This morning Rep. Todd Rokita, a freshman Republican representing Indiana’s Fourth Congressional District, addressed a Newsmaker Breakfast sponsored by The American Spectator and Americans for Tax Reform. Acknowledging that he comes from a heavily Republican district, Rokita argued that the Democratic narrative about a huge townhall backlash against the 2012 GOP budget is false.
Rokita took us through the slideshow he presents to his own constituents about the debt crisis facing the country. His charts and graphs paint a picture of historic debt levels leading to historic tax increases and then historic unemployment in the absence of systemic entitlement reforms like those envisioned by Paul Ryan’s budget. He also takes care to illustrate the money being borrowed from the Chinese, complete with China’s flag and fighter pilots. He also has slides that show that neither tax increases on the wealthy nor cuts to defense and unpopular expenditures (earmarks and foreign aid) will suffice.
Rokita said the Ryan budget “was radical for Washington, D.C.” but he did not “think it goes far enough.” He thinks gradual changes to the retirement age and “more aggressive means-testing” should begin sooner rather than later, and says many senior citizens in his townhall meetings are willing to sacrifice if it means more sustainable debt levels for their grandchildren. Rokita believes there is more support for means-testing and retirement age modifications in Congress than in personal accounts, but said free-market reform is “not dead to me.”
The congressman argued that the “crappy one- and two-week CRs” touching discretionary spending were “not the hill to die on” but changes to entitlement programs definitely are. They are more difficult for future Congresses to change and address the spending that is actually driving the country’s debt problems. Rokita says some kind of systematic change will be necessary to secure his vote for raising the debt ceiling. Even default does not push the economic consequences on to future generations, he argued.
Rokita chided Republicans for being too worried about their 2012 prospects to take the lead on federal spending now. He says they need to make the most of their present opportunity. In terms of campaign politics, Rokita said he was staying out of Indiana’s GOP Senate primary (he noted that Richard Lugar hasn’t asked for his support), is backing Mike Pence for governor, and does not know if Gov. Mitch Daniels will run for president but he’d be on board if the governor did.
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