Coverage provided by Katharine Wolpe
Congressman Jerrold Nadler briefed VID on the prognosis for gun control, the debt ceiling, tax code changes and entitlement legislation facing the current Congress. First, he predicted that there would be not be much chance for passage of meaningful gun control legislation because of the powerful NRA, which lobbies for gun manufacturers.
Then he discussed fiscal issues in some detail. To reduce the budget deficit, Republicans want to cut entitlements (Social Security, Medicare, SSI, veterans’ benefits) and discretionary spending (Section 8, funding for housing, health, and infrastructure). In 2000, at the end of the Clinton administration, there was a budget surplus. President Bush pushed a program for tax cuts. There are five main causes for the current deficit: 1) 40% due to the tax cuts; 2) two unfunded wars (Iraq, Afghanistan); 3) the new Medicare drug program; 4) stimulus spending starting in 2009; and 5) the recession which started in 2007, causing lower tax receipts and more unemployment. Nadler said that more nondiscretionary spending was needed to put more people into jobs. European countries who cut expenses have gone deeper into recession.
If Congress refuses to raise the debt ceiling which it has done 77 times since World War II, the Federal Government would default, interest rates would spike, all government spending would automatically be reduced by sequestration, and there would probably be a worldwide depression. Since Republicans want the government to be smaller, they want to cut spending ($1.2 trillion in cuts during the last fiscal year). Sequestration (the automatic cutting of the Federal budget by a percentage across the board) would result in a $600 billion cut in all spending including defense and social services. Democrats would reject tax cuts for those making over $450,000 a year, and extend unemployment pay and funding for such programs as day care for children. Nadler advocates abolishing the debt ceiling.
During the question period, he was asked about the elimination of loopholes in the tax code. Nadler recommends adding tax brackets for higher taxes on rich people and eliminating loopholes such as reduced taxes on corporate funds held overseas and taxing capital gains as income. He also advocates a transaction tax on Wall St. trades.
In response to a question on entitlements vs. jobs for older adults, Nadler explained that the increase in life expectancy, an argument used to support raising the age for recipients of Social Security and Medicare, was due to a decline in infant mortality and is true only for upper income, not lower income people. He opposes a age change for Social Security and Medicare recipients, and also opposes “means testing” for receiving such benefits because it would reduce the middle class’s stake in discretionary spending for the poor, which helps provide economic security and a pathway to a better life.
Congressman Nadler would not make a prediction on whether the $51 billion funding for Hurricane Sandy recovery will pass when the vote is held on January 15.
See also: http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/economy-a-budget/276703-the-debt-ceiling-must-go an Op-Ed by Congressman Nadler, Jan. 11, 2013