A new year is well under way, yet major issues are unresolved.
Unemployment remains high; a revamping of our health care system that raises taxes and insurance premiums and cuts Medicare is close to being rammed through Congress (notwithstanding my "no" vote) under dubious means; and federal spending continues to skyrocket with our ratio of debt-to-gross domestic product hitting eye-popping levels.
The American people are frustrated by the federal government and I share that frustration.
Despite all these challenges, I remain optimistic. Pundits continue to predict the worst of the economic crisis is over, a complete government takeover of health care will be strongly fought and both parties in Congress are finally acknowledging Congress is borrowing and spending too much.
Inside this newsletter are some details of some of these issues. As always your comments are greatly appreciated.
When Congress is in session, I use telephone town hall meetings as another way to hear from Idahoans and update them on legislation and other important issues. The next hour-long phone call is Tuesday, March 16th at 7 p.m. Mountain time. If you would like to take part in the call, please fill out the Tele-Townhall sign-up form. Requests must be made at least 24 hours prior to the meeting.
In February, I sent a guest editorial to all newspapers across the state, asking them to print my views on the proposed federal budget and the massive spending that is taking place.
In that editorial, I point out that the president is proposing to spend $3.8 trillion in the next fiscal year. He also asks for tax increases and limits to deductions to increase the revenue to the federal government to the tune of $2 trillion. Even if that were to happen (which I won't vote for), his budget would still be nearly $1.6 trillion short. That means just over 40 cents of every dollar we spend will have to be borrowed, primarily from the Chinese government.
In January, on a straight party-line vote, the debt limit was raised to $14.3 trillion with no plan on how or when to pay it down. The Congressional Budget Office said they anticipate the debt to increase by another $9 trillion in the next decade.
Recent news reports have been highlighting the debt problems of Greece. That country's overall debt has hit 95 percent of their gross domestic product (GDP). GDP is a measurement of a country's economic output, so their debt is nearly equal to the value of everything they produce. The Greek economy is in chaos and the riots reflect the entire meltdown.
Economists believe that once a country's debt to GDP ratio hits 90 percent there will be an economic collapse. The European Union is discussing how to rescue Greece and the Greek government is attempting to put into place austerity programs to pay down their debt so they can refinance and avoid a financial collapse.
So what does the financial crisis in Greece have to do with the United States? At the end of 2009, our overall debt was 84 percent of our GDP. We are edging closer to the 90 percent that some economists say is the tipping point for a financial collapse.
We must not let that happen.
It is beyond time to get our financial house in order. We must cut our spending and recognize that we do not have a no-limit credit card to fund everything we want. Like hard-working Idahoans, we must prioritize and say no to things that are not absolute essentials.
I hope we are not too late.
The F-35 is the next generation strike fighter for the U.S. Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy and America's allies.
Currently scheduled to be deployed in 2013, the Air Force has begun the process of determining where to base the aircraft. Recently, the Air Force evaluated 205 facilities on their ability to host the F-35 and picked 11 as finalists. Both Mountain Home and Gowen Field were selected and ranked in the top of all categories considered. Mountain Home is a candidate for the operational mission and Gowen Field is a candidate for the training mission.
Having two sites rank so high reflects Idaho's first-rate facilities, the value of Mountain Home's open space and training ranges and the immense support the military men and women in Idaho receive. Depending on the quantity and type of missions, basing F-35s at both facilities in Idaho would be a major economic driver for southern Idaho. Selection of these two sites could bring 3,000 direct jobs to southwestern Idaho. As patriotic Americans who understand the need for a strong military, I encourage all Idahoans to join me in support of basing F-35s in Idaho.
You can do that by encouraging your county or city to pass resolutions in support of basing the F-35 at Gowen Field and Mountain Home. You can write a letter of support to the Air Force and sign this online petition. You can also attend public meetings and voice your support for the projects. Learn more about the F-35 on my Web site.
Democratic congressional leaders continue closed, back-room discussions to develop a strategy on how to jam a health care overhaul through Congress on a party-line vote. Speculation now centers on whether the president and Democrat leaders will use a procedural maneuver called reconciliation to pass a health bill. Reconciliation is a legislative process allowing a simple majority to pass legislation with limited debate, circumventing normal, long-standing Senate rules.
The president and the majority in Congress are still not listening to the American people on the subject of health care reform. By an overwhelming margin, the American people are telling us to scrap the current bills and start over.
In December, I spoke on the Senate floor about the many reasons the American people have rejected the Democrats' plan. Their plan includes a half-trillion dollars in new taxes, increases to health insurance premiums, a half-trillion dollars in cuts to Medicare, job-killing penalties for employers, taxpayer-funded abortion and countless new regulations that will ration care to American citizens. At its core, their plan increases the cost of health care and threatens the very health care choices millions of Americans currently enjoy.
If the Democrats in Congress are serious about achieving reform, it is time they scrap their current plan and work in a bipartisan fashion on step-by-step solutions that focus on lowering health care costs. Together, we can achieve meaningful reforms and assemble legislation that Americans will support.