October 19, 2011

Sen. Manchin wants colleagues to ‘go big’ on deficit reduction | Charleston Gazette

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., is urging members of the bipartisan Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to “go big” and reduce the nation’s deficit by $4 trillion. 

“All members of Congress were encouraged to make recommendations to the Committee of Twelve. We had to do it by Friday,” Manchin said during a telephone interview on Tuesday.

Manchin had sought suggestions from West Virginia residents. 

“What we hear from West Virginians is to stop fraud, waste and abuse of governments funds, without reducing needed programs. 

“We need a more fair tax system where everybody pays their fair share. It is common sense asking those things to get done,” Manchin said.

He hears a lot about the amount of money America spends trying to do “nationbuilding” in Afghanistan and Iraq. 

“We should spend as much money trying to rebuild America. West Virginians know that if you build a bridge or a new school, we will not blow the bridge up or burn the school down,” Manchin said. 

The 12 members of the Super Committee that President Obama created have a legal mandate to come up with $1.5 trillion in budget reductions. 

Manchin wants his Congressional colleagues to come up with $4 trillion in reductions, a level he said many economists recommend. “As all of you know, our nation faces a death spiral of debt,” Manchin wrote in an Oct. 14 letter to Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.; Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas; and other members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. 

“The debt crisis facing our country has reached epic proportions, and as our nation’s leaders, we must work together to find bipartisan, commonsense solutions that restore fiscal responsibility while protecting vital programs critical to our seniors, veterans and children. 

“While common ground may seem nearly impossible to find in Washington these days, I strongly believe we can do what is fiscally right for the nation,” Manchin wrote in his letter.

He is in favor of infrastructure investments, as the money would be spent in America and American workers would build the infrastructure. 

“I don’t know how anybody could disagree with that,” he said. “I would hope we have bipartisan support for infrastructure investments.” 

Manchin said he is concerned that “we are voting and trying to keep score.” 

“Both sides are bad about it. In the 2012 election, who gets the credit and who gets the blame?” he asked. “But how could anyone disagree on improving our school system?” 

Manchin plans to introduce an amendment to legislation on unemployment benefits, which have already had a 99-week extension. 

“If we are going to extend benefits for another year, every state must develop a component to re-educate or re-skill people. You just can’t keep handing out unemployment checks. 

“If you have been unemployed for over 100 weeks, your job is probably not going to come back. We have to reeducated you and improve your skill sets,” Manchin said. 

In his letter, Manchin stated some of the best ideas he heard from West Virginians include:

- Ensure federal agencies operate as efficiently as possible and reward citizens for reporting fraud. The U.S. Government Accountability Office reported $125 billion was wasted last year. 

- Reduce funding for Overseas Contingency Operations that provides money for nationbuilding in Afghanistan and Iraq. 

- Close corporate tax loopholes and reduce subsidies for oil companies. Make the tax system fairer by eliminating unnecessary deductions and reducing overall tax rates. 

- Safeguard the long-term solvency of Social Security and keep promises to senior citizens and veterans.

By:  Paul J. Nyden