Gohmert: ‘We Went Off the Cliff in August of 2011’

By Elizabeth Harrington | December 5, 2012 | 4:14 PM EST

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas)

(CNSNews.com) – Amidst Washington’s frenzied attempts to reach a deal by the endof the year to avert the fiscal cliff, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) said Tuesday that America already “went off the cliff” last August after Congress’ failed budget deal left the country’s credit rating downgraded.

“That’s part of the thing we’ve got to understand,” Gohmert told CNSNews.com following a press conference on Capitol Hill, in which he advocated for a flat tax to be part of the fiscal cliff negotiations.

“The cliff, we went off of when we agreed to the debt ceiling bill without any real cuts and promises that Democrats were not going to—that neither party was going to allow cuts of that nature, dramatic nature, to Medicare in addition to the $700 billion that Obamacare already did, and to our defense,” he said.

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On Aug. 2, 2011, Congress and President Barack Obama reached a deal to raise the debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion and appointed a “super committee” to find a minimum of $1.2 trillion in cuts. When the committee failed to reach an agreement, it set off a trigger for automatic across-the-board cuts to defense and domestic spending to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2013.

“As I was heard to say back in July of 2011, this is a disaster,” Gohmert said. “This is not going to help. But we had the debt ceiling bill, and if you recall S & P [Standard and Poor’s] made very clear, if you don’t have at least $4 trillion in cuts over 10 years, you’re likely going to be downgraded. And to S&P’s credit, they said it. They meant it, and they did it. And we got downgraded.

“That was a huge fiscal cliff,” Gohmert said.

Standard and Poor’s downgraded the U.S. credit rating on Aug. 5, 2011 from AAA to AA+, saying that the BCA “falls short of what, in our view, would be necessary to stabilize the government's medium-term debt dynamics.”

Prior to the downgrade, John Chambers, chairman of S&P's sovereign ratings committee, said $4 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years would be a good start, and "would signal the seriousness of policymakers to address the fiscal position of the United States."

Gohmert said Tuesday that reforming the tax code would be a major step to righting the economic woes facing the nation.

“Since then we’ve been just plummeting from ledge to ledge, and if we do not get this done and get equitable tax rates across the board, then you’re going to see us fall even lower to another ledge,” the Texas Republican said. “But we still come back to the issue of being responsible. The debt ceiling bill was not responsible.”

“The cliff, we went off of the cliff in August of 2011 when we got downgraded,” Gohmert added. “And if we don’t get serious, we don’t get this economy back on the right track, then we are going to drop to a ledge, and at some point we’ll get to a ledge we can’t climb back out of.”

Publisher and former presidential candidate Steve Forbes, a longtime advocate for a flat tax, joined Gohmert on Capitol Hill to push for what he called true “fairness” in the tax code.

“So far on this whole cliff debate concerning taxes is centered around how much harm do we do the patient?” Forbes said. “How much poison do we give the patient of the economy? This is truly crazy.

“The emphasis should be on removing barriers to growth, not erecting new barriers nor increasing existing barriers,” he said.

Forbes called the tax code an “abomination,” and that the only remedy is to “kill the beast, drive the stake through its heart, bury it and hope it never rises again.”

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) said the complexity of the 9 million word-long tax code is the problem. “I’m convinced that no one human being has ever read the whole thing and if you did you would probably die.

“You don’t even have to go to the Amazon to find exotic creatures – they’re crawling around in this code today,” Forbes said.

The group did not specify an exact rate for a flat tax, but referenced a range between 10 percent and 17 percent. Gohmert said the percentage is negotiable, but it is more important to get the conversation moving in Congress.

Gohmert told CNSNews.com that there is currently “no openness” from Democrats on the issue, but he is hopeful that outcry from the American people could force Washington’s hand.

“The president, fortunately, has gone into campaign mode. Well, that’s good news,” Gohmert said. “Because if he’s out on the campaign trail, then this is a chance for Americans to make their voices heard.

“When they see America calling out for complete fairness like a flat tax, let’s make Warren Buffet pay the same rate as his secretary,” he said. “Let’s just make capital gains, let’s make income tax, let’s make it all the same flat rate. You don’t have to pay all that money to accountants, and it’s something that you can do yourself at home.

“I think that you will then begin to hear and see the openness from the other side,” Gohmert said.

“But Americans are going to have to be heard,” he added, “or we’re just going to continue the decline we’ve been in.”