The $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts known as the sequester will occur this year unless Congress acts, with another $1.1 trillion in cuts over the next decade.
Scott said there is still a chance that a compromise could be reached between Democrats and Republicans to avoid the cuts.
“This would be a human tragedy of soaring magnitude,” he said. “We’ve got to look at it in human terms. This will cost jobs. Our first responders, people that protect us, people that teach our children, our Armed Forces.”
Alternatives to the sequester include closing tax loopholes, he said.
“For example, the oil and gas subsidies that should have been closed, that would bring in over $100 billion right there,” he said. “From the corporate jets to some of the expensive kinds of deductions that are held there, that would bring in additional revenue. There’s also the Buffett Rule … but it would require tax reform in terms of closing certain loopholes. These are some things that both Democrats and Republicans have agreed upon that we could look at.”
U.S. Rep. Tom Price (R-Roswell) said Republicans are happy to discuss such things “in the sphere of tax reform” as long as they don’t raise taxes.
“To raise taxes on people so that we can chase ever-increasing spending is a prescription for financial calamity,” Price said. “To close loopholes and deductions and credits on individuals so that we can positively reform our tax code and decrease the rates on everybody and broaden the base and make it so we can get some economic vitality out there, that’s exactly what we ought to be doing.”
Scott said Lockheed has already “suffered tremendous loss” in jobs, as has the economy that depends on Lockheed.
“Those businesses that rely on those employees coming in to that area,” Scott said. “It would be devastating to the Cobb economy, and it could mean as much as maybe 800, 900 jobs immediately. It just depends.”
Lockheed Martin spokeswoman Jennifer Allen said the automatic cuts threaten to weaken virtually all government programs and operations, damage national security, and adversely affect the defense industry.
“Until sequestration is permanently eliminated, there will be an overhang on our industry that stifles investment in plants, equipment, people, and future research and development essential to the future health of our industry,” Allen said. “At this time, we do not know how sequestration will affect any individual program or facility. We will continue to work with our government leaders to find a more effective solution to our nation’s fiscal challenges.”
Searching for middle ground
Scott said there are Republicans who are willing to meet Democrats halfway in negotiations over avoiding the sequester.
“There are areas where we can go without raising taxes, there are loopholes we can close, there are different things we can do, but every time you get a group that’s willing to sit down and do that, then the extreme end of the Republican Party just makes it very difficult,” he said. “All you have to do is look at our own senior senator, Saxby Chambliss, who has tried.”
Yet Price said House Democrats have taken no action in the way of specific spending reductions, nor has the Democratic-controlled Senate.
“The president has done nothing other than give a speech,” Price said.
By contrast, Price said House Republicans have adopted on two occasions over the last year legislation that would reprioritize the spending reductions to kick-start the economy.
“The senate has responded with nothing, and the president has responded with his patented political speech,” Price said.
Playing ‘Chicken Little’
As for Lockheed, the sequester may have an effect on it or it may not, Price said.
“The president has been Chicken Little, running around telling how the world’s going to end if all of this occurs,” Price said. “The fact of the matter is if any reductions occur in any line of production or in any specific area of national security that would harm the nation, that would be because the president wants them to occur.”
Obama has the latitude to determine exactly where the spending reductions could occur, Price said.
“He could just as easily have them occur out of accounts that once again are bloated as opposed to those that are required for our national security,” Price said.
Price said the first $85 billion cut would come out of $3.6 trillion in spending.
“So what we’re doing is decreasing our federal spending for one fiscal year of $3.6 trillion by $85 billion,” he said. “If we can’t find that then clearly, we’re never going to be able to get our fiscal house in order.”
Most of the communication Price said he gets from constituents urges him to ensure the spending reductions occur.
“Now they understand that across-the-board cuts are not the wisest way to do it, but if that’s the only way for us to get Washington spending at least minimally under control, then they’re all in favor of it,” he said.