most of those have been in Michigan,” Upton said. “I don’t think you’ll see anyone on the Republican side looking to raise tax rates … that would really drive folks’ jobs somewhere else. We need to put people back to work.”
Upton and Walden, the lone Republican in the Oregon delegation to Washington, D.C., and the Republican leadership chairman, both said they found encouraging the administration’s willingness to roll back regulations they said kill the small-business impetus to hire.
They also commented on results of a CBS/New York Times poll released Friday that showed 80 percent of Americans disapprove of the job Congress is doing.
“People knew that the debt ceiling was a real fracas,” Upton said. “Greg (Walden) and I were both on the side of ‘can’t let the country default, no way.’ But we also knew that we had to use it to find a solution to long-term debt and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”