Debt threatens America’s future, Domenici says

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Former U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici (Photo by Heath Haussamen)

Reducing the federal government’s massive debt is the most important issue of the day and should be approached like fighting a war, former U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici said Wednesday.

“We could lose the war, and losing the war would mean this great democracy would cease to be a powerful force in the world,” Domenici said during an afternoon session at the Domenici Public Policy Conference at New Mexico State University.

“Our children, who we promised a great life, would probably have a second-rate standard of living,” he said. “And if you don’t feel it yet, you should. We’re kind of getting poorer.”

Domenici is part of a think tank in Washington that’s working on tackling the debt issue, the Bipartisan Policy Center. The group’s Debt Reduction Task Force, which Domenici co-chairs, will soon be releasing its findings. Domenici said cuts to existing spending – including entitlement programs – and tax increases or other revenue raisers will both have to be on the table if the United States is going to win this war.

While many in Domenici’s Republican Party advocate for tax cuts and the resulting stimulation of economic growth to fix the economy, Domenici said that alone won’t do it.

“When I tell you that growth alone won’t do this, I’m not talking about theory,” Domenici said. “I’m talking about numbers.”

New Mexico’s longest-serving senator, who’s now 78, also acknowledged that cuts to entitlement programs won’t be popular.

“We’re not going to ask everybody to love us,” Domenici said. “We’re hoping and praying that the public won’t hate us.”

But the stakes are too high to not be honest, Domenici said. When the task force of 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans got together to look for real, bipartisan solutions, he said they agreed that “everything has to be on the table.”

The task force’s report will be a “big barn burner,” Domenici said, but it has to be done for the good of the nation.

ABC newsman Sam Donaldson (Photo by Heath Haussamen)

Iraq war has ‘been a terrible expense’

Domenici’s remarks came during a conversation with ABC newsman Sam Donaldson, who asked Domenici about the extreme partisanship that has taken over Washington, the debt and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. While Domenici talked about the other issues, he often came back to the debt.

For example, asked about the formal end of combat missions in Iraq earlier this week and what the United States accomplished during the war, Domenici talked about the financial cost of the war.

“I wish we never got in it,” he said. “It’s been a terrible expense.”

Domenici, a one-time supporter of the Iraq war who has gradually changed his mind, said Iraq has the potential to become one of the nations in the Middle East working for good.

“Iraq might not be worth it, but it’s done, and it might be worth it,” he said. “We’ve got to hope that.”

Even before his afternoon talk, Domenici took the podium at the end of a separate talk on nuclear weapons and turned his focus toward the debt, saying the problem is so severe “that we’re probably going to have to go on a literal diet… if we’re going to save the country.”

Fixing the problem will require bipartisanship, and when Donaldson pushed Domenici to talk about the divisive climate in Washington, the former senator said it’s currently worse than at any time during his 36 years in the Senate. He had harsh words for the leadership in Washington.

“I also believe that the leaders don’t understand what’s needed to help the members be bipartisan,” he said.

Martinez, Denish, Rove on today’s schedule

The candidates for governor – Republican Susana Martinez and Democrat Diane Denish – will be speaking at the Domenici conference at NMSU today, as will GOP strategist Karl Rove and others. Check the full schedule here. To watch webcasts of the talks, click here.

Domenici and Donaldson share a laugh. (Photo by Heath Haussamen)

7 thoughts on “Debt threatens America’s future, Domenici says

  1. Domenici needs to stay home and be quiet. Don’t understand why a bunch of old men were put on the Deficit Commission. Time for some new thoughts. Glad to hear that he now says the Iraq war might not have been a good thing. Of course, he voted for it and gave Bush free rein to do whatever he pleased. He was in the Senate when plenty of money was spent on all sorts of things. I’m sure he voted for all those tax cuts for the wealthy. Have heard from several NM CPA’s that used to go to DC to lobby for tax reform that he just did not comprehend the mess our federal tax system is and has been in for years. Now he wants to cut social security and privatize it. He is just not good for seniors or the majority of this country.

  2. Domenici has the tarnish that many Republicans earned in the scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours, spending sprees of the last few decades. However by any measure the last few years have been both careless and incredibly ineffective. I can certainly agree that we need to stop the train now without defending him.

  3. How convenient that Domenici now takes these budget cutting stands when he was the “grand overseer” of the federal government budget for years. Seems like he trying to save face as the Bush Republicans, including Domenici, nearly ran the economy of this country into dire financial crises. For one, I’m glad he’s no longer in the Senate.

  4. Hemingway I believe your assumption that a cut in taxes on the wealthy would reduce tax revenues to federal and state government. But do you really believe that the government is an efficient allocator of scarce resources? If you do you must be looking through rose collored glasses. A rational amount of local, state and federal government is needed. But when the combination of federal state and local taxes takes more than 50% of your income or net worth on death than why go to the extra effort of building and creating wealth? NM is a great place to live but we have languished in so many areas. Education andIncome to name two. In order to take risk you must be rewarded for it, not taxed to death for your efforts.

    But perhaps you might a ward of the state, or a person who is living off the wealth created by others. I sure would like to know.

  5. “Reducing the federal government’s massive debt is the most important issue of the day and should be approached like fighting a war”

    Does that mean that we should invest throw trillions of dollars to government contractors to try and solve our problem with debt like we do with contractors in the “war on terror” ?

  6. It is interesting that the Republicans want to cut the taxes of millionaires! This would lead to an additional 700 billion dollars to the deficit. As Paul Krugman, winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize for Economics said: ” when we give millionaires more money, there’s a good chance that most of that money will just sit idle.”

    In addition you have brilliant Dick Cheney who is stating “Deficits don’t matter.”

    Now former Senator Pete Domenici, who astutely says: “that we’re probably going to have to go on a literal diet”. However, the diet will be for the hungry poor and middle class and not for the rich millionaires!

  7. I believe Domenici oversaw the incredible budget over runs of the Reagan administration when he was Senate Budget Chairman, and also the disastrous tax cuts and military spending splurge on the Iraq War while Bush was in office.