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Rep. Sander Levin: ‘Dribble by dribble’ approach undermines tax reform

Dragging out negotiations on the debt ceiling could potentially harm the US and global economies, not to mention tax and entitlement reforms, says Rep. Sander Levin (D) of Michigan.

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Rep. Sander Levin, ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, speaks at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 15.

Michael Bonfigli/The Christian Science Monitor

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Rep. Sander Levin (D) of Michigan is the ranking Democrat on the tax-writing House Committee on Ways and Means. He was the guest at the Jan. 15 Monitor breakfast.

Results if Congress does not raise the ceiling on the government's debt:

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"The consequences would be ... dramatic and ... potentially cataclysmic.... Those who say, 'OK, let's toy with that,' they are toying with the American economy, and they are toying with the global economy."

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The need for additional revenue in any effort to deal with $109 billion in automatic spending cuts (or sequestration) due March 1:

"You cannot address sequestration simply through cuts.... This is not a question of starving the beast; this is a question of ... whether we are going to starve not the beast but necessary programs."

Prospects for tax reform after Congress deals with sequestration and the debt ceiling:

"I'm hopeful, if we don't drag [a debt-ceiling fix] out.... Those who are saying, let's do it dribble by dribble, they're the ones who would be undermining the effort to sit down and have a serious discussion on tax reform and the entitlements."

Medicare's fee for service approach to paying doctors:

"Fee for service is not a feasible structure for the present or the future.... I would like to engage all of my colleagues in how we accelerate the move from fee for service, which I think in the long term is going to be how we best get hold of health-care costs."

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Income inequality in the United States:

"For the last 10, 15, 20 years the middle class of this country has essentially been treading water while there has been a tipping of the balance in favor of higher-income groups.... That tipping has not been promotional of economic growth."