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New Ways And Means Chair: Spending Cuts, Not Tax Increases

Rep. David Camp i i

Rep. David Camp Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP
Rep. David Camp

Rep. David Camp

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

There's consensus among experts on the U.S. fiscal crisis that hard decisions will need to be made to reduce federal budget deficits and the national debt and that those decisions will of necessity have to include tax increases as well as spending cuts.

NPR's Steve Inskeep, co-host of Morning Edition, made the same point in a conversation with Rep. Dave Camp, the Michigan Republican chosen to be the next chair of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Camp was pretty clear, however, that in his view the federal government already collects enough money from taxpayers. It's spending cuts he's focused on.

"The concern is if you go to higher revenue now, you will never get the spending reductions that you need to bring government back in line. And you'll have this continuing cycle of an ever-growing government becoming more of our economy, and that I think is what we're going to try to avoid."

Camp's argument is logical. Give Uncle Sam more money and it will just wind up burning a hole in his pocket.

But a flaw is that the federal government doesn't stop spending money when it doesn't have it. It borrows what it needs to meet discretionary and entitlement spending.

Meanwhile, cutting spending is easier said than done since there is a constituency for all of it.

Camp understands the power of constituencies. He said he's for making the tax code simpler, something he and President Obama can agree on.

But he acknowledged that changing the tax code won't be easy. Of the numerous tax breaks, he said:

"They're all in there because somebody really wanted them, so it's not going to be easy to change them."

Same with spending cuts, especially in entitlement programs like Medicare where costs are driven by health-care inflation and an aging population.

Which is partly why the experts say there will need to be tax increases, as well.

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