Let’s consider the charade called the sequester. It was never intended that we take such a meat-cleaver approach to budget cutting. Such across-the-board budget cuts aren’t the right thing to do. They do real damage to people’s everyday lives and drain their own bank accounts.
In the long run, the sequester could hurt our national defense and our nation's ability to compete economically with other countries.
If these cuts continue, like this, for the next nine years, we will be in serious trouble.
And, the solutions are obvious: We need more targeted budget cuts of wasteful government spending coupled with realistic tax reform. We need to close some of the loopholes that allow these giant corporations to keep avoiding paying their fair share of taxes.
We need to end the subsidies that we’re giving to the oil companies, for example. These companies are making billions of dollars in profits at the expense of American consumers, and then the taxpayers subsidize them to the tune of billions of dollars more.
And what about the so-called offshore tax dodges? Sen. Carl Levin is moving forward with legislative efforts I support to prevent tax evasion that the Senate Subcommittee on Permanent Investigations estimated was costing $100 billion per year, or $1 trillion over ten years.
We also need to end other obvious corporate subsidies that aren’t included in the tax code, such as one given to the pharmaceutical industry. The Medicare program should get the same discounts from the drug companies that they provide to Medicaid and our veterans and others. We could save up to $140 billion dollars over ten years, if a similar discount was extended to Medicare.
Just these few examples alone add up to more than a trillion dollars. And there’s hundreds of billions more that might be saved by closing some of the other tax loopholes. But we also need to keep something in mind: not all tax deductions are bad. Some serve a very legitimate public good.
So, where are we in solving this problem?
We're stuck in gridlock.
Let’s take the budget, for example. The Senate Budget Committee passed its version of a budget. The House passed the so-called Ryan budget. Yet, we still have no members from either chamber appointed to a conference committee to work out the differences between the two plans.
Republican colleagues, including Sen. McCain (Ariz.) and Sen. Collins (Maine), have called for the naming of conferees.
So, let's do it. Let's end the gridlock and let’s compromise.
If common sense doesn’t prevail in Congress pretty soon, real damage will be done to our country.
Nelson is the senior senator from Florida, serving since 2001. He serves on the Budget, Commerce, Armed Services and Finance committees.