On Monday morning, U.S. Representative and JSU alumnus Mike Rogers paid a visit to Merrill Hall to speak to students and faculty about two of the challenges that Congress will soon face, regardless of who wins the election.
The event, which was organized by JSU’s branch of the American Democracy Project, saw Alabama’s third congressional district representative discussing the issues of sequestration and tax rates.
Rep. Rogers also discussed ways in which Congress could react to those issues during the next two months, framing his suppositions around whether the legislative branch is lead by a new president or the incumbent.
He began his address with an ominous proclamation: “We’re in the worst position, debt-wise, that we have ever been in this country.”
With the national debt growing each year and a seemingly insurmountable deficit problem, “there has never been a generation that has left such a dismal national financial situation for its sons and daughters,” he said.
According to the congressman, the only way to begin to repair that situation is by cutting spending and increasing revenue so as to chip away at the debt already incurred-currently over 16 million dollars.
"That's an unfathomable amount of debt," said Rogers. "Anyone who tells you they can wrap their head around that number is lying," he continued. "We don't even understand it up in Washington.
"Two of the major issues facing Congress in regards to cutting spending and getting that debt down are sequestration, or the 'fiscal cliff', and tax rates," he continued.
Sequestration refers to the across-the-board budget cuts that will go into effect after January 2nd if no solution to the deficit problem is presented to Congress.
Those cuts will affect every aspect of our government, from the social safety net to national security, and are a result of the Budget Control Act of 2011, which halted the debt ceiling crisis but was only a temporary fix for a much larger issue.
On January 1st, tax cuts passed by President Bush and extended by Obama back in 2010 will also expire, meaning that taxes for everyone, rich or poor, will increase by about 5%, according to Rogers.
Unfortunately, both of these issues come to a head at a point in the election cycle known as Congress' "lame duck" period, or the two months after an election between when an incumbent is either re-elected or a new president takes office.
"It's a pretty interesting period because, for two months, members of Congress really don't care what their constituents think," said Rogers.
Whether or not they're able to come to a decision regarding the problems facing the country is dependent, according to Rogers, on who is elected to the office of the President following this election.
"If Congress has a new president that is willing to work with them, I know we can get an extension on these tax cuts and solve the deficit problem without cutting $600 billion from national security and other programs," inferred Rogers.
Rep. Rogers contends that if Obama is re-elected, he will simply allow the tax cuts to expire and then pin the blame on Republicans in Congress, who haven't shown a willingness to cooperate with him. Rogers also fielded questions from the audience.
Dr. Lori Owens, head of the American Democracy Project at JSU, says that having Rep. Rogers visit his alma mater is a great opportunity.
"Students get the chance to hear firsthand what's going on in Washington, D.C. from someone who works to represent them," she said.