Reducing government spending must be Congress' first priority before reforming the tax code if the nation's debt problem is to be solved, Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., said Monday in Augusta.
Like every family in America affected by the economic recession, he said, politicians must sit down to analyze their spending and budget. Spending cuts can be easier than the public perceives, he said.
"Everybody has been touched by this recession. It's time our government did the same," Isakson said in a meeting with the editorial board of The Augusta Chronicle.
The debt crisis was a product of many people in an overly partisan nation over a long period of time, he said. Friday's debt rating downgrade was a wake-up call to Congress to propose tough spending cuts quickly, he said.
Isakson outlined a five-part plan for getting on a track to recovery. After initial spending cuts, Social Security and Medicare expenditures must be re-evaluated, he said.
"I don't want to talk about any taxes until we first talk about spending and entitlement," he said.
Adjusting the age eligibility for Social Security benefits, except for people currently receiving it, would help secure funding for future generations. People work and live longer, so they can start receiving benefits at a later age, he said.
According to Isakson, Medicare is the single biggest growth element of federal spending.
"It's important we ensure Medicare is there for our children and grandchildren, and it's not going to be," he said.
Achieving the first three points of his plan could occur by the Dec. 23 deadline, when Congress must vote on $1.5 trillion in spending cuts recommended by a special 12-member committee, he said.
Tax reform by the deadline would shock the senator.
"With the president's current plan, health care is on a collision course for rations, is on a collision course for government making the medical decisions I don't think government should be making," he said.
Reforming the tax code and reducing government regulations on businesses were the final steps.
Lower tax rates can bring in more revenue by reducing burden on businesses, he said.
"You get higher revenue because of more productivity. That's the secret many people in Washington don't know," Isakson said.