AVON — U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita had been asked before a recent community forum whether he had good news on the fiscal cliff. His answer - no.
"But it is solvable," the Republican congressman added.
Rokita, who represents Indiana's Fourth Congressional District, was in town this week to discuss what's being called the fiscal cliff - a combination of budget cuts and tax increases related to the 2011 Budget Control Act that raised the nation's debt ceiling.
Those are scheduled to go into effect Jan. 2. If they do, the Tax Foundation estimates Indiana will see a federal tax increase of 5.27 percent, or about $3,653 per household. As well, they predict state employment will drop 1.2 percent.
But what the media is calling a fiscal cliff is more a pothole in Rokita's mind. The real fiscal cliff, he says, is the more than $16 trillion in debt owed by the feds.
"If we're going to change the direction of the things I'm talking about, it's not going to happen from Washington," Rokita said. "It's going to happen by us being on the phone with our families first. We have to get out of our comfort zones and do that quote-unquote hand-to-hand combat - in a very nice and persuasive way - to get this country to live within its means again."
Among Rokita's key points is that nearly 42 cents of every dollar spent by the federal government is borrowed - the largest creditor being China. And of all that spending, only 34 percent is discretionary. Welfare programs like Social Security and Medicare are mandatory, meaning their budgets can't be touched without first reforming the laws that created them.
"No one has the appetite for that," Rokita said. "Until we can get to this autopilot spending, we're not going to be able to affect the deficit. We can't honestly talk about this unless we're willing to reform Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and the other welfare programs."