News

Congressman's bad news: The nation is 'way crazy in debt'

y MIKE HALLIDAY

The Mirror

U.S. Rep. Adam Smith gave the good news first.

In a few short minutes, Smith (D-9th District) told a large group at the Federal Way Chamber of Commerce luncheon Wednesday about the recently passed transportation bill as a good thing for the local community. More than $1 million is slated for the Triangle project, the dangerous convergence of Interstate 5 and State Routes 18 and 161. Drivers entering and leaving those three highways have to weave around each other to get to their destinations, and accidents are common.

Then Smith gave the other news: The nation’s budget is “way crazy in debt” and there are more expenses coming soon.

Smith pointed to the federal drug bill that is expected to cost a trillion dollars instead of the billions the Bush administration initially projected.

The congressman, whosse district includes Federal Way, outlined four areas the nation needs to devote its attention:

• The country’s tax code needs reform, noting the reams of rules that continuously change make it difficult for people to navigate. “That needs to be fixed,” Smith said.

• Healthcare, because every sector of society is getting buried in rising costs, Smith said. “We are not getting our money’s worth,” he said. Smith said he isn’t advocating a socialized medicine system, but did note that too many people are not able to access healthcare because they don’t have insurance. Meanwhile, those with insurance have so many choices it’s hard for them to determine which one best suits their needs and budget.

• Entitlements need to stop, he said.

• Finally, Smith said the nation’s military budget needs to be scaled back. While he supported keeping troops supplied with equipment, food and medicine to do their missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, he also noted the United States can’t continue to answer all the world’s problems. “That’s too much to put on our shoulders,” he said.

Most of the audience applauded his remarks.

But it means the U.S. must cooperate with other countries to spread out the work and costs of maintaining global security, he added.

Smith also went over other issues that have been in the news lately.

On the recently passed Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), Smith said it probably won’t have much of an effect on the United States and the local economy. A greater impact will be seen in the Central American countries.

He voted no on the country’s first federal energy bill in several years because the pork tucked away in it outweighed the bill’s purpose. The bill was voted on less than 24 hours after it was presented to the House. A bill of its size and importance should not be rushed to a vote, he said.

“That’s not what we’re supposed to do,” Smith added. It’s not until later that someone discovers a sentence or two granting powers or tax credits and gets everyone in an uproar.

After the energy bill passed, tax breaks for companies were found within the bill. A Smith aide later clarified the congressman was referring to at least $1.5 billion in tax breaks for “various” oil and gas companies.

Smith is also pushing for the United States to make a concerted effort on global poverty. He spoke later in the week in Tacoma on the subject and recently unveiled a bill called the Global Poverty Act of 2005. It calls for the president to develop a comprehensive plan to reduce global poverty and give Congress progress reports.

In his speech in Tacoma, Smith presented the issue both as a moral duty and a public relations strategy of world proportions.

“Over the last few years, the United States has lost credibility in the international arena. We need to bolster our relations with the world community and taking a strong lead in combatting global poverty can go a long way in that effort,” he said in his speech.

Smith said more work and money needs to go towards health care, education, micro-loans for small businesses and basic infrastructure needs.

For education, he estimated the U.S. and 163 other nations that set a goal in 2000 for all children to attend primary school would cost $5.6 billion annually.

Solving global poverty will not occur in a few years, but over decades, Smith said.

“The fight to end global poverty should be seen as a marathon, not a sprint,” Smith said in his speech.

Staff writer Mike Halliday: 925-5565, mhalliday@fedwaymirror.com

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