Reducing the Deficit and Debt

Sen. Carper's Telephone Town Hall on Debt and Deficit Issues

On Sunday, July 31, Sen. Carper held a telephone town hall to answer constituent questions and share his views on the debt ceiling and deficit reduction.

One of the top issues on the minds of Delawareans is the debate in Washington over how to rein in our nation’s escalating budget deficit and staggering debt.

As many agencies, businesses, and families continue to feel the effects of the across-the-board sequestration spending cuts, I am working hard to ensure that leaders in Washington take a balanced approach to deficit reduction. I am urging my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to craft a long-term deficit reduction plan that gets our fiscal house in order and gives businesses the certainty they need to create jobs here at home. In short, I am trying to share some of the lessons from the way we do things in Delaware – working together, finding common ground, adopting thoughtful compromises – in the hopes of finding solutions that will best serve our country.

What Senator Carper Believes

In 2010, President Obama’s bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, co-chaired by former Republican Senator Alan Simpson and President Clinton’s former Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles, proposed reducing the deficit by $4 trillion over the next 10 years. Like the report issued by the commission, I suggest we start the conversation on how to reduce the deficit by putting everything on the table: domestic discretionary spending, defense spending, entitlement programs and taxes.

Too often, my colleagues focus on deficit reduction as if there are only two solutions: cut spending or raise taxes. An honest approach—and the best approach—would do some of each. In addition, we should find programs in the federal government where we can get better results for less money, as well as close loopholes in the tax code. This balanced approach would encourage long-term economic growth by adjusting our spending and revenues wisely so we can out-educate, out-innovate and out-compete the rest of the world in the 21st Century.

This is no easy task, but our nation’s fiscal and economic future depends on it. Both Republican and Democratic leaders recognize that we have to act now to reduce the deficit. We must work together and have the courage to make the right decisions to get our country back on the path of fiscal responsibility and prosperity.

Legislative Action

To curb our federal deficit, I continue to focus on crafting policies that achieve better results throughout government for less money.

Currently, I am working to curb waste, fraud and abuse in government programs like Medicare and Medicaid. Medicare and Medicaid are some of our nation’s most critical safety-net programs that millions of Americans – the poor, the elderly, and the disabled – rely on every day for quality health care. But every year, these programs lose billions of dollars to waste and criminal activity. I believe that Congress has a solemn responsibility to ensure these programs have the resources they need to provide excellent care for beneficiaries, and at the same time, make sure that taxpayer dollars are spent responsibly and effectively. 

Earlier this year, I introduced the Preventing and Reducing Improper Medicare and Medicaid Expenditures or “PRIME” Act (S. 861). This bill aims to fortify the integrity of Medicare and Medicaid and yield better stewardship of taxpayer dollars by addressing the programs’ vulnerabilities to waste, fraud, and abuse. Most of the provisions are based on Government Accountability Office, Health and Human Services Inspector General, and other expert and stakeholder findings and recommendations. The bill has received a lot of support, and I am happy to report that half of the bill’s provisions were included in legislation that President Obama signed into law in April. 

This past March, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, on which I serve as ranking member, held a hearing titled, “Examining Federal Improper Payments and Errors in the Death Master File.” Through examining issues like the one highlighted during this hearing across the federal government, we can save billions of taxpayer dollars each year. In April, I introduced a bipartisan bill, the Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased People Act. Too often, federal agencies miss payments made in error to people who have died when the agency is relying on outdated list of recipients. The legislation requires federal agencies to have access to the complete database of deceased individuals in order to update beneficiary list, make appropriate use of the data in order to curb improper payments, and establish procedures to ensure that the list of deceased individuals is accurate and complete.

In 2010, President Obama signed the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act into law. I sponsored that bill to address government waste and cut unnecessary spending. This Congress, I introduced the Federal Improper Payments Coordination Act of 2015, to update and expand on the original law that provides the federal government with new tools to identify, recover, and hopefully prevent improper federal payments to individuals, organizations, and contractors. This law is a perfect example of common-sense bipartisan legislation and I look forward to improving the original law and continuing my efforts to eliminate waste across the federal government. Making our federal government more efficient and effective is not a one-time event achieved solely through cutting funding and eliminating programs. It is an ongoing effort of looking in every nook and cranny to see where we can get better results for less money. 

Comprehensive Tax Reform

At the beginning of the 114th Congress, the Senate Finance Committee, on which I serve, continued its work on comprehensive tax reform that started in the 113th Congress. I was pleased to join this bipartisan effort sponsored by Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR). I have long called for comprehensive reforms to our nation’s tax code. Both the corporate and individual tax codes are riddled with inefficient loopholes and tax expenditures. Both are far too complicated and provide too much opportunity for some taxpayers to ‘game the system’ to avoid paying taxes. And both impose tax rates that are too high compared to our international competitors. I believe we must simplify and streamline our tax code, eliminating or modifying the trillions of dollars of tax loopholes, credits, and deductions. In doing so, we can both reduce our deficit and increase tax revenues, all while lowering tax  rates on lower- and middle-class families.

I am pleased to serve on two of the five bipartisan working groups: the International Tax Bipartisan Working Group and the Business Income Tax Bipartisan Working Group. In July, after months of round-table discussions, the five working groups released their preliminary reports that include initial findings, and recommendations on how to move forward with making comprehensive reforms to our tax code. Click here to view the preliminary reports released by the five working groups.

During my time in Washington, I hope to transform our government from a “culture of spendthrift,” which kicks the can of our federal debt down the road to future generations, to a “culture of thrift,” which protects taxpayers’ money, reduces the deficit, and helps strengthen our economy moving forward.

Senator Carper on the Issue

In May, I wrote an op-ed for The News Journal laying out my views on how leaders in Washington should best reduce our deficit and debt. You can read the full piece here.

On July 25, 2011, I discussed the debt ceiling and broader, long-term deficit reduction live on CNBC's "Squawk Box" broadcast.

On July 20, 2011, I discussed the "Gang of Six" plan to reduce the deficit, how it impacts our national debt and debt ceiling, and a long-term path to fiscal responsibility live on CNN's "CNN Newsroom" broadcast.

I answered a constituent question from Sharon in Bear, Del., about the debt ceiling in a recent edition of "Carper's Corner," the blog I keep on this website.

On July 7, 2011, I talked about the debt ceiling live on FOX News' "Happening Now" broadcast.

On July 1, 2011, I discussed deficit reduction on Fox Business Network's "Bulls & Bears" broadcast.