U.S. House candidates on the issues: Addressing the federal debt

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Last month, we asked our readers what issues they wanted to hear the candidates running for office address ahead November’s general election. Based on the input we received, we developed a five-item questionnaire for candidates running for the U.S. House seat covering Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District.

We’ll be publishing the candidates’ responses to one item per day each day this week. Today we’re publishing the candidates’ responses to item #2:

By the end of this year, the federal debt will be nearly equal to the size of the entire United States economy. The deficit has been exacerbated in recent years by the 2017 tax cuts and the stimulus package enacted at the start of the pandemic. How big a priority to you is lowering the federal debt? What specific steps would you support to reduce it?

Sharice Davids (incumbent Democrat)

Our number one focus right now must be containing the coronavirus and stabilizing the economy. However, the United States entered the current crisis facing trillion-dollar deficits, and the
national debt was already on an unsustainable path.

This is exactly why we need to be mindful of spending during times of economic expansion, so that we can weather unforeseen crises as they arise like we’re experiencing right now. Once the coronavirus is contained and our economy is stable, we must turn our attention to long-term debt and deficit reduction to get the country on solid fiscal ground. In order to do this, I support building in mechanisms such as automatic stabilizers to contain the deficit and avoid partisan fights.

Amanda Adkins (Republican)

For decades, leaders on both sides of the aisle have allowed federal spending to balloon out of control. Today, each U.S. taxpayer’s share of our federal debt exceeds $215,000. The path we’re on is unsustainable, and the consequences of inaction will fall squarely on our children and grandchildren. Unless we get serious about making meaningful reductions, the massive weight of federal debt will limit the prosperity and well-being of future generations of Americans.

Ask voters across the 3rd District, and they’ll tell you that the federal government does not have a revenue problem. The government already takes too much of our hard-earned money. The issue lies in spending. It’s easy for politicians to promise additional spending to meet this need or that, never bothering to ask where the funds will come from. They talk in the abstract about reducing government waste, fraud, and abuse, and the party out of power criticizes the spending of the party in power. Ultimately, however, cuts prove too politically difficult to impose, nobody takes action, and the problem only gets worse. The can is continuously kicked down the road.

Certainly, expenditures over the last few months to combat COVID-19 and support workers and small businesses have been critical, and more support will likely be needed. In the longer term, however, we have to make smart, targeted reforms and reductions to put ourselves back on a sustainable fiscal footing. This process must be bipartisan, with both parties equally invested in changing Washington’s spending habits. As long as one party insists that out-of-control federal debt is not a problem and the other fails to take action, nothing can get done.

Federal debt will never be the flashiest issue or make for the best TV ad. Debt reduction is good policy but bad politics. That’s why tackling it requires selfless leadership and persistent problem-solving. We will fail our kids and grandkids if we saddle them with the consequences of our mistakes. I’m running for Congress to make progress on tough problems and get things done because I believe every generation must pass on to the next a stronger, more prosperous America. That is our obligation.

Steve Hohe (Libertarian)

I guess you ask, “Why is the Federal Debt is not number one?” is because, first, each individual in Congress must realize the dire situation the country is in and set aside their petty partisan differences and unite together and deal with what will be coming at us in 2021.

The second part is shrinking the size of the federal government by ending some useless departments, handing some of the social services to the states, and downsizing and consolidating others. You may ask, “Why not defund and then they will disappear?” Well, if it’s physically gone then it isn’t there to be funded. During budget sessions, you’ll see senators and representatives whine and cry over their treasured departments, making plea bargains to keep them alive. Number 1 and number 2 must happen first before you can take care of Number 3: the Federal Debt.

Annually, the federal government collects about $2.5 trillion in revenues each year. If you were to reduce spending to $1 trillion, then you have $1.5 trillion to throw at the federal debt. Lets say the federal debt is $24.5 trillion. It would take 16 to 17 years to reduce it to zero. If all American families can budget and get themselves out of debt then why cant the federal government? This is a painful procedure, but it will be more painful as we go further down the road. We must be courageous.

Tomorrow, we will publish the U.S. House candidates’ responses to item #3 on our questionnaire: 

The number of deaths from COVID-19 per 100,000 people in the United States is considerably higher than many developed Western countries (like Canada, France and Germany) — though slightly below others (like the UK and Spain). Are you satisfied with the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic? What could the government have done differently to improve outcomes here in the United States?