Congressman Randy Forbes | Capitol Monitor
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October 11, 2011 Twitter Facebook YouTube Digg RSS

If lawmakers were spending their own money, would America still be going broke?

“Dad can I have this t-shirt?” A teenage girl was holding up a pink t-shirt with a popular name brand scrawled on the front.

“How much is it?” her dad asked, narrowing his eyes skeptically as he took the shirt and fished around for the price tag.

“Only $40!” the teenage girl said in as convincing a tone as possible to persuade her father that this was, in fact, an appropriate amount to pay for a t-shirt.

“Well, I think that seems like something you can buy yourself with the money you’ve made working at the pool this summer,” her dad said handing the shirt back. The teenage girl dropped the shirt back on the table where she had picked it up. The dad raised his eyebrows, “No t-shirt, huh?”

The girl shook her head in disgust at the thought, “No way. I worked hard for that money – I’m not going to blow it on a $40 t-shirt!”

The two walked away, the dad with a slight smile on his face, shaking his head at the irony of the situation. The girl had obviously learned a basic lesson in the value of money: when it comes to spending money that is our own and for which we have worked hard, we think twice about what we spend it on and we look for items that are going to give us the best value.

Congress could stand to learn a similar lesson when it comes to federal spending.

Failure to rein in spending has cast a long shadow on our nation’s fiscal outlook. During the first three months of the year, our national debt was equivalent to 95 percent of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The $1.3 trillion budget deficit that the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office projects for 2011 will be the third-largest shortfall in the past 65 years (exceeded only by the deficits of the preceding two years). Our debt and deficit is not only affecting global competitiveness, it is directly impacting job creation. Economic experts say even a one percent increase in GDP can create almost one million jobs.

I believe in the simple truth that we should not spend what we do not have, and we must make it a priority to put our nation back on a path of fiscal prosperity. As public servants, we have a lot of work to do to bring down our national debt and rein in deficit spending.  It will not be easy. It will take hard work. It will not happen overnight. In the meantime, however, Congress can make some important fiscal, if not symbolic, steps to show that we are committed to returning America to a firm fiscal footing.

One of those ways is through Congressional pay. When our nation is facing a bloated federal deficit and increasing national debt, it is simply wrong for Congress to accept automatic pay raises. That is why I have consistently voted against pay raises for Members of Congress.

But I think we should go further than that. Just like families and businesses across America, Members of Congress need to be held accountable for their fiscal decisions.  And just like the teenage girl who was learning the difference in value when suddenly her own money was on the table, I believe Members of Congress need to have a similar personal stake in the decisions they make in Congress. It begs the question – if lawmakers were spending their own money, would America still be going broke?

To help answer that question, I recently reintroduced the Congressional Accountability Pay (CAP) Act (which was originally named by a constituent of Virginia's Fourth District). The CAP Act (HR 3136) would break Congress’ addiction to spending by tying the salaries of Members of Congress to the growth in government spending.  The premise of the bill is simple – the more Members of Congress spend, the less they make in salary. So, if Congress increases spending by 7%, their salaries would be cut by 7% the following year.

The money saved directly from the bill might not be enough to tackle the enormity of our debt, but it would go a long way in teaching Members of Congress the value of taxpayer dollars that they steward.

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Military Leaders: Defense Cuts Undermining our Ability to Protect the Nation

Over the past several weeks, I have shared my thoughts on looming defense cuts and the damaging effect they will have on our national security, as well as the economic well-being of our troops and our country.

Now, I want to share with you what our military leaders are saying about the impact of defense cuts:

MORE DEFENSE CUTS? VIEWS FROM OUR MILITARY LEADERS

“This mechanism would force defense cuts that, in my view, would do catastrophic damage to our military and its ability to protect this country. It is kind of a blind formula that makes cuts all across the board, and guarantees that we will hollow out the force.”
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta

Question before Senate Armed Services Committee referencing an additional $600 billion in defense cuts:
"If we pull that trigger, will we be shooting ourselves in the foot?" Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s answer:  "We'd be shooting ourselves in the head."

"I also share your deep trepidation over sequestration and the potential for cuts so devastating and so dramatic that we place at risk the very security we’re charged to provide, that we negate the very reason we exist."
Former Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen

“It has a good chance of breaking us and putting us in a position to not keep faith with this all volunteer force that's fought two wars and that needs to be reset in everything else that we look at for the future….And I think it would be incredibly dangerous for our country's national security to go there. And to your point, we are not going to solve that debt problem on the back of the Pentagon. You can't do it if you zeroed the budget.”
Former Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen

“The roughly $1 trillion in cuts … would seriously weaken our military, and it would really make us unable to protect this nation from a range of security threats that we face...[It] will not only impact our military strength, I think it will impact our economic strength as well. Cancellation of weapon systems, construction projects, research activity would seriously cripple our industrial base."
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta

“There will be tough decisions and tough trade-offs. This will force us to take on greater risk.”
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on $400 billion cuts already enacted

"We are not going to solve the national debt challenge on the back of the military. There are whole host of other issues that have to be addressed in order to significantly reduce that debt."
Former Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen

It will be "extraordinarily difficult and very high risk" to cut $1 trillion from defense spending.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey

“These sorts of ill-conceived reductions in defense spending would inflict real damage to the well-being of our Airmen and their families, and ultimately undermine our ability to protect the Nation.”
Air Force Chief of Staff General Norty Schwartz

Trillion dollar defense cuts, “would be devastating for the military, forcing spending reductions that likely would necessitate shrinking the size of the Army, Air Force and Marine Corps to the smallest numbers in decades and also lead to the smallest Navy in nearly 100 years.”
Pentagon Spokesperson George Little

“There is no doubt in my mind that the continued strength and global reach of the American military will remain the greatest deterrent against aggression and the most effective means of preserving peace in the 21st century, as it was in the 20th.”
Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates

"Everything's on the table, everything's being discussed. There are all sorts of scenarios. We're looking at every aviation program, every shipbuilding program. We're trying to wring out cost wherever and whenever we can find it."
Under Secretary of the Navy Bob Work

Cutting another $600 billion from national defense "is a red line that this government should not cross."
Pentagon Spokesperson George Little

“Currently, we are not able to meet all the forward presence requirements of the other combatant commanders… in the case of another major contingency operation, the United States Marine Corps would not, right now, be able to meet the timelines of the combatant commanders in response to another major contingency operation should it occur simultaneously with current operations in Afghanistan.” In reference to $1trillion cuts, “We would start to have to make some fundamental changes in the capability of the Marine Corps.”
General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, U.S. Marine Corps

“I will tell you that some of our low-density, high-demand requirements, personnel recovery, ISR, and a few are right at the ragged edge. In reference to $1trillion cuts, “We would have to go into a fundamental restructure of what it is our nation expects from our Air Force.”
General Philip M. Breedlove, Vice Chief of Staff, U.S. Air Force

On current ability to meet needs of commanders in field, “No, we cannot meet all the other COCOM commander's validated demands. Those are prioritized through the global force management process. We work hard to meet them. We are not able to meet them all.” In reference to $1trillion cuts, “You're reaching an area there that I think would definitely we'd have to look very, very hard at our strategy, what we can and cannot do.”
General Peter W. Chiarelli, Vice Chief of Staff, U.S. Army

“To meet Combatant Commanders needs unconstrained, doing some analysis, I need about 400 ships. I have 285 ships.” In reference to $1trillion cuts, “If we have a reduction of the kind that was passed around here - $400 billion or $886 billion - without a comprehensive strategic review, a fundamental look at what were asking our forces to do, we won't be able to meet the Global Force Management Plan today.  It will exacerbate our readiness trends. And if we have to go to a reduction of force structure, I am concerned about the industrial base.”
Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations, U.S. Navy

Read more here: www.forbes.house.gov/strongamerica

Protecting 10,000 Virginia Jobs

Congressman Forbes cosponsored legislation that would protect up to 10,000 Virginia jobs. Learn more using the link below. 

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Small Biz Open Mic 

The Small Business Committee website provides an opportunity for millions of business owners across the country to share stories and opinions on the impact of government policy on anything from federal regulations, to the tax code, to access to capital and credit.

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Congressman Forbes Discusses Identity Theft

In this video from the Washington Review archives, Congressman Forbes discusses the issue of identity theft, and resources available to individuals as they protect their information.

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