Reducing the Deficit
The annual budget deficit has gotten out of control, and I believe we need to find bipartisan solutions to balance the budget.
First, I have called on President Obama to freeze all non-discretionary spending in all federal agencies. Second, I have gone after waste in Medicare, which could save as much as $700 billion in unnecessary health care costs, due to many unneeded services being provided. Third, I've worked to cut down on excessive defense contracts to firms like Blackwater and Halliburton, which have wasted billions of dollars. Finally, in February 2011, I supported nearly $450 billion in cuts to federal spending.
I'm working hard in Congress to reduce the deficit, and I know that our current spending is unsustainable. This is also why I'm a big supporter of Pay-As-You-Go, which compels Congress to find savings for the money it spends, which keeps our deficit from increasing. Under the Statutory Pay-As-You-Go Act, which I've endorsed, Congress is required to find savings to balance any new tax cuts or entitlement spending. We must address our current deficit, and we must also stop the bleeding by requiring Congress to Pay-As-You-Go.
I have worked hard to restore fiscal discipline to the United States government, and reverse the spending that has occurred over the last number of years that sent our nation into debt. I am fully committed to the pay-as-you-go principle, and I will work tooth and nail to balance the budget while also helping rejuvenate our nation's struggling economy.
In 2010 and again in 2012, I held a number of workshops, open to all Iowans, focusing on our nation's financial future. I partnered with the non-partisan Concord Coalition to put on a new, interactive type of workshop where participants were able to try their hand at balancing the budget. In small groups of seven or nine, we participated in an exercise where we made decisions about everything from tax policy, to entitlement reform and discretionary spending cuts. Then we added up our results to see how it impacted the federal deficit.
I met with folks in Waterloo, Davenport, Dubuque, Cedar Falls and Fayette – about 600 people in all. Although we had participants from all different walks of life – students and seniors, farmers and small business owners, men and women – we had very similar experiences in each of the meetings. We came together, had respectful conversations with our friends and neighbors, and started making the tough choices that Washington politicians so often won't. Instead of arguing back and forth or talking past each other, we listened. And the results were incredible.
On average at our meetings, we saw the deficit cut by $3.8 trillion over the next ten years. Every group got there in a different way: some groups reformed Social Security and Medicare, many cut discretionary spending, and almost all of them repealed the Bush tax bonuses for the wealthiest. But everyone cut trillions from our deficit. And they did it by explaining their priorities, listening to each other and compromising – something that just seems like common sense in Iowa. Imagine if we could have that kind of a conversation about the budget in Washington.
What I saw and heard is the best of Iowa. What I learned is that when we come together as neighbors, we can tackle any challenge. We can make tough choices and take responsibility for the problems facing our nation – and we can do it without insulting each other. I look forward to taking what I've learned back to Washington as we work to create a financially sustainable future for our country.
Watch this video of my deficit town halls in April 2011
Town Hall Results
Below is a chart displaying averages of total savings in the federal budget made by participants of Rep. Braley deficit town halls in April 2011.