The Northern Virginia Daily's Political Depot

A service for our readers outside the Northern Shenandoah Valley... a sampling of The Daily's political coverage, plus unofficial, 'reporter's notebook' stuff. And occasional dry humor...

My Photo
Location: Strasburg, Virginia

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Wolf: Change federal fiscal policy before nation bankrupt; B2

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

The federal government’s fiscal policy is badly broken and must be changed soon or the nation faces bankruptcy, a local congressman said Tuesday.

During a Capitol Hill press conference, Rep. Frank Wolf, R-10th, whose district includes Winchester, Frederick and Clarke counties, called for creating an expert panel to produce a solution for Congress to vote on.

Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are broken and will bankrupt the country in the near future unless something is done, Wolf said.

“To meet the government’s current unfunded promises for future spending, every American — including multimillionaires like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett — would have to hand over 90 percent of their personal net worth in today’s dollars,” Wolf said. “This is unacceptable.”

When members of the baby boom generation born after World War II begin to retire en masse in a few years, the system will simply break, he said.

“As we tragically learned in New Orleans, the best time to deal with a damaged flood wall is before the rains begin,” Wolf said. “Make no mistake, the levees that are our country’s entitlement systems are in need of repair and must be fixed.”

Wolf’s answer to the program is the “SAFE Commission” designed to “secure America’s future economy.” The 15-member panel would hold public hearings, take expert testimony and produce a package of fiscal reforms that would either have to be approved or rejected by Congress.

By the time a baby born in 2006 retires, 88 percent of all income taxes will be used to pay for retired boomers.

“Not only is this unacceptable, it raises serious moral questions,” Wolf said. “Is it right for one generation to live very well knowing that its debts will be left to be paid for by their children and grandchildren?”

Spending has reached the point that, without billions of dollars in foreign investment flowing into the economy every day, the government would not be able to meet its obligations.

Democrat Judy Feder, who is challenging Wolf for his congressional seat in the Nov. 7 General Election, dismissed the proposal Tuesday, claiming the incumbent bears responsibility for the very fiscal crisis he cited.

“I’m glad to see that Frank Wolf has finally realized that the unwise fiscal policies he has supported have caused serious problems,” Feder said in a statement posted on her campaign Web site.

“But if Frank Wolf wanted to protect Social Security and Medicare, he should have had the backbone to stand up to George Bush instead of voting for the President’s agenda 90 percent of the time,” she said. “It’s going to take a lot more than a commission for Frank Wolf to fix a mess he helped create.”

Wolf said the magnitude of the coming crisis is such that “everything must be on the table,” including tax increases.

“As a fiscal conservative, I believe that the economy grows when people keep more of their hard-earned money, and my voting record reflects this belief,” he said.

Any tax increases should be part of a larger overhaul of the tax code, he said.
If the House of Representatives and Senate agree to the commission, the bipartisan pan-el would spend six months holding “town hall” meetings in at least 12 locations across the country.

Two months later, the commission would send Congress a reform package that could only be voted up or down, not amended, and which must be acted on within 15 legislative days.
But the legislation leaves room for other ideas.

“My legislation does provide an opportunity for the administration and Congress to submit alternative proposals, which would not be amendable,” Wolf said.