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We cannot wait around for an economic earthquake

by U.S. SEN. MIKE CRAPO / Contributing Writer
| August 17, 2023 1:00 AM

Fitch Ratings’ recent downgrade of our country’s currency default rating should come as no surprise, especially when considering the rating’s key drivers. This includes the federal government’s last-minute and reckless mismanagement of enormous fiscal policy issues and the predicted rise of the deficit to an astounding 5.8 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in fiscal year 2023. Cumulative debt is projected to exceed the country’s GDP next year. Many of us have been warning about these economic tremors for years, and we must act now to prevent further fiscal disaster.

So, what can we do? More than a dozen years ago, members of Congress from both sides of the aisle signed our names to the report of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. Even then, we knew our national debt is one of the biggest threats our nation faces. We should do now what we should have done then, as stated in the preamble to the report, “Throughout our nation’s history, Americans have found the courage to do right by our children’s future. Deep down, every American knows we face a moment of truth once again. We cannot play games or put off hard choices any longer. Without regard to party, we have a patriotic duty to keep the promise of America to give our children and grandchildren a better life.” We must:

End Failed Tax-And-Spend Policies and Implement Lasting Spending Disciplines: Unrestrained federal spending led to soaring inflation that has contributed to Americans experiencing the difficulty of wages not keeping up with costs of rent, groceries and services. But, instead of truly addressing the problem, Democrats pushed a reckless tax-and-spend agenda rolling out costly subsidies — whose price tag continues to skyrocket — and hundreds of billions in new tax increases on U.S. job creators. We must address our growing deficits in order to put the United States’ finances on a sustainable path.

Institute Pro-growth Policies that Drive A Healthy Economy: Republicans’ 2017 tax law, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) — which led to one of the strongest economies in generations — is an important part of the solution. TCJA introduced competitive tax rates while broadening the base and putting an end to American companies relocating to countries with lower tax rates. It also led to record-high corporate tax receipts, low unemployment and higher wages.

To give American small businesses certainty and incentive to grow and compete in the domestic and international economies, we should preserve the pro-growth policies in the TCJA, and explore additional opportunities to promote growth, increase investment, and encourage research and development in the United States.

Decrease Health Care Costs: Some of the actions we can take to set our country on a better fiscal path are identified right there in the Fitch Ratings. Fitch Ratings noted, “Over the next decade, higher interest rates and the rising debt stock will increase the interest service burden, while an aging population and rising health care costs will raise spending on the elderly absent fiscal policy reforms.”

Our health care programs have struggled to cost-effectively meet the needs of patients, job creators and frontline providers. Policies like government price controls enacted under the so-called “Inflation Reduction Act” risk exacerbating these and other challenges.

Opportunities for improvement abound for all of our health care programs. I have worked with colleagues to enact bipartisan health care solutions, ranging from mental health improvements to comprehensive telehealth coverage for seniors and working families, while notably reducing the deficit by billions of dollars. We should build on this fiscally responsible foundation to advance further reforms that improve health care access, affordability and choice for all Americans. Long-term, sustainable telehealth access; Medicare coverage for innovative technologies; and provider payment stabilization reflect critical areas of common interest for members across the political spectrum. If Washington can find common ground, focusing on policies we all support, we can simultaneously improve our health care system for patients and produce a path toward fiscal stability.

We need dedication at all levels of the federal government to truly buckle down and get our fiscal house in order. Let’s not wait around for another economic tremor. Let’s take these actions now and prevent an economic earthquake.

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Mike Crapo represents Idaho’s First Congressional District in the U.S. Senate. He can be reached at crapo.senate.gov.

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