WASHINGTON — Sen. Tom Coburn, believing the nation is very close to a debt crisis, is heading into the first meeting of a presidential commission on the nation’s fiscal problems adamantly opposed to tax hikes.
"I’m not going to support a tax increase in any way until we’ve eliminated waste in the federal government, the vast majority (of waste),” Coburn, R-Muskogee, said last week. "I don’t think we have to raise taxes. I think we need to dismantle large segments of the federal government and send them back to the states where they can be done more efficiently, without duplication, without waste.” Coburn is one of 18 members of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, which was created by President Barack Obama in February to address the nation’s rapidly rising public debt, which is approaching $13 trillion. The bipartisan commission is scheduled to hold its first meeting on Tuesday, and is tasked with developing recommendations by Dec. 1 that Congress could vote on. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget — a non-partisan organization that includes past congressional and White House budget directors as members of its board — said recently that, if current policy isn’t changed, the debt will reach 100 percent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product not long after 2020. "At that level, we are in serious danger,” according to the committee. "The chances of a severe economic and fiscal crisis increase significantly, and our capacity to reverse course quickly diminishes.” Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who is expected to speak to the commission next week, has also warned that Congress must turn its attention to cutting deficits after the economy recovers. Coburn mentioned that the Moody’s rating service recently cautioned that the nation’s AAA bond rating could be at risk in the future. "I think we’re very close (to a crisis),” Coburn said.