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, Republicans continue to promote budgets that cut investments in transportation and education, and shifts massive health care costs onto seniors, while protecting many special interest tax loopholes and subsidies. Congress could balance the budget 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.
DeFazio has introduced his own bipartisan balanced budget amendment over the years. DeFazio's proposal requires any significant military action that is not a congressionally-declared war to be included in the budget rathan than declared emergency spending as in the case of Iraq and Afghanistan. This would force each year's budget to be honestly calculated.
DeFazio continues to support a bipartisan balanced budget amendment offered by Rep. Goodlatte, a Republican from Virginia. It is the same bill that passed in 1995. In 2011 the House took a vote on the bill. 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.
Audit the Pentagon
Since 1990, the Department of Defense has spent more than $13 trillion. 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, the Pentagon is exempt from a federal law that requires all federal agencies to complete annual audits. DeFazio consistently cosponsors legislation to repeal this policy. 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 has introduced legislation 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.
Ending Tax Loopholes for Profitable Corporations
Some of America's most profitable companies pay no federal income tax. For example, between 2008 and 2012, General Electric and Verizon paid no federal income tax. Exxon reportedly avoided paying any income taxes on their record $30 billion profits in 2009. Ending tax loopholes for profitable corporations would generate $50 billion a year.
In addition, ending subsidies to big agriculture conglomerates would save more than $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 continued involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan and other Cold War commitments to nations such as Germany and Japan.