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COMMUNITY VOICE

Our men, women in uniform should not pay price for Washington's failures

Thursday, February 28, 2013 - 12:01 am

After a decade of borrowing, spending and bailouts, the federal government has accumulated $16 trillion of debt. We face this problem because Washington spends too much, plain and simple.

While the lion’s share of deficit spending is caused by bankrupt social safety nets that make up nearly two-thirds of federal spending (more than twice the entire defense budget), there are countless examples of Washington waste — from the $51.6 million PR campaign to promote Obamacare to the $2.2 billion free- cellphone program. Hoosiers deserve better.

Unfortunately, because Washington refuses to meet these challenges head-on, the Defense Department faces a half-trillion-dollar cut Friday. Border security, law enforcement and aviation safety programs are bracing for the impact as well.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has compared the strategic impact of these cuts to “shooting yourself in the head.” Already our men and women in uniform are feeling the consequences across the country and right here in Indiana.

The USS Abraham Lincoln is waiting to be refueled, Marines are not being deployed to strategic regions in the Pacific, maintenance on equipment is delayed and 170 full-time personnel at Fort Wayne’s Air National Guard could be furloughed.

Astonishingly, this devastating $500 billion blow to our national defense is the commander in chief’s idea and the consequence of Washington’s runaway spending habits. After refusing to join House Republicans in seriously tackling the federal government’s $16 trillion debt, President Obama introduced the idea of across-the-board cuts to defense, known in Washington as the sequester.

According to Washington Post Associate Editor Bob Woodward, the sequester was first suggested during the summer of 2011 debt negotiations by President Obama’s then-Chief of Staff Jack Lew and included in the final debt ceiling package at the president’s insistence.

So where do we go from here? Hoosiers understand two simple truths: First, we must tackle our nation’s massive $16 trillion debt, and, second, our men and women in uniform shouldn’t pay the price for Washington’s failures.

Although I voted against the flawed deal that included President Obama’s sequester because I don’t believe politicians should saddle our armed services with Washington’s failures, I am committed to replacing the president’s devastating cuts with matching cuts to wasteful spending and reforms to entitlement programs. In fact, during the past six months my Republican colleagues and I in the House passed two bills to replace the president’s sequester with common-sense cuts to protect our national defense.

Unfortunately, these bills are stuck in the Democrat-controlled Senate while President Obama wages a fear campaign against the very cuts he proposed. Instead of threatening the American people with massive layoffs and furloughs, the president should encourage the Senate to vote on the bills we passed out of the House or negotiate a sensible solution. Unfortunately, the only solution the president can come up with is another oppressive tax hike.

Punishing middle-class families and small businesses is no way to promote lasting growth. In fact, the federal government will take in more revenue this year than ever before. New tax increases will only prevent growth and fuel the same government extravagance that created this mess.

Instead of offering a fact-based conversation, the president is misleading the American people with the false choice between weakened security abroad or stifling tax hikes at home.

It’s time for the president to get serious about our nation’s $16 trillion debt and keep our national defense strong. Hoosiers are waiting to see if President Obama will put away the threats and stand with service members and taxpayers.

Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-3rd District) is on the House Committee on Financial Services.