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Our country is going to have to take some big steps to reduce our debts

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By Congressman Tom Perriello

Balancing the budget is crucial to our nation’s long-term financial health. Especially in these difficult economic times, we need to stop playing games with the deficit we are creating for our children. Everyone agrees that current spending levels are unsustainable over the long term, which is why I voted against the President’s budget last year. This year, we failed again to produce a balanced budget, so I voted against the Democrats’ so-called budget cap for this year. I’ve also demanded that both parties agree to an up-or-down vote on a balanced budget proposal.

In the very near future, our country is going to have to take some big steps to reduce our debts, but right now, we can also take small steps to get closer to fiscal sanity. For example, last week I introduced legislation that would rescind $107 million in unspent transportation funds and return those funds to the Treasury to reduce the national deficit. This is just a common-sense and practical measure to reduce the deficit and clean up our books. My bill was passed by the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and will be heading to the floor for a vote.

Another small step we took last year was saving $270,000 in my office expenses, money that was returned to the Department of the Treasury for deficit reduction. If all congressional offices had followed my lead, we could have reduced the deficit by $110 million. Again, these are small steps considering our overall obligations, but to paraphrase a worn-out saying that could only come from the halls of Washington: a hundred million here, a hundred million there, and pretty soon, you’re talking about real money.

Last week, Congress considered a bill to reregulate Wall Street and the financial industry. One of my priorities was to break up the toxic relationship between Washington and Wall Street, and I was disappointed that this bill did not pass that test. What started out as a strong set of protections for consumers was slowly dismantled and weakened by politicians of both parties on behalf of Wall Street and big business. Unfortunately, the average American who just wants to keep their retirement savings safe can’t afford a lobbyist. So what we got was a package that was acceptable to the special interests and irresponsible actors that got us into this financial mess in the first place, and that’s why I opposed it.

 

The Republicans in the Senate demanded that the risk pool be paid for with taxpayer dollars and not a tax on the big banks. The bill also failed to address the problem of over-leveraging, which was at the heart of the financial meltdown. And the bottom line is that this bill does not end ‘too big to fail.’ The same big banks whose reckless practices got us into this mess are still allowed to gamble with your hard-earned retirement savings and make billions of dollars of risky loans and purchases.

On the other side of the coin, this bill did too much to restrict responsible actors, like our community banks and credit unions. The Virginia Bankers Association, community banks, and credit unions said these new regulations were going to be overly burdensome and make it even more difficult for them to lend to small businesses. This was just a continuation of Washington’s backwards policy of rewarding failure while punishing those who acted responsibly.

While the new financial regulation legislation has many positive reforms to protect American consumers, it clearly does not do enough to protect Main Street and encourage responsible behavior by banks. In the end, I could not support a bill with loopholes large enough to drive the next recession through.

Please feel free to contact me to share your concerns and ideas. You may call 1-888-4-TOM4US (1-888-486-6487); write to 1520 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515; or visit www.perriello.house.gov to sign up for my weekly e-newsletter.