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: 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?
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
Wright: Is raising the age for Medicare
eligibility, which has been tossed about in recent years, a good
idea? Why or why not?
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
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
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
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
Wright: Can you elaborate on aspects of the
“fiscal cliff” that might be specific to the people of your
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.