CENTRAL — U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., fielded several questions from more than 100 people Tuesday about why lawmakers and others in Washington, D.C., could not find a way to balance the federal budget and get the United States out of debt.
The mostly pro-Vitter crowd wanted to know why more was not done and why a national debt and deficit agreement took so long.
Connie Watkins asked why Congress waited until the “11th hour” to get something passed on the debt ceiling increase.
Vitter said the delays frustrated him as well.
“The reason they held off was a negotiation strategy,” he said, adding that President Barack Obama wanted to create a crisis situation.
Most of the audience’s questions were variations on the theme of how and when the federal government would balance the budget and reduce the deficit of $1.4 trillion.
Richard Devall asked when $4 trillion in cuts will be made to help reduce the debt.
The national debt limit — the amount of money the nation can borrow to operate — is about $14.3 trillion.
Vitter said the recent downturn in the stock market — and the U.S. credit rating downgrade from AAA to AA+ by Standard and Poor’s — may help shock people in Washington to take much more aggressive action.
He said if the federal government cuts the budget with a true 1 percent cut every year — not just a reduction in spending — the budget could be balanced in eight years.
George Vallio agreed.
“We’ve got to get real on this,” he said. Referencing football, Vallio said, it’s as if the whole issue has been punted.
Vitter replied that was an apt comparison considering who the quarterback is, referring to Obama.
“We’re going to change that in November 2012,” Vallio said. “We’re going to make him a full-time resident of Chicago.”
Some people asked about the need to reform tax codes as well, and Vitter said he agreed.
Guest speaker Dan Juneau, president of Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, said getting out of the economic downturn is going to require several things, including allowing the economy to grow by eliminating roadblocks.
“We need to stop the federal attack on the oil and gas industry in this state and country,” Juneau said.
Another roadblock to economic development is the growing number of regulations coming from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, he said.
Although environmental regulation as a hindrance to economic development has been a rallying cry for years, there have been numerous scholarly articles suggesting there is little connection between these regulations and economic development.
For example, the late Stephen Meyer, a political science professor at MIT, looked specifically at “The Economic Impact of Environmental Regulation.”
“If we place our faith in classical statistical significance tests then the data argue that there is no systematic relationship — positive or negative — between state environmental policies and state economic performance in either good or bad economic times. Consequently, environmental deregulation cannot be expected to produce measurable economic benefits at the state level,” he wrote in his report.
Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Paul Templet has written and spoken about the “false choice” people assume between protecting the environment and promoting economic development. The two can work hand in hand together, he has said.
Audience member Joe Allen said getting rid of all regulations on industry and business does not seem like a good idea.
Vitter agreed and said there needs to be a happy medium of regulations, but that there has been a lot more regulation on industry and business in the past couple of years and it’s too much.