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Owens: Cuts alone won't solve debt problem

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A story from Marc Heller, with a note from yours truly at the bottom.

WASHINGTON — Rep. William L. Owens said Friday that he’s all for cutting government spending — but it won’t fix the nation’s finances.

“You simply cannot cut your way out of this,” Mr. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, said in a conference call with reporters in which he bashed a Republican budget that calls for deep spending cuts but doesn’t propose tax increases to boost revenue.

Responding to criticism from the Upstate New York Tea Party that the government has a spending problem, not a taxing problem, Mr. Owens said many domestic programs would face elimination over time if the government cannot find a way to boost revenues beyond what might be achieved through changes in the tax code — although he said he supports that idea as well.

Ignoring the revenue side of the government’s fiscal equation is “not an appropriate way” to deal with the government’s financial imbalance, Mr. Owens said.

Mr. Owens said he has voted to cut more than a trillion dollars in government spending, although Republicans are quick to point out that the conversation in Congress has turned to reducing spending mainly because of their takeover of the House in 2010.

The congressman arranged the call as debate heated up over the plan by the chairman of the House Budget Committee, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. Mr. Ryan’s proposal would slash the debt by $5 trillion over the next decade, which is more than President Barack Obama’s budget proposes. Mr. Ryan would cut domestic programs, restructure Medicare and the supplemental nutrition program formerly known as food stamps, and spare the Pentagon further deep cuts.

But in Mr. Ryan’s plan, tax revenues would be some $2 trillion less than Mr. Obama proposes, reflecting the GOP’s continuing belief that tax increases will hurt the economic recovery, even if limited to wealthier households.

And while Mr. Ryan reduces the cost of Medicare to the government, Mr. Owens said the plan mainly shifts cost to beneficiaries rather than dealing with the rising cost of health care — something Democrats say the president’s health care reform law does, but which Mr. Ryan’s plan assumes will be eliminated.

Matthew A. Doheny, Mr. Owens' likely Republican opponent in November, was not ready to comment on the plan by Monday.

"He needs more time to look at it and think about it," said spokesman Jude R. Seymour.

With petition season on hand — the tedious process of getting valid signatures from party members so you can get on the ballot — the campaign hasn't had time to adequately review the legislation, Mr. Seymour said. He pledged that Mr. Doheny would discuss the plan before it's passed.

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