Tom Coburn: 'We're Over the Cliff Already'
Regardless of whether or not the president and Republicans strike a deficit deal, taxes are going to increase and the U.S. government has already gone over the so-called fiscal cliff, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., told ABC News.
"We're over the cliff already. We went over the cliff when we started spending money we didn't have on things we didn't need," he said. "What the debate now is: What does the parachute look like for a softer landing?"
Because the so-called Bush tax cuts are set to expire on Dec. 31, Coburn said, Republicans have no choice to but to accept higher taxes.
"We have no leverage on that, so whether we want taxes to go up or not they're going to," Coburn said. "We can't stop that from happening. But the real elephant in the room is entitlements."
Democrats have seized on comments Coburn made Wednesday on MSNBC suggesting that "we have to raise revenue," and that, "I would rather see rates go up than the other way" of closing loopholes, as most Republicans advocate. Coburn clarified his comments, but did not back away from them.
"They're jumping on it, saying Coburn wants to raise rates. You know, all I am is pragmatic, saying, 'Hey they're going up,'" Coburn said. "So all I am is realistic. It's going to happen."
The question, Coburn said, is whether or not government spending is going to be controlled. He said the president has offered no significant plan to control the skyrocketing costs of Medicare and Social Security.
"The fact is [that] we need people working on the real problem right now," Coburn said. "We're going to have increased revenue, but if you have just increased revenue, you have all the taxes in the world - you can take everybody's income over $50,000 - and you won't solve our problems. So until you decide how you're going to save Medicare, how you're going to secure Social Security, you're not going to solve the problems."
Coburn said the president deserves blame for refusing to seriously negotiate with Republicans on controlling entitlement spending. Without concessions from the president on entitlements, he predicted there will be no deal on the fiscal cliff.
"The point is, what we're doing is we're putting the country at risk for political purposes rather than getting in a room and saying: How do we deal a compromise that solves the biggest problem, which is how do we save Medicare? How do we save Social Security disability?" Coburn said. "It runs out of money in two years. Two years! Social Security disability runs out of money. How do we save that for the very people who are totally dependent on a disability check? Nobody is talking about those issues. Everybody is playing politics and it doesn't matter who's running this country when we're broke."
He added: "This government is twice the size it was 11 years ago. Most Americans don't realize that. They feel it innately. We can't afford it and it's time for all of us, all of us, the very wealthy and the not-so-wealthy, to participate in the price it's going to take to put us back on a good course."