Growing debt threatens America's future, says Duffy

Nov 21, 2011In the News

Ashland Daily Press, Rick Olivo

The Ashland Daily Press

Monday, November 7, 2011

Seventh District Congressman Sean Duffy, R-Weston, told area residents attending a town hall meeting Monday at the American Legion building in Ashland that government debt threatens to overwhelm the U.S. economy.

"When you look at the issues we face in the country right now, number one we would say is the economy and jobs right now, no doubt, hands down," he said. "But as a sub-issue, the debt is a real problem."

Duffy said given that only 40 percent of every dollar spent in the budget was discretionary spending, half of which was for defense, options to cut federal spending are limited. The remaining 60 percent was mandatory spending that Congress does not vote on every year.

"That includes Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, interest on the debt, other spending like spending for the Veterans Administration, food stamps."

Duffy said the U.S. borrows 42 cents out of every dollar spent by the government.

He said people who favored balancing the budget immediately did not understand the magnitude of the debt problem. He noted even if you completely eliminated the military budget, you would only be halfway to balancing the budget.

"This is how out of whack our budget it," he said.

Duffy said projections of spending showed the U.S. faced "a sea of debt" in years to come unless action was taken immediately. He said if America remains on its present track, the economy would collapse under the weight of debt.

"This needs to be changed; we need to chart a new course. Otherwise, this is the kind of debt structure we will leave not to our children, but to our grandchildren and great-grandchildren," he said.

Duffy said one of the problems with American debt was that 47 percent of the debt is held by foreign creditors.

"China owns about 30 percent of our national debt. I would submit to you that we are giving China an economic nuclear bomb by letting them purchase so much of our debt," he said.

Duffy is a co-sponsor of the "Cut, Cap and Balance Act of 2011" which would cut spending, institute spending caps and add a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. That bill passed the House earlier this year, but died in the Senate, amid a promise by President Barack Obama to veto it if it came to his desk.

Duffy said his goal in holding the town hall meetings was to get feedback and input from constituents.

"I never had that opportunity from my congressman, and your congressman is your closest relationship to your federal government and I want to make sure my constituents can hear from me," he said.

Duffy said the economy and jobs were clearly the leading issue he has heard about from district residents.

"People want to get back to work, people are frustrated that the downturn has lasted so long, and they want to make sure we have a recovery on the horizon. They want to make sure about what policies we can implement to turn the economy around, to make sure we have growth," he said.

Duffy said a sense of uncertainty was the greatest enemy to recovery at the present.

"The people who I talk to who are job creators all talk about uncertainty with regulations, they are angry and frustrated that there is overregulation, but more than that, they are concerned that the regulations are always changing, there is no certainty in the regulations," he said.

Duffy said those uncertainties extended to the tax code, access to capital, the new health care law and how it was going to impact them.

"All of that comes together and it creates uncertainty and so instead of taking a new risk or making a new investment, they don't. They ask their current employees to work overtime, work on the weekends, and we don't see job growth.”

Duffy said he believed the economic crisis in Europe would impact America, creating new problems because the U.S. was weak because of its own debt.

"It is no doubt going to have an impact on our own economy. It would have been far less if we had our fiscal and financial house in order," he said.

Duffy said he supported mining as a method of job creation, but qualified that support by saying he wanted mining to be looked at to ensure it could be done in a non-polluting way.

"Obviously, if it's going to pollute our Great Lakes, I take great issue with that, but I've heard a lot of information that says it can be done safely, and these are good-paying jobs, $70,000- to $80,000-a-year jobs in an area that dramatically needs them," he said.

Duffy said he was not entirely opposed to all of the provisions in President Obama's job bill.

"There are a number of things in his job bill that I agree with , and some that I don't. But I would say this to the president. We passed 22 bills in the Senate; can you agree with some of the things that we have passed as well?"

Duffy said he was concerned about the amount of gridlock in Washington between the Democrats and Republicans.

"One thing that I have very quickly come to see is that there are some polarizing things that you are probably not going to find common ground on, but there are a lot of things in the middle that you can negotiate on and get solutions to, and I think that we need to focus more on what we can agree on in the middle instead of focusing on the things that divide us," he said.

"What can we agree on that moves the economy forward? Maybe we can package those common issues together and at least get something done."