Make lawmakers pay for inaction on fixing budget

It is not the fault of millions of hard-working career federal civil servants that 115,000 from the Departments of Housing, Interior and Labor, along with the Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Management and Budget and the Internal Revenue Service, have been furloughed. As part of last year’s budget negotiations, the threat of sequestering, or an automatic 8 percent spending cut, was supposed to bring all parties to the table. There would be a balanced budget and less need for increasing our debt limit, to avoid sequestering. Nothing has happened to date but more gridlock. This cut of $85 billion represents 2.3 percent of the budget. There are just as many good managers in the government as in the private sector. If their superiors would give them the authority and flexibility to manage budgets, they could find savings without having to consider furloughing or laying off employees. Millions of Americans have cut far more out of their family budgets and managed to survive.

 If federal civil servants should face furloughs, so too should White House employees, members of Congress and their staff. Everyone should be allowed to use yearly earned annual leave against any payless furlough days. Remember they have already gone three years without any salary increase. Payless furlough days are essentially a salary cut.

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Both the president and Congress need to work together if we are ever going to put our fiscal house in order and end future threats of both sequestering and furloughs. We need to return to the time when Congress held budget hearings for each department during the summer. A real balanced budget agency by agency was adopted during an open process. Members of Congress, federal employees, the public, watchdog groups and media were afforded sufficient time to understand the full contents prior to adoption. Full federal budgets were adopted on time prior to the start of any new federal fiscal year on Oct. 1. 

We can’t furlough the thousands of lobbyists who swarm around Washington like bees searching for honey. Hard-working civil servants pay taxes just like everyone else. The White House and Congress should be held accountable for their actions — or in this case inactions — just as employees are at end of the year personnel evaluations The president, members of Congress and their respective employees should be docked one full day’s pay for each day the upcoming fiscal 2014 budget is not adopted on time. They need to perform this most basic requirement of their jobs, which is passing a budget on time, just like federal civil servants do on a daily basis.

From Larry Penner, Great Neck, N.Y.

Ax IRS with Fair Tax Act

Recent news regarding the Internal Revenue Service targeting certain political groups and their members for harassment via tax-exempt applications and tax return audits provides further reason why we the people should vote to disband the agency. Legislation titled The Fair Tax Act would do just that and awaits hearings in the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee.

The fair tax would eliminate the IRS, all income taxes, the Social Security payroll tax, corporation taxes, estate taxes and taxes on interest, dividends and capital gains, and Medicare premiums. All of these would be replaced by a tax on consumption, configured in such a way as to provide relief for low-income families and to progressively increase the amount of taxes paid as spending above the poverty level increases. It would enlarge the tax base so that current taxpayers will pay less in taxes on average, reward saving and investment and stimulate the economy by encouraging businesses to remain in America.

From Patrick R. Burkett, Bend, Ore.

Cut nukes, put savings toward public programs

I strongly agree with the reasons for nuclear disarmament outlined in The Hill’s June 19 post “Obama proposes cutting nukes by a third.” President Obama’s 2014 budget  allocates $11.7 billion for nuclear security. A reduction in the U.S. nuclear arsenal would allow funding for public programs suffering budget cuts from the 2013 sequestration. Among these programs, education is particularly impacted.

According to the National Education Association, budget cuts due to sequestration result in a decrease in financial aid for college students, the elimination of many education jobs, and cuts in funding for special education, among other effects. In Washington, D.C., work study cuts affect more than 5,000 college students. In Virginia, more than 14,000 students are affected. As a college student, these cuts directly affect my generation and our transition from to students to professionals. The United States must focus on supporting its people by decreasing its nuclear arsenal and using the money toward our public programs.

From Andrea Simons, Medford, Mass.

Carter emphasizes peace through dialogue

The Hill’s June 20 article “Ex-President Carter wants sanctions weakened on terrorist groups” misrepresents former President Jimmy Carter’s position on terrorism, as well as the Charity and Security Network’s petition on peacebuilding. The petition in question in no way seeks changes to the sanction regime targeting terrorist organizations. Rather, it calls on the secretary of State to make clear that mediation, training and other activities designed to reduce terrorism cannot be considered “material support” to terrorist organizations. This is in keeping with President Carter’s longstanding support for dialogue as a means of resolving violent conflict.

From Nathan Stock, assistant director of the Conflict Resolution Program at The Carter Center, Atlanta, Ga.