Tough Choices Ahead

August 7, 2012
Dear Friends,

In the coming months, Congress must face the consequences of last year’s failed budget negotiations. At that time, I believe House Republicans forced a dangerous standoff over the debt limit, which led to our nation’s first credit downgrade and a one-sided deal that did little to secure our nation’s future.

There is now the prospect that automatic, across-the-board spending cuts and tax increases will be triggered on January 2, 2013. Some economists have referred to this combination of cuts and tax increases as a “fiscal cliff” that could plunge our economy back into recession next year. 

Auto-pilot budgeting is not responsible governing.

I voted against last year’s budget proposal because it boxed us into a set of dangerous triggers and spending cuts. It put our budgetary decisions on auto-pilot instead of basing them on careful consideration. The “deal” had no strategy for achieving economic recovery, and it lacked credibility because it did not call for shared sacrifice to achieve deficit reduction. It will slash programs that benefit middle-class Americans, while preserving tax cuts for corporations, special interests and the wealthiest among us – those who have done very well even in this economy.

It’s time to address the Bush tax cuts.

Regardless of whether you believe the Bush tax cuts were warrented, they were financed by adding $2.4 trillion to the national debt. These tax cuts are set to expire at the end of the year. Because our economy remains fragile, I support extending the tax cuts for 98 percent of all American households. However, it is fiscally prudent to let the tax cuts expire for the 2 percent with the highest incomes – individuals earning more than $200,000 per year and families earning more than $250,000 per year. 

Despite claims to the contrary, there is little stimulative benefit of deficit-financed tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. These so-called trickle-down economic policies are not an efficient way to boost growth. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, extending the Bush tax cuts for top earners would do little to reduce the unemployment rate. When jobs are our number one priority, it makes more sense to enact policies that benefit the broad majority of Americans.

A responsible budget should honor American values.

The budget process is entirely about choices. By examining the priorities we set, you can draw conclusions about our values as a nation. I believe that our greatest value is preserving opportunities for all Americans.

I hope that you will take a minute to share your feedback as this critical decision-making process unfolds by visiting my web site at to fill out a survey on this topic. I intend to keep an open mind when it comes to practical solutions that will put our fiscal house in order, while making the key investments necessary to rebuilding our country.

Congressman John P. Sarbanes
Maryland's Third Congressional District