Dec. 3, 2012

EXCLUSIVE: Q&A with Rep. Mike Rogers


With all the talk about the Bush tax cuts, Social Security and Medicare reform and the looming “fiscal cliff,” we wanted to let our readers hear from District 3 Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Saks. Rogers was recently elected to his sixth term in Washington, D.C. and answered a series of questions posed by Managing Editor Scott Wright.

Wright: Columnist Walter Schapiro wrote last week that the so-called “fiscal cliff” is little more than an “arbitrary deadline” created by Congress that will be eventually replaced by another deadline aimed somewhere further down the road. At what point does Congress run the danger of fomenting a “Chicken Little” reaction from the American people from constant talk about impending fiscal doom when they see little or no long-term action designed to solve the problem?

ROGERS: Scott, our country is at crossroads and some big decisions must be made that will directly impact us and future generations. The stark reality in Washington is that the American people reelected a divided government. The Republican-controlled House and President Obama, along with the Democratic-controlled Senate, will have to work together to find ways to best address the nation's problems.

It will take compromise if we have any chance at success. The fiscal cliff is very real, but it is my hope that Congress will work together and come up with workable solutions. I sincerely hope it's not something Congress again kicks down the road.

Wright: Is raising the age for Medicare eligibility, which has been tossed about in recent years, a good idea? Why or why not?

ROGERS: We have to be realistic here about how much our nation has changed demographically since Medicare was created in 1965. Thanks to the success of programs like Medicare and other health insurance programs, folks are living longer than before. In addition, in part because of better health and part to financial reasons, some folks are deciding to work longer. Just as America changes, these long-term trust funds must evolve, too. We should explore all prudent options to save and strengthen Medicare while making sure any changes wouldn't impact current retirees or those nearing retirement.

Wright: Do you believe the 2 percent payroll tax cut that Americans have enjoyed for the last two years will continue under whatever new budget Congress adopts?

ROGERS: For too far long, both Democrats and Republicans have amended the tax code in a variety of ways for a variety of reasons. What we are stuck with now is a massive set of laws and regulations that in some cases make no rhyme or reason and are more of a burden on than help for American families. Given our dire economic situation, Congress and the president need to put fundamental tax reform on the table. I believe this reform should lead to a fairer, flatter, and simpler tax code that does not punish success.

I think it is also very important to underline the difference between a budget and extending lower tax rates for all Americans. A budget is simply a blueprint to be followed and the House of Representatives has passed budgets to keep taxes low, cut spending, and cut the deficit. Unfortunately, for the past two years the president's budget has been defeated in the Senate without one single vote in favor.

Wright: One major point of contention inside the Beltway is the Bush tax cuts. Democrats want the cuts left in place for families making $250,000 or less while allowing them to expire for the rich. If billionaires like Warren Buffet don't feel punished for paying a little more in taxes for the success they have built on the backs of the rest of us, why not let them do so?

ROGERS: I'm not going to get in a debate with a guy who is worth billions, but I will say both sides have been agreeing on the need to reduce tax deductions and close loopholes in the tax code as a way to help simplify it and raise revenue. Significant spending cuts must also be on the table.

I'd also add that if anyone ever wishes to pay the IRS more than they supposedly owe, nothing is stopping them from doing so.

Wright: Did you sign Grover Norquist's “no tax” pledge when you took office and, if so, do you think it should still apply despite the changes in the country over the past dozen years?

ROGERS: I have supported keeping taxes low throughout my time in Congress. My first concern about any budget proposal is about how it will impact folks in the Third District. I will look at the details of any new proposal when the president puts something concrete on the table. House Republicans have had the outline of a debt reduction plan, the Ryan Budget, for over two years.

Wright: What is your reaction to other members of Congress who have signed Norquist's pledge but are now indicating a willingness to consider revenue increases?

ROGERS: Rather than commenting on what individual members say, I'd comment that I find it encouraging that both sides appear to be working more closely together to find bipartisan solutions.

Wright: Can you elaborate on aspects of the “fiscal cliff” that might be specific to the people of your district?

ROGERS: Washington can't keep kick the fiscal time bomb down the road—we must cut the unnecessary spending and reduce our debt. At the same time, folks are still hurting. Having taxes rise is not going to help, nor will it help create or keep, good-paying jobs for folks across East Alabama. I believe we need to solve this now and not allow taxes to go up, but also not allow the sequester to kick in and threaten the readiness of our troops or our defense industrial base, which touches almost every corner of our state.

Wright: Mike, what are your holiday plans?

ROGERS: Assuming Congress isn't in session on Christmas, I plan to be with my family in Calhoun County. I look forward to visiting beautiful Cherokee County soon in 2013. I wish you and all your readers a very Merry Christmas, and a happy and safe New Year.