Gabrielle Reilly: So what impact does partisan politics have on the ability to make the necessary changes in D.C. and do the members actually work together
Congressman Yoder: Certainly the partisanship and the divisions in Washington don’t make it any easier to solve the problems we’re facing. One of the problems we have is there aren’t a lot of relationships being developed. It’s very easy to demonize someone you don’t know or don’t have a friendship with. Many of us are working to reach across the aisle to build those personal relationships because they are so key to being able to solve these larger problems. Emanuel Cleaver and I, for example, we both represent the Kansas City area. He is on the Missouri side of the line, me on the Kansas side of the line. He’s an ardent Democrat, I’m a Republican. We are able to meet frequently and talk about issues.
During the shutdown, we sat in his office and talked for a long time about solutions we could agree on and if he and I could agree maybe we could get other people in Congress to agree as well. Sometimes it just takes a couple people to lead the way and that’s what Emanuel and I have been doing. We’ve been recognized for that work, we won a stability award last year in Kansas City for showing that politicians of two different political parties can put down the vitriol, can put down the harsh words and can figure out a way to say, “Look, we’re all Americans first, way before our political parties. We are Americans, we love our country, and we ought to be able to figure out ways to work together for the common good.”
Gabrielle Reilly: The Honorable David Walker who has served as the Comptroller General of the United States through both Democrat and Republican administrations, became really alarmed at the future of America’s economy from his inside look through his role in the government accountability of it. Basically what he observed over his ten years in office was that as the political parties swung in and out of power, they both got what they wanted.
Democrats offered more programs and Republicans lowered the taxes both contributing to the massive deficit. For example, in an interview he did with me, he said, “Too many Republicans believe that we can address our nation’s longer-term structural deficits without raising taxes and too many Democrats believe that we can address such deficits without reforming Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. They are both wrong, the math doesn’t come close to working unless everything’s on the table. There’s a new four-letter word in Washington, its called math.”
What do you think of Mr. Walker’s analysis? I know you’re talking long-term, but if you have a look at the very fundamental concept that he’s talking about that as each party gets into power they implement what’s important to them which means the gap gets wider and wider. You talk about running a deficit for 55 of the last 60 years, this seems like the foundation of the problem right here. How could we address that for our future generations?
Congressman Yoder: Well, I think both political parties are responsible and have been co-conspirators in an effort to expand our national debt to an unsustainable level. The policies of both parties have been in control of Washington at one time or another and they haven’t been effective at managing the fiscal house of our great nation.
Whatever solution we come up with not only has to be a balanced solution, it’s going to have to have support from both political parties. I don’t think one portion of the country is going to have all the input when it comes to solving our greater fiscal challenges. So, I do believe there’s got to be balance there, some people have said the type of arrangements that Simpson Bowles put together, maybe not those specifics, but the idea that there is going to have to be give and take in any solution is a framework to build around.
I am one of just a handful of folks on the Republican side that have not even signed the Grover Norquist pledge. Because I believe strongly that we’ve got to be willing to give and take. That being said, I don’t believe that raising taxes has been shown to be an effect means of solving our deficit. If you look at the Reagan era and the George H.W. Bush era, they both agreed to a bigger deal in which spending would be cut and taxes would go up, sort of that balance that everyone says you need to do here in Washington.
Yet each and every time, spending continues to go up, outpacing inflation, growing dramatically, and the taxes go up as well. I have conservative people who come up to me in my district frequently and say, this is me quoting them, that they would actually support a tax increase if they knew it would go just to pay down the deficit. But their big concern, and I think history shows that their concerns are valid, is that if you give Washington D.C. more money, they just grow the size of government.
So, unfortunately, I don’t know how raising taxes, other than a political request, that I think the Democrats have that they need to have a tax increase to be able to go home to their constituency and say, “Yes, we reformed Medicare because we had to. Yes, we cut spending but we got the Republicans to raise taxes.” I think that’s where that generates from because the idea that sending more money to Washington will somehow make them more responsible with those dollars has just been shown time and time not to be true.
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