Let's Balance the Budget and Keep America Secure

The President submitted his budget to Congress this week, outlining a plan to balance the budget in five years without raising taxes. He also included increased funding for important defense and national security programs critical in a time of war. We expect Democrats will say we need to raise taxes in order to balance the budget. Let there be no doubt, this would damage our growing economy and put at risk important national security programs. Congress can, and should, balance the budget while keeping the tax cuts in place, and our priorities in tact.

The fact of the matter is that since Republicans passed the 2001 tax cuts, we’ve seen continued economic growth, including a steady increase in job numbers and a decrease in the unemployment numbers. The economy has created 7.4 million new jobs since August 2003, with estimates from the Treasury Department showing that the Republican tax package gave $1.1 trillion back to American taxpayers.

If all the tax cuts are not extended, American families will see a dramatic increase in their taxes. A family of four making $50,000 today would see their taxes rise by 132% in 2011. Overall, 42 million hardworking American families would see an average increase in their taxes of over $2,000 dollars.

Democrats argue that we can’t afford to keep the tax cuts in place, fund the War on Terror and continue funding mandatory entitlement programs such as Medicare. This is not true. Our country’s revenues are at an all time high, and the President has included increased funding in the budget for the IRS to solve the tax gap. The tax gap, which exceeds $200 billion each year, is the difference between what taxpayers should pay and what they actually pay. He’s also called for a reduction in entitlement spending, which is necessary if we are to address the long term sustainability of these programs. However, Democrats remain unwilling to consider any real reforms.

Despite increased revenues and Republican efforts to ensure American workers keep more of their hard-earned money; Democrats are threatening to propose a budget that that increases taxes and cuts national security funding.

Let’s be clear about the reality we’re facing — our nation is at war. We have troops in the battlefield and are fighting an unprecedented, long term threat from dangerous extremists to our freedoms and way of life. Fully funding and, in some areas, increasing defense spending is not only necessary but should be our first spending priority.

As a member who has had the privilege of serving on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, the Armed Services Committee, the Select Committee on Homeland Security, and who now serves on the Military Quality of Life and Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittees, I’ve learned a thing or two about national security spending. The bottom line is that we don’t spend as much as people think we do, and we should be spending more.
Our nation spends approximately 3.8% of our gross domestic product on defense. This is the lowest it has been in 50 years. With funding at these low levels, we have no excuse to be making dramatic cuts, especially when this country is at war.

In his budget, the President calls for expanding the size of the Army and Marine Corps, increasing service member pay by 3% and increasing funding for realignment of forces. This is money Democrats should not tamper with, and Republicans need to make sure they don’t.

I say this because we’re already starting to see a trend with Democrats cutting funding for military spending. To illustrate my point, I spoke on the House floor last week against a $3.1 billion cut from the base repositioning plan in the Democratic spending bill that funds the rest of fiscal year 2007. This cut will have drastic consequences for our military and their families.

The base repositioning plan is comprehensive and involves the movement of hundreds of thousands of troops and their families. As an example, 14,000 troops are currently being deployed from Germany to Fort Bliss, Texas, along with their 4,000 children. Cutting this funding now puts in jeopardy whether their kids will be able to go to decent schools, whether they and their families will have the same quality health care access and whether our military will have adequate training facilities.

The Democrat Member responsible for these cuts promised the money would be restored in a future supplemental bill. I wrote to my constituents to say that "a wink and nod" isn’t good enough for our soldiers, or for our national defense strategy. 

This isn’t the time in our nation’s history to start cutting money for national security.

As Democrats prepare to introduce their budget, Republicans must keep a watchful eye on what they propose. Cutting money for our troops and national security spending should be off limits, as should repealing any of the tax cuts that helped reduce the tax burden on hardworking American families. Americans deserve better.