Continued economic growth over the next decade should more than make up for new debt that the Trump tax cuts created, U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis and U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson said during a roundtable discussion at the Great Fayetteville Chamber on Wednesday afternoon.
 
Republicans Tillis and Hudson talked about the tax cuts, deregulation, trade, immigration, welfare reform, health care, the economy and other issues as they fielded questions from a group of more than 30 local businessmen, nonprofit organization executives and others.
 
Some of their thoughts:
 
Tax cuts
 
President Donald Trump and the Republicans in Congress cut income taxes this year.
 
“The tax reform bill cut about $1.5 trillion in revenue,” Tillis said.
 
But spending was not cut, so the tax cut is adding to the national debt.
 
If the nation maintains just over a 2 percent growth in gross domestic product on average over the next 10 years, Tillis said, “we will more than pay for the one-and-a-half trillion dollars.
 
“If we get up in the 2½ or 3 percent growth over 10 years, we’ll actually be able to start taking a look at retiring our debt, which I consider to be one of the single greatest threats to our national security and economic security over time.”
 
Hudson said some members of Congress pursued the tax cuts for years.
 
“The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act may be the greatest achievement, as I look back at my career,” Hudson said.
 
Immigration, free trade
 
A home builder said there is high demand for new homes and he can’t keep up with it because they can’t find enough workers. Another said Trump’s tariff on Canadian lumber is “driving lumber prices through the roof.”
 
The tariff combined with immigration policy has created “some crushing blows,” the second builder said.
 
On tariffs, Tillis said, the nation needs to quickly narrow the focus to the worst actors in unfair trade practices, “China being first among them.”
 
On the labor issue and immigration issue, Tillis said, the nation needs to soon pass laws to provide a path to citizenship for people who were brought into the country as children and grew up here — a means of becoming citizens in 10 to 12 years. These are the people in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known by its acronym as DACA.
 
Coupled with that, the country needs to boost security of both the northern and southern borders, Tillis said. This includes better technology to move people through the borders more quickly, which he said would boost the economy, and technology to intercept more illegal drugs.
 
Most illegal drugs — 85 to 90 percent — that are smuggled into the United States are smuggled through legal points of entry, Tillis said. “We have the technology to interdict more, we just don’t have the investment to make it happen,” he said.
 
Medicare, Social Security
 
Tillis said the nation needs to keep the Medicare and Social Security safety nets for older Americans to get health care and a retirement income, but they need to be adjusted to keep them solvent.
 
People may have to wait longer than they do now to become eligible, Tillis said. Someone might have to wait nine months longer, for example.
 
These ideas have generated controversy, Tillis said.
 
“I know it’s hard to imagine, but with the scale and the size of these programs, it absolutely is a way to … make sure that the promise I made to him — after he waits nine months beyond today’s standard — that it’s going to be there,” he said. “And if we don’t, then Congress is going to react to a crises.
 
“And one thing I’ve learned in the three years that I’ve been in the U.S. Senate, is that Congress does a lousy job of reacting to a crisis.”
 
It has a history of passing bad, overreaching laws, Tillis said, citing some passed in the wake of the Great Recession that started in 2007.

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