Former Iowa Congressman Tom Tauke, a Republican, is part of a bipartisan coalition urging congress to take action now to reduce the federal budget deficit. The apparent failure of the so-called “super committee” to reach any sort of budget-cutting agreement is a missed opportunity, according to Tauke.

“Yet again, it indicates that congress is unable to set aside the pleas from various groups to keep their programs in place or their tax breaks in place to address the larger national problem,” Tauke said this morning during a telephone interview with Radio Iowa.

Tauke is one of six former House and Senate members who’ve formed a bipartisan “Coalition for a Fiscally-Sound America.” He said cutting the federal budget and raising taxes aren’t enough. Modest reductions in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security need to be part of the solution, too.

“You need to have deficit reductions of $4-5 trillion over the next 10 years, you need to address the growth of entitlements — Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — and you need to reform the tax code in order to make our tax code more competitive and in order to raise the revenue that is needed to sustain the government at a level that is historic,” Tauke said.

Tauke served two terms in the Iowa legislature before being elected to congress in 1978. He said the “deep divisions” in congress reflect the divide in the country.

“In essense, we’re calling on all citizens to rise above their own personal interest in any particular government program and look at the larger national interest. This is really a matter of saving the republic,” Tauke told Radio Iowa. “…When Americans say that they’re more interested in saving the future of the nation rather than in saving their own program, Right now, that message isn’t coming to the congress.” 

Tauke argued the longer these decisions are put off, the worse the pain.

“It’s very hard to get individuals to put the country’s interests above their own personal interests…whether it is the farm program or Social Security or a tax break for this initiative or another,” Tauke told Radio Iowa.

The nation’s military leaders have said the greatest threat to the country is the nation’s debt and Tauke hopes that and a host of other troubling financial data serve as a wake-up call to the country.

After serving 12 years in the U.S. House, Tauke ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 1990. He is now an executive vice president at Verizon.