The federal budget is a moral statement and how we allocate taxpayers' dollars reflects our values. While the annual federal deficit and total national debt stand at unacceptable levels, it is important to remember how we reached this point. When President Clinton left office in 2000, we enjoyed an annual surplus that would have wiped out the national debt by 2008. Instead, when President Bush left office, two wars, excessive tax cuts and a terrible economy had produced an annual deficit over $1 trillion and a national debt over $10 trillion. Public broadcasting, Planned Parenthood, and the arts did not put us in the mess.
As we strive to narrow these gaps, we must not balance the budget on the backs of children, the poor, the middle class, and seniors. My priorities include protecting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other safety net programs from any cuts. These programs do not drive our debt and actually lift the economy as beneficiaries spend the money on basic needs. Additionally, we must continue to make investments in education, transportation, and clean energy. Those dollars represent a tiny share of the budget, but have enormous impacts on our growth and competitiveness in the future.
Finally, I believe that sacrifice must come first from those who can most afford it. Therefore, I oppose tax cuts on incomes over $250,000 and large estates. Due to the tax deal enacted last December, these handouts to millionaires and billionaires cost the government over $80 billion in 2011 alone. Corporate tax loopholes, farm subsidies, oil subsidies and other tax expenditures are where I would start moving our budget towards the right balance.
No matter what happens, this problem was not created overnight and will not be fixed overnight. I will work hard to find solutions that reflect our values by protecting those who need the most help.