Sunday, November 25, 2012

Open Letter to Georgia Residents and Senator Saxby Chambliss

For the past week, I have had “Georgia on My Mind.” Not just because of the state’s theme song, but the growing role played by the state’s Senior US Senator Saxby Chambliss  in the ongoing talks on the fiscal cliff crisis.

Before taking some spotlight on that issue, Chambliss played a minor role in maintaining the checks and balances during the 2008 election, when he won his seat and thwarted a supermajority for the Democrats  in the US Senate.

Following the 2012 election, Chambliss spoke on the Veterans’ Day edition of “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” , along with Democrat chairwoman of the Budget Committee Patty Murray. Chambliss is a newcomer to the Sunday Morning talk show circuit, but he carried himself very well with Patty Murray, also a relative unknown to the media. During the early part of the conference, the Vice-Chair of the Homeland Security committee commented on CIA Director David Petraus’ fall from repute. Chambliss commended the former general’s service.

Following the Petraus scandal, the fiscal cliff controversy dominated the rest of the discussion. During his campaign and following his reelection, President Obama pledged to refuse to sign off on tax cut extensions on the wealthiest Americans.

As a member of last year’s Super Committee, Murray commanded a greater knowledge of the dealings and the resistance from both sides to comprehensive reform.  A number of times Murray emphasized that  revenues must be included, reciting “The wealthy have to pay their fair share.” Murray expressed measured confidence that Congress would resolve the fiscal cliff.

Chambliss acknowledged that revenues have to be part of the next deal, but above all the government has to  cut spending. He then pointed out that the next deal must broach serious entitlement reform, the primary expenditure  choking the country. By eliminating a host of tax deductions, Congress can lower overall tax rates while generating over $1.3 trillion in revenue. True to his conservative roots, Chambliss stressed that the economy needs to get working again. Tax increases on private firms will kill 700,000 jobs. “Now is not the time to raise taxes – not on job creators”, Chambliss added, quoting President Obama from earlier this year.

Murray countered that the Senate had passed a bill extending the Bush tax cuts for 98% of Americans, yet Chambliss properly responded that the bill passed on a party line vote, and furthermore the House should not agree. A common-ground solution must attract widespread support from both parties.

I was impressed by the comity and candor of the two Senators. Neither rising stars nor firebrands in their caucus, they presented an attitude of compromise instead of attack. Following that collegial conference, I expected that both sides would find common ground to cut spending, reform entitlements, and provide a pathway for economic recovery.

Unfortunately, two weeks later Senator Chambliss has decided to break  Grover Norquist’s “Taxpayer Protection Pledge”  that he had signed. In a recent telephone conference call, Chambliss submitted that the times have changed since then, and this country needs flexibility to discuss meaningful reforms.

Chambliss predicted that Norquist will endorse a challenger against him in his 2014 reelection campaign.. “I care more about my country than Grover Norquist”, Chambliss submitted at the end of the conference.

Following Chambliss’ open decision to break the “No New Tax” pledge, Norquist  argued that Chambliss must explain himself to his constituents in Georgia for choosing to break his pledge not to raise taxes.

 I do not doubt Mr. Chambliss’ patriotism. I respect his interest to be independent. He wants to do the right thing, and let the political consequences fall where they may. Every state should welcome that sort of leadership and integrity from their representatives. Before mounting a challenge against his candidacy, the people of Georgia must impress on their senator not to raise taxes during the struggling economy which has not improved adequately under President Obama’s leadership.

The Republicans may have failed to take the Senate or the White House, but their stable majority in the House of Representatives testified that the majority of Americans do not support tax increases. Senator Chambliss had argued that tax increases will hurt businesses and kill jobs. He needs to heed this concern. Because he loves his country and his state,.

Georgia voters have been on my mind since Chambliss’ pledge to break his pledge not to raise taxes. In no way should limited government conservatives suggest that they will budge unless Democrats are will to budget for entitlement reforms that protect the programs while providing for their future. By all means, Chambliss should consider ending all corporate and agribusiness subsidies and revoke “wealthy welfare”, which includes federally subsidized homeowner’s insurance for residents who insist along living by hurricane-battered coastlines. Tax deductions can be on the table, too, but by no means should Chambliss revoke his pledge without hearing from his constituents.

Please contact Senator Chambliss and tell him to maintain his pledge to protect jobs, encourage wealth, and stand by the best interests of his state and the country.

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