Federal budgets are about priorities and tough choices. In the late 1990s, President Clinton and a Republican-led Congress balanced a budget from 1998 to 2001 because they compromised on both spending cuts and increased taxes. If Congress is going to balance the budget ever again, the ideologically driven politics need to give way to reasoned decision and thought. Unfortunately, the Republican majority passed a budget that cut investment in transportation and education and shifted massive health care costs onto seniors, while protecting many special interest tax loopholes and subsidies. Congress could balance the budget within a decade by making strategic cuts, ending wasteful subsidies, and ensuring that large corporations and the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share of taxes.
Balanced Budget Amendment
In 1995, DeFazio was one of only a few Democrats to vote for a balanced budget amendment. He supported such drastic action because his colleagues were not willing to make tough decisions. While the balanced budget amendment passed in the House, it failed by one vote in the Senate. Had it passed in 1995, we would not be in the fiscal mess we are in today.
In 2011, DeFazio again cosponsored a bipartisan balanced budget amendment offered by Rep. Goodlatte, a Republican from Virginia. It is the same bill that passed in 1995. Unfortunately, Democratic leadership and special interest groups launched a massive campaign to oppose the bill. In the end only 25 Democrats supported the balanced budget amendment and it failed to garner the necessary 2/3rds vote to pass.
DeFazio also introduced his own balanced budget amendment. DeFazio's proposal requires any significant military action that is not a congressionally-declared war, such as Libya, to be included in the budget rather than declared emergency spending as in the case of Iraq and Afghanistan. This would force each year's budget to be honestly calculated.
Audit the Pentagon
Since 1990, the Department of Defense has spent $10 trillion. Over the next six years, it will spend $4 trillion more. Despite the fact that the Pentagon is the largest and most expensive department in the federal government, it has never passed a financial audit. In fact, under current law the Pentagon is exempt from a federal law that requires all federal agencies to complete annual audits. During consideration of the 2011 Defense spending bill, DeFazio offered and passed an amendment to end the special exemption, requiring the Pentagon to publicly disclose how it spends hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars each year.
Audit the Fed
The Federal Reserve (Fed) was created in 1912 to safeguard our financial system, protect consumers and oversee the regulation of banks. Over the last 20 years, however, the Fed has seemed more concerned with protecting its own secrecy and Wall Street than the American public. Throughout DeFazio's time in Congress, he has fought for an independent audit of the Fed to ensure transparency, and he was an early cosponsor of Rep. Ron Paul’s Federal Reserve Transparency Act. He has cosponsored other bills to rein in the Fed.
In 2008, Wall Street gambled with our economy, lost big, and then asked taxpayers for a bailout. Today, the CEOs in charge of the same banks that nearly destroyed the economy remain on the Fed’s Board of Directors and are charged with regulating their own industry. This outrageous conflict of interest jeopardizes the health of our financial system. DeFazio introduced H.R. 2304 to eliminate this gross conflict of interest and prohibit banks that receive money from the Fed from stacking these boards with their own employees. He will continue to fight to make the Fed transparent and accountable to the American people.
1993 Budget Act
During the Clinton years, Congressman DeFazio supported a budget plan that eliminated the deficit and balanced the budget by 1999 and again in 2000. During those same years the U.S. actually paid down the debt for the first time since 1969.
Bush Tax Cuts
Under the premise that these surpluses would last, President Bush pushed through two huge tax cuts skewed heavily toward millionaire and billionaire speculators and investors, and estates worth more than $5 million. Those tax cuts, plus two wars, led to massive deficits adding $7 trillion to our debt. A return to the Clinton-era tax rates, which DeFazio voted to do in December 2010, would cut the deficit by 50 percent over the next 10 years.
Ending Tax Loopholes for Profitable Corporations
While Americans pay as much as $4 per gallon at the gas pump, Exxon reportedly avoided paying any income taxes on their record $30 billion profits in 2009. Similarly, GE paid no federal income taxes in 2010 on profits of $14.2 billion. Ending tax loopholes for profitable corporations would generate $50 billion a year.
In addition, ending subsidies to big agriculture conglomerates would save $20 billion a year.
Eliminating Waste and Unnecessary Programs
There is no reason to spend billions of dollars per year on antiquated Cold War-era weapons systems the Pentagon does not want. The U.S. must also reassess our troop deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan and other Cold War commitments to nations such as Germany and Japan. A smaller presence of Special Forces in Afghanistan would allow the Afghanis to settle their intertribal and intratribal conflicts, and would save taxpayers $100 billion per year.