I recently held my fourth and final tele-townhall meeting of the year. These regular meetings are one of the many ways I learn from and get the insights of my fellow Idahoans. I value this guidance greatly.
The primary purpose of the tele-townhall meeting held on Nov. 14 was to discuss the nations calamitous fiscal situation. I have been working with senators from both sides of the aisle to advance responsible solutions to address our growing debt crisis. Most immediately, the country faces a pending fiscal cliff, which includes massive tax increases and poorly designed spending cuts beginning in January.
Our national debt is more than $16 trillion. Important programs such as Social Security and Medicare will be insolvent within a generation, absent structural reform. The tax code could not be more burdensome, complex, anti-growth and anti-competitive. To grow our economy and reduce our deficit, we must enact a comprehensive plan that stops federal deficit spending and provides the necessary tax and entitlement program reform to put our nation on a more competitive fiscal path.
During the tele-townhall, I heard concerns about the fiscal cliff and questions about uncertain new taxes. A military family member asked about the anticipated impacts on our nations armed forces if the $1.2 trillion in federal spending cuts take effect. To fix our debt crisis, we must achieve these savings and more. However, Congress and the president must act to find a responsible way to achieve these reforms and reductions without depleting critical programs such as our national defense.
We discussed the need to shift away from the debate on taxation levels that creates a false choice, and move on to reforming our tax code and providing greater revenue through economic expansion. I also heard the understandable frustration of someone whose family is expected to lose their current employer-provided health insurance due to Obamacare. Absent action, in January, at the same time that many of the Obamacare tax hikes are scheduled to hit, more tax hikes on all Americans will go into effect upon expiration of the bipartisan 2001 and 2003 tax reductions. Enactment of job-stifling taxes is not the answer.
I heard the ongoing frustration with the gridlock in Congress and the need for bipartisanship. We do not have time for gridlock or gamesmanship any longer. We must work together across party lines. This does not require giving up principals, but requires finding win-win solutions to help our country move forward. I am hopeful that we can work together to avoid the fiscal cliff and get America on a better path toward economic growth.
The audio from this tele-townhall and past tele-townhall meetings can be accessed through my website, http://www.crapo.senate.gov. My website also includes information about accessing my Facebook and YouTube pages, as well as a link to follow me on Twitter. My office contact information for phone calls and letters can also be found on my homepage. The websites email system provides an expedited way to get information to me. This website also features audio of teleconferences, recent correspondence on top issues, links to legislation and other resources to assist Idahoans who need help with federal agencies. Please check the website after the first of the year for dates for tele-townhalls next year.
The input of Idahoans is very valuable as we tackle significant national challenges. Please continue to contact me and share your thoughts and ideas. I will continue to work to build bipartisan and workable solutions that avoid going over the fiscal cliff, take advantage of opportunities to fix entitlement programs and tax policy and make America a strong, vibrant economy again.
Mike Crapo, a Republican, is Idaho's senior senator.