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Supercommittee can succeed

Budgets and BudgetingGovernment DebtBarack ObamaBenjamin L. CardinWhite HouseJohn McCain

Later this month, the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction — often referred to as the "supercommittee" — will issue its recommendations on how we should deal with our nation's economic problems and budget deficits. I have two strong recommendations for its members: Focus on job creation, and develop a comprehensive, balanced approach that is bold and will lead to meaningful deficit reduction.

First, jobs. President Barack Obama has come forward with a jobs initiative that I believe is the right approach. One piece of his plan focuses on rebuilding America's infrastructure. Bolstering our nation's schools, roads and utilities would create hundreds of thousands of well-paying jobs, while also ensuring that the United States remains competitive in the global marketplace.

The president's proposal has gotten high marks from independent economists. Mark Zandi, who was Sen. John McCain's economic advisor during his 2008 presidential campaign, predicted the plan would increase our gross domestic product by 2 percent and create 1.9 million additional jobs. The president's proposal also is completely paid for by adding a surcharge on taxable income that exceeds $1 million.

I think most of us can agree that the key to restoring our fiscal health is to put people back to work. Working Americans are less reliant on governmental services, they purchase more and they pay taxes. If we have more people working, we can bring our budget into balance much more quickly.

On job creation, I challenge President Obama's opponents to come forward with a plan that creates at least 1.9 million jobs without adding to the budget deficit. So far, that hasn't happened. I have urged the supercommittee to make sure that job creation is included in its list of recommendations. I also have urged the panel's members to put aside partisan differences and come up with a plan that is bold, comprehensive and balanced — or, as some would say, a plan that involves "shared sacrifice."

It's important to take a page from the president's debt commission, chaired by former senator Alan Simpson and former White House chief of staff Erksine Bowles, which called for reducing the deficit over the next 10 years by about $4 trillion. I believe that number is achievable. We have already cut the first trillion in August when we raised the debt limit. Now we need to look for another $3 trillion.

One key to deficit reduction is a realistic baseline to determine a common starting point for revenue. I was impressed by the work of the Simpson-Bowles commission and by the work of the so-called Gang of Six in the Senate because they realistically assumed that some expiring tax provisions will be extended — but not all of them. This baseline also assumes that we have to bring in additional revenues.

Frankly, we need about $1.2 trillion in revenues in a $4 trillion deficit-reduction package. I believe we can do it. Despite partisan calls for the supercommittee to avoid any taxes increases, we need additional revenue to bring our budget into balance. If we eliminate the hundreds of loopholes in the tax code that benefit special interest corporations and ensure that everyone pays their fair share, we could accomplish that goal.

When I say everyone needs to pay their fair share, I mean that the supercommittee needs to consider the growth of income inequality in United States over the last 30 years. According to a recent study by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the number of American millionaires grew by almost 7 percent. It also showed that the top 1 percent's share of national income more than doubled between 1979 and 2007, and their real after-tax income soared 275 percent. At the same time, the study shows that middle-class families failed to keep up.

The supercommittee can succeed if its recommendations are balanced and fair. That means making sure that millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share and that the middle class isn't left to shoulder the burden of deficit reduction.

The task of deficit reduction is not going to be easy, but I believe Americans understand the seriousness of the situation and want lawmakers to come together for the good of our nation.

U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin is a member of five Senate committees: Environment & Public Works, Finance, Foreign Relations, Budget, and Small Business and Entrepreneurship. He can be contacted through his website: cardin.senate.gov.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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