Three cheers for Congress

By Andrew Justus | 4/14/11 9:57pm

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Congressman,

Congratulations on reaching acceptable compromises with one another to devise a suitable continuing resolution so we may poke along for the rest of the fiscal year. Feel free to pat yourselves on the back a few times to celebrate your incredible legislative achievement. Your predecessors who passed the Civil Rights Act have nothing on you after you narrowly avoided a government shutdown to trim $38 billion, a miniscule percentage off the federal budget for the remainder of this fiscal year.

While it probably would have been nice to take an Amtrak train to one of the national parks whose operations you were able to maintain, there is work to be done. You must find a way to mend the federal budget without placing an undue burden on a single demographic. Making us all hurt a little while accomplishing a lot will make you look like a hero. To do otherwise will make you as likable as snot. So please keep all your options available moving forward on this challenging issue while being sure not to dish out too much pain to anyone in particular. Be sure not to forget about Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid and the military when you’re trying to cut costs. They accounted for 63 percent of all spending in 2010 while all other discretionary spending like national parks, the Environmental Protection Agency and other programs accounted for 19 percent.

Also, make it clear that you are doing what’s best for the future generations. Blind cuts to education and infrastructure spending may balance the books today only to manifest years later as crumbling bridges and adults who can’t compete in the global jobs marketplace. In addition, it may be wise to take a short term hit like the one associated with closing tax loopholes or raising the rate for the highest earners so as to ensure prosperity in the future.

Combination measures along the lines of cut-a-little, tax-a-little offer the best approach to balancing the budget long term. Many of your colleagues would like to see the budget balanced strictly with cuts. They have said we don’t have a revenue problem we have a spending problem. But our top federal tax rate (for the wealthiest Americans) has dropped from 70 percent from when one of my favorite presidents, Dwight Eisenhower was in office to 35 percent today. So a slight increase in the top rates would not be historically unprecedented.

Thank you for reading and for serving our state and district Mr. and Mrs. Congressman. I look forward to reading whichever form-letter your intern mails to me.

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