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Wicker Reaffirms Importance of America’s Global Leadership

Sensible Debt Reform Is Imperative to Future Competitiveness

Monday, October 29, 2012

Forging a sustainable path to fiscal responsibility is critical to maintaining U.S. preeminence amid new and evolving threats around the world.  A strong military and vibrant economy are important pillars of America’s global leadership and competitiveness.  Neither should be compromised by chronically high debt or the devastating impact of the “fiscal cliff.”

A federal debt exceeding $16 trillion and the rapidly approaching tax hikes and cuts to defense – which make up the “fiscal cliff” – have amplified widespread concerns about America’s future.  Unless current policy is changed before January, the effect could inflict serious harm on our economy and military readiness.

Mississippi’s Proud Military Tradition

Each year, the Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce hosts a “Salute to the Military” banquet to honor the men and women in our communities who have dedicated their lives to the cause of freedom.  On Oct. 23, I had the privilege of taking part in the 34th annual event, which highlighted Mississippi’s steadfast tradition of military support.

Mississippians recognize the high stakes of drastic and indiscriminate military cuts.  A robust defense industrial base is vital to our state’s economic well-being and the country’s future preparedness.

Obama’s Mixed Signals

The year-end cuts, also known as sequestration, would reduce defense spending next year by 9.4 percent and force nearly half a trillion dollars in cuts over the next decade.  In Mississippi, more than 11,000 jobs are at risk.  Nationwide, job losses could top 1 million.

And yet, President Obama continues to send conflicting signals about fixing the country’s debt problem.  Only two days after the President told the American public that sequestration would not happen, a recent interview with the Des Moines Register indicated he is willing to use the automatic budget cuts as political leverage.  This lack of leadership from the White House stands in the way of viable solutions.  

Vital Need for Seapower

Sequestration would be particularly crippling to American seapower, with $2.1 billion in cuts to the Navy’s shipbuilding budget and a $115 million reduction to the Coast Guard’s.  The Navy would shrink far below its required fleet size – to levels unseen since World War I.

Because ships are capital-intensive investments, even temporary cuts could weaken production capabilities and lead to the exodus of skilled shipbuilders from the workforce.  These high-tech manufacturing jobs are a large and vital component of Mississippi’s economy.  A well-equipped Navy fortifies America’s capacity to respond to threats at home and abroad as countries like North Korea and Iran try to expand their influence.

Promise of Economic Success

Preserving America’s unique role in the world requires getting the economy growing again.  A truly effective deficit reduction plan is part of the process.  Adm. Michael Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called debt the biggest threat to our national security.

Lasting debt reform must address exploding entitlement spending and recognize the power of economic growth to drive revenue.  The President’s push for tax hikes deters positive investment and entrepreneurship.

Lowering the corporate tax rate – currently the highest in the world – is one way we can keep America competitive and ensure that our job creators are not at a disadvantage in the global market.  Simplifying the tax code and removing unnecessary regulations would help bring about the certainty that small businesses need to create jobs.

Fixing the debt and jumpstarting the economy are not mutually exclusive challenges.  Constructive solutions are necessary for recovery and the assurance of America’s future leadership.

October 2012 Weekly Columns