Letter from John Kerry
Last fall the PFFM sent numerous letters to Senator John Kerry regarding his role on the Congressional Super Committee. As solutions were being developed to solve the financial crisis occurring within our government, these letters addressed the protection of fire fighters both in Massachusetts and throughout the country. These letters detailed the importance of maintaining our jobs, our benefits, and the fundamental role fire fighters play in our communities. The following is the responses of Senator John Kerry:
February 9, 2012
Dear Members of the PFFM,
Thank you for contacting me about the so-called "Supercommittee" on which I served, officially known as the "Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction." I appreciate your advocacy and activism on this issue, and in particular because the issues aren't going away even though the Committee couldn't come to an agreement. I hope you will allow me to share my thoughts with you on what happened, why, and where we go from here.
First of all, I'm deeply disappointed with the Committee's outcome. America's debt is a real issue. It hurts our country. This Committee had an historic opportunity to meet an historic moment and do something big, bold, and balanced that demanded shared sacrifice to put our country first. No one should be happy that a balanced agreement wasn't reached. Every day that goes by with this mounting debt, priorities like investing in education, science, technology, and research, are crowded out by interest on the debt.
That said, I still deeply believe that a bad agreement – an unbalanced one – is even worse than no agreement. That's what I believed going into the Committee process, and I believe that even more forcefully today.
It's too easy just to say that Washington is broken or Congress is broken. Telling the truth about how we got here is the only way to ensure we put our country on the right course. These issues aren't going away; in fact they are becoming more urgent.
The fact is, there is an enormous ideological divide in politics today, and the Committee's stalemate underscores the rigidity and unwillingness of forces outside of Congress – and within the Republican Party - to allow for rational consensus.
Democrats on the Committee made numerous balanced offers. We walked the line of shared sacrifice, however difficult. We were willing to put our political careers on the line to do what was needed.
However, we simply could not overcome the Republican insistence on making tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans permanent. We would not give another $550 billion tax cut to the wealthiest. Shifting the tax burden to the middle class is not the way to reduce the deficit. This was simply doctrine for some of our Republican colleagues, even as many worked very hard in good faith to find a better way forward. I believe it would have been unconscionable to ask middle class Americans to finance more tax cuts for the wealthy while seniors on fixed incomes paid the price. People need to remember: The Committee was created to cut the deficit not to cut taxes for the wealthiest, the exact tax policies that didn't create jobs and left us in debt in the first place.
The bottom line is that no Super Committee could succeed with Grover Norquist as its 13th member. Make no mistake: most Americans have never heard of Grover Norquist, but his interest group's "pledge" to never raise revenue doomed the committee to failure – in fact, when 33 Republican Senators signed a letter vowing to kill any agreement that included new revenue, they effectively created a foregone outcome. I have little appetite for these partisan pledges – the pledge I took as your United States Senator was to our Constitution and our country, not to a lobbyist named Grover Norquist. Still, as a result of that pledge, certain elements of the Republican Party were unwilling to put tax revenue on the table, and no deal without it can be fair.
This challenge of deficit reduction remains. We still have a jobs deficit and growing budget deficit and now we have an even greater deficit of public trust that Congress can make adult decisions. That's a disgrace.
It didn't have to be this way. Perhaps the awful reality of across the board budget cuts in key priorities will finally sober everyone up. We must spend the next year figuring out how to arrive at a balanced and fair solution for our country. Your continued engagement in these issues and these upcoming debates is vital. Congress still needs to take action to improve our economy over the short-term and make America competitive for the long term.
We have a 73,000 page tax code that doesn't make sense. It is clogged with special interest loopholes and middle class families end up subsidizing the biggest, most profitable corporations. We must forge ahead with investments in America to build and grow the innovation economy of the future. New investments in research and development will not just put people to work today, but will also contribute to the discoveries and inventions that energize our economy tomorrow. Investments in clean, American energy sources and technologies, and investments in American infrastructure, from roads and high speed rail to digital information highways, will drive job creation today, and will support our economy tomorrow. Sadly none of these investments in the future will be possible in this current, ugly partisan stalemate.
It is essential that we take balanced, responsible action to reduce our budget deficit and pay down our debt. I will continue working with my colleagues in Congress on both sides of the aisle to meetthis challenge. I have been part of the effort to insist on fiscal responsibility for a long time –from the Gramm Rudman Hollings Deficit effort of the 1980's, to the 1993 budget vote that set us on a pathto a balanced budget and budget surpluses in the 1990's. We need to return to that tough-minded, disciplined thinking that helped us "cut and invest" our way to a growing economy and balanced budgets. However, I want to remind everyone that when we did balance the budget in the 1990's, it began when we asked the wealthiest Americans to share in the burden and do more – ever since the Bush tax cuts of 2001– which I opposed – we have been on a downward trajectory and all the priorities I've fought for have been threatened.
I will continue to do everything I can to help get America back to work, on fiscally sound footing, and moving forward again.
Thank you again for contacting me about this issue. Please do not hesitate to contact me about this or any other matter of importance to you in the future.
John F. Kerry
United States Senator