Task Force Chair: Federal Spending Bigger Threat Than 9/11
Sen. Lindsey Graham willing to break with some in GOP to avoid sequestration.
If the United States should fall off the fiscal cliff created by sequestration in January, South Carolina would make one of the hardest landings.
That’s what Sen. Lindsey Graham and Gov. Nikki Haley said on Wednesday during a press conference at the Bluff Road Armory in Columbia.
Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom and Adjutant General Major General Robert E. Livingston Jr. also spoke at the session with the media, which was peppered throughout with words like “disastrous” and “crisis” and “devastating” in describing the effect sequestration would have on the country as a whole, but South Carolina in particular.
Eckstrom went so far as to say that continued deficit spending by Congress would be more damaging than the threat of 9/11. Eckstrom chairs a task force created by Gov. Haley to protect South Carolina’s bases from budget cuts.
Bases in Charleston, Beaufort, Sumter and Columbia would be damaged by a slashed budget.
If nothing is done, sequestration would go into effect in the first week of January 2013 and would cut $110 billion from the entire budget this year and $1.2 trillion over the next ten years. It is a result of the debt ceiling fight from last summer that included a provision triggering sequestration if a bi-partisan group could not agree on ways to reduce the deficit.
Want to know more about sequestration? Here’s an explanation courtesy of the Associated Press.
Eckstrom acknowledged that there are no way around cuts but believes that sequestration is the worst possible way to deal with it.
While defense would be the hardest hit, Graham said cancer research and spending for special education would also be scaled back drastically.
But Graham doesn’t think it has to come to that. He said the $1.2 trillion in needed cuts could be achieved by eliminating tax loopholes and breaks for special interest groups. He also reminded the media that he’s gone against his own party doctrine by putting tax increases for the wealthy on the table, so Democrats need to do the same with entitlements like Medicare and Medicaid. Graham said means-testing for Social Security benefits and raising the retirement age are among the most obvious places to look.
Graham, who is up for re-election in 2014, believes that sequestration can be avoided, but is not optimistic about the possibility. He said he’s been meeting with a small group of senators to find solutions, but has not heard from President Obama on the issue and called on the president to rise above election year politics.
In her remarks, Haley said that nearly 14,000 jobs would be in jeopardy and millions of dollars in economic impact. “Military is a core function of government and something you can never cut,” Haley said.
“All of the hard work that’s gone in to recruiting companies like Boeing would be wiped out,” Graham said.
The issue also has personal resonance for Haley. Her husband Michael will be deployed to Afghanistan in January of 2013.
Graham said he plans on touring the country to talk about what’s it stake. He recently visited the presidential battleground states of North Carolina, Virginia and New Hampshire with fellow Senators John McCain of Arizona and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire.
In addition to breaking with the GOP on taxing those with higher incomes, Graham is also breaking from some Republicans who think the United States needs to rethink its role in a post-Cold War world, particularly in a time of fiscal uncertainty.
“Some people in our party believe in Fortress America and are isolationist,” Graham said. “The party of Ronald Reagan believed in shaping the world, not having the world shape us.”
Graham noted that Europe is pulling back its spending on defense and the United States has a responsibility as a peacekeeper. “Unlike other nations, we are a beacon of hope and freedom. It is our destiny to stand up to evil,” he said. “I’ve never seen America more at risk than it is now.”