At a joint luncheon of the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Merrifield Business Association, Connolly said he supports “the broad thrust” of the job creation proposals announced by President Obama earlier this week.
When it comes to “tax provisions to incentivize businesses to hire people,” he said, “I support that.” But he said he doesn’t support capping the mortgage deduction or the deduction for charitable giving.
Connolly, a Democrat, had harsh words for his colleagues in Congress who are driven by ideology. “At the local level, it’s less important whether a politician is a Democrat or Republican, a conservative or liberal, than whether you can fix potholes, make sure the schools are doing a good job, and keep the crime rate down,” he says.
He called members of Congress who forced the government into a showdown on the debt ceiling “irresponsible” and said their “reckless rhetoric” is damaging to the country and has created uncertainty in the stock market. Since the founding of the republic, the nation has consciously maintained a debt, he says, which was crucial to “establish the credit worthiness of the country.”
Connolly expressed some doubts about the congressional “super committee” created as a last-minute compromise to reduce the deficit. If that committee fails to come up with plan by Nov. 18, automatic cuts of $600 billion in domestic spending and the same amount in defense kick in.
“There is no way they’re going to come up with a magic formula to solve everything by then,” Connolly says.
He believes the solution should include revenue increases, as well as spending cuts, but acknowledges that will be difficult when the ideologically driven Republicans in Congress would reject any attempt to raise taxes.
Noting that the middle class has lost ground in recent years, he says it’s reasonable to ensure everyone contributes their fair share. But “whenever we discuss fair share,” he says, the Republicans start talking about “class warfare.”
He says he “consistently opposed raising taxes on people earning $200,000 or less,” but believes it’s not right not to raise taxes on the wealthy—those making $1 million or more.
When asked about the possibility of cuts in Social Security and Medicare, he said, “it’s important not to be stampeded into false choices.” He said both programs need to be protected but says he would support efforts to gradually raise the retirement age for people who are now in their 20s.
In discussions on the economy, Congress needs to recognize that “not all spending is the same,” Connolly says. He pointed to the need for “strategic investments,” like the interstate highway system, which was approved under Republican leadership over 50 years ago, and which “utterly transformed America.”
“We have to reinvest in the infrastructure to stay competitive,” he says, noting that China and our other competitors are pouring huge amounts of money into bullet trains, bridges, subways, and other projects. “Let’s not be so obsessed with getting our fiscal house in order the we neglect those investments,” he says.