It can be difficult to get the public to pay attention to the federal debt. If the economy is strong and taxes are low, well, people can’t be bothered to read the fine print.
So allow us to quote an insider in describing the impact of having the government spend more than it takes in: “Our current national debt is crippling businesses, hurting families and stifling the growth of new jobs. … Both Republicans and Democrats share the blame for getting us to this point, but now it’s time to force a fiscally responsible budgeting process. I will continue to push this measure with determined focus, in hopes that we can maintain the ‘land of opportunity’ for our children.”
That was Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, in 2011, as she co-sponsored a constitutional amendment that would have required a balanced budget. The federal debt at the time was $14 trillion.
Times have changed. Last year, Herrera Beutler supported the Republican tax cut that reduced revenue, and this year she supported a $1.3 trillion spending bill. The result is a federal deficit of about $800 billion for Fiscal Year 2018 and a debt of more than $21 trillion. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates the deficit will be $11.7 trillion over the next 10 years, and it reports that this year’s deficit is 20 percent higher than a year ago.
“I fundamentally believe that the American people can spend their money better than the government,” Herrera Beutler recently told The Columbian’s Editorial Board. “We’re going to more than double pay that back, because our economy is moving.”
Herrera Beutler was joined by challenger Carolyn Long for an endorsement interview. The Columbian will announce its recommendation before the Nov. 6 election; in the meantime, we will present a series of editorials contrasting the candidates and their positions on major issues.
Herrera Beutler stressed that the tax cuts will provide the average Southwest Washington family of four with $2,300 more in their pockets. “We have more taxpayers and more people with jobs,” she said. “I believe we have more taxes coming into the treasury because we have more taxpayers and a more robust economy.”
Long responded: “I think the great travesty of this bill is this really is borrowing on future generations. That is debt that my daughter’s going to have to worry about and her daughter’s going to have to worry about. We are benefitting people who have already done well in this economy, and it’s on the backs of future generations, and I think we have to call that out.”
Herrera Beutler said she would not advocate for raising taxes. “I’ve never voted for a tax increase. We don’t need more of your money to spend.” Long said she could not answer that question without seeing a specific proposal, but added: “I would not have voted for that bill, and if I could repeal that bill, I would.”
Notably, the tax cuts for corporations are “permanent,” while tax cuts for individuals expire after 2025. Herrera Beutler said she supports extending the personal reductions; Long said Herrera Beutler should not have voted for the bill if she wanted “permanent” individual tax cuts.
Long noted that much of the corporate tax cuts have been used for stock buybacks. An analysis of Fortune 500 companies by Americans for Tax Fairness found that companies spent 37 times more on buybacks than they did on bonuses or increased wages for employees. Herrera Beutler said much of that goes into 401(k) accounts that benefits workers.