Explaining how America came to its current deficit and suggesting ways to get out of it were two major talking points for Sen. Ben Cardin on Thursday evening as he spoke to and answered questions from members of the faith-based community.
Promoting education, investing in infrastructure and focusing on research were among the top activities Cardin, D-Md., said could create jobs for Marylanders and expand the taxable work force.
“We know we have to do a better job in creating jobs,” Cardin said. “As faith-based leaders, we need to get your input on what will work and what won’t work.”
Cardin, who arrived in the nation’s capital in 1987 as a representative and was voted into the Senate during the 2006 election, said fiscal policies during the past 10 years have contributed to the current debt crisis by cutting revenues while increasing spending.
“The deficit we currently have is not sustainable,” Cardin said, noting choices by former President George Bush to give out tax cuts in 2001 and 2003 as well as starting two wars.
Cardin said ending the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and returning revenue to levels that existed during Bill Clinton’s presidency could make strides for the nation’s coffers and job growth.
“Our own budget people expect us to save, over the next 10 years, about $1 trillion,” Cardin said about potential savings if troops are brought home.
Returning revenue levels would not necessarily mean increases in tax rates, Cardin said, but could come from eliminating the Bush tax cuts and loopholes for oil and gas companies that rake in record profits quarter after quarter.
“For those who say revenues can’t be job builders just look at the record,” Cardin said. “The revenues we had during Bill Clinton created more jobs than any other president in modern history.”
While Cardin may have the ideas, it will be 12 of his colleagues on the “super committee” who determine where to cut from. The budget agreement recently passed to raise the debt ceiling dictates the “dirty dozen,” as Cardin calls them, will need to find $1 trillion in government spending cuts.
For the next two years there is a firewall between money spent for security and the money spent on non-security issues, meaning they cannot cut from schools to “pay for guns.” Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid will not be touched during the first round of cuts, Cardin said.
The debt ceiling negotiations also require an additional $1.2 trillion in cuts during the next decade. What will happen to entitlements during those cuts is less clear.
Cardin hopes the suggestions by the super committee are balanced to include cuts as well as increases to revenue so jobs can follow.
Pastor Lewis Watson of First Baptist Church was glad Cardin took the time to speak with faith leaders.
“Sometimes we feel that we are left out and we feel that we are not a part of what is going on, so I was grateful that Sen. Ben Cardin came here to enlighten us and make us aware of the issues at hand,” Watson said. “I think that will have an impact on our church and our community.”
Cardin has held meetings with faith-based leaders in the past few years; however, this was the first one in Salisbury.