Cornyn: ‘Astonishing’ that Senate Democrats Now Pushing for More Stimulus
by John Cornyn on June 25, 2011 at 12:28 PM
Thursday, I spoke on the Senate floor about the Democrats’ calls for new stimulus spending, the debt ceiling negotiations, and unemployment:
Mr. President, I am reading in press reports that some of my colleagues across the aisle are advocating another stimulus package, sometimes called government investment, otherwise called spending taxpayers' money that we don't have and borrowing it from our children and most immediately from the Chinese that own a trillion dollars of our national debt.
It is astonishing to me that after the last stimulus package early in 2009 failed to meet the President's own stated target of keeping unemployment to 8% or lower, that some of our colleagues are trying to double down on a bad deal by advocating more stimulus, when 43 cents out of every dollar that is being spent in America today is borrowed money.
I mentioned that the President in his speech on Afghanistan last night said that the federal government needs to invest more. Well, I don't think anybody should be fooled by what he really means when he says the federal government must invest.
The only money the federal government has is the money that comes from your wallet, from taxpayers, and when there is not enough money coming in to keep up with the reckless spending habits of Washington, D.C., then they simply borrow the money or print money that we don't have, and that's what ‘investment’ means when the President talks about needing to invest more federal government money.
On the same day the President spoke, the Congressional Budget Office released a report that shows the federal government's spending spree is not sustainable and the nation's fiscal position is getting worse.
I don't think that's breaking news. I think most Americans could tell you that was the case, at least intuitively, already.
Over the last two years, the nation's debt has dramatically worsened.
Gross federal debt is expected to equal 100% of our entire economy in just three months, well past the 90% threshold that many economists believe will seriously undermine economic growth.
Some studies show that this increased debt, which crowds out private investment and borrowing, may result in the loss of at least a million jobs a year. vBut getting back to my initial point about this stimulus notion in the negotiations with Vice President Biden over raising the debt ceiling, it seems that many have forgotten the trillion-dollar stimulus package passed back in 2009, that the green shoots predicted never materialized, that the recovery summer never happened, and, as I said, it failed to keep unemployment below the targeted rate of 8%, and indeed now it hovers nationwide at a rate of 9.1%, and it's much, much worse in many regions of the country.
Only in Washington, D.C. would someone advocate a repetition of a program that we know has failed to meet its stated goals and was, I believe, a total flop.
First of all, it was borrowed money so it wasn't even spending money that we had. It was exacerbating an already dangerously high debt.
The first stimulus failed for one reason: because our massive deficits and our budget, and we know that the American people believe, as the Gallup organization tells us, that a large majority of Americans believe that spending too much money on unneeded and wasteful government programs is to blame for federal budget deficit.
And if you ask any business owner—any—anyone really outside of the Beltway, the reason why jobs are just not coming back, it's in large part because of the uncertainty of what's coming out of Washington, not only legislatively but as a regulatory matter, whether it's the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Labor, all of the alphabet soup of federal agencies that exist here in Washington, D.C.
Instead of passing another unpaid-for stimulus plan or issuing more job-killing regulations, our focus should remain on ways to reduce and reform government spending and thereby help getting the economy moving again.
In fact, I think we need to force the Congress and the federal government to live within its means by passing a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, and this should be the focus of our efforts here over the next couple of months as we tackle not only this unsustainable debt and these huge annual deficits, but as we look for ways to put a straitjacket on the federal government to make sure that it doesn't keep spending money that it doesn't have.
No family, no business—matter of fact, 49 states have balanced budget requirements. Only the federal government and only Congress can continue to spend money that we don't have.
A balanced budget amendment to the United States Constitution would permanently change Washington's behavior.
So far, 47 Senators in the United States Senate on this side of the aisle have endorsed and cosponsored a balanced budget amendment, and we would invite our colleagues across the aisle to join us in this effort.
We need to, in summary, unburden the economy from regulatory uncertainty or, in some cases, the certainty that the bureaucracy’s overreach and make it harder, not easier, to create jobs.
We need to pass free trade agreements that should be pending before the Senate to help create more jobs here at home by producing things here that we can then sell abroad.
And then we need to develop our domestic energy production with the great gifts we have been given in this country.
I know the presiding officer, coming from an energy-producing state, Alaska, agrees with me that we need to produce more domestic energy here at home, which will also have the added benefit of creating jobs right here in America rather than continuing the bad habit and the dangerous habit of importing about 60% of our energy from abroad in some dangerous parts of the world.
I just want to close with a couple of other thoughts, listening to my colleague from Vermont calling for shared sacrifice in meeting some of the deficit reduction plans. “I would just suggest to the distinguished Senator that the 9.1% unemployment reflects a lot of sacrifice among a lot of people who can't find jobs in this bad economy.
That's shared sacrifice but that's a sacrifice that I know they - and we - would prefer they did not have to share, and when you don't have a job, it's pretty hard to make your mortgage payments.
When you can't make your mortgage payments or you can't move because your mortgage is more expensive than the value of your home, your home's under water, you're simply stuck, and a lot of people are finding themselves defaulting on their mortgages and losing their home, which is usually the largest single investment any of us will make.
But finally, I want to close on this thought.
I want to ask my colleagues across the aisle, who have been so critical of the proposals that have been made by the House of Representatives and others, where is your plan?
Where is your budget?
It's been two years since the United States Congress has passed a budget since it's been in control of our Democratic friends.
Where is your plan to save Medicare, which the Medicare trustees have said will go insolvent? That means there is more money going out than coming in by the year 2024.
How do we keep the promise to our most vulnerable seniors that we will be there for them, that Medicare will be there for them, if we don't do something to shore up this insolvent program?
I unfortunately believe that the President is listening too closely to his political advisors rather than listening to those who are telling him, ‘Mr. President, we have a problem that we need to solve.’
And the first place he ought to look for a proposed solution as his own bipartisan fiscal commission that reported back in December in a report 66 pages long.
It's scary but important reading. The title of that is “Moment of Truth.”
We are reaching—have reached—a crossroads in this country where we simply can't kick the can down the road, where we can't keep spending money we don't have, where we can't keep relying upon communist China to buy our debt and to bail us out.
We simply can't continue to pass these responsibilities on to our children and grandchildren.
We have important promises to keep to our seniors to make sure that that safety net of Medicare and Social Security is going to be there for them, but we can't do it unless we have willing partners join us across the aisle, and right now, the only one in this country who is in a position to make this happen is the President of the United States.
But so far, the President has been AWOL on this issue.
After he has issued his partisan fiscal commission, issued the report I referred to a moment ago in December 2010, in his State of the Union speech, the President barely mentioned, if at all, this mounting crisis of debt and the problems with our insolvent and pending insolvency of Medicare and Social Security.
In his budget that the President proposed, it was never acted on by the Majority Leader or the Budget Committee on which I sit, and being in the minority, we can't force this issue. It can only happen if the chairman of the Budget Committee marks up a budget and if the Majority Leader, Senator Harry Reid, across the aisle will put it on the floor of the United States Senate where we can debate it and offer amendments. “But they chose not to do so, relying instead on their political consultants who said, you know, if you offer a constructive proposal, there may be some across the aisle who will criticize it, and you know what?
You may just have to take some hard votes.
Well, anybody who has come to the United States Senate who isn't willing to vote their convictions, whatever those convictions are, and be held accountable by their constituents back home, doesn't deserve to be in the United States Congress.
And we're here to take hard votes and to make hard decisions, because it's not about us and our political career. It's not about the next election.
It's about addressing these problems that we have been sent here to try to fix the best we can under the circumstances.
And it just—it is beyond unbelievable when I hear some of our colleagues across the aisle—the the Senior Senator from New York, among others—talk about another stimulus spending as part of this debt reduction deal.
And beyond that, we have the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee making clear that insistence on tax increases was an essential element of any deal on raising the debt limit.
The Vice President himself is quoted as saying in the Politico publication—he said, ‘the piece most important to us democrats: revenue’—that’s Washington-speak: the word revenue is Washington- speak for tax increases.
The President and Republicans and Democrats got together after the last election and agreed to extend expiring tax provisions because all of us agreed on a bipartisan basis that the worst thing you could do for a fragile recovering economy was to raise taxes, on small businesses that are the engine of job creation and on individuals who would be able to then invest that money in starting a business or growing an existing business.
There is a reason why the private sector is afraid of Washington, D.C.
Because they see these mounting debts and deficits and they realize that one of the things that we might be tempted to do is to raise their taxes.
And you know what? Their business model for their small business may not be able to withstand that tax increase that they didn't plan on or the regulatory overreach of some federal Washington bureaucrat.
So they're scared, and they're sitting on the sidelines.
And the two things we need to do most is bring down that spending curve by reducing federal government spending, begin to attack that debt and make sure we don't have to keep raising the credit limit on the nation's credit card but, rather, we can bring it down and bring it within sustainable limits.
That's one thing we need to do.
The second thing we need to do is take our boot off the neck of the private sector, the free enterprise system here in America, so they can create jobs, so they can grow their business, so they can pay their taxes and we can begin to close the gap between what the federal government is spending and what the federal government brings in, in terms of revenue.
In 2007, when our Democratic friends took control of the House and the Senate, President Bush was still President of the United States, our annual deficit was roughly 1.2% of our gross domestic product. Our whole economy, 1.2%.
Today it is roughly 10%.
But the reason it was 1.2% is not because we weren't spending a significant amount of money; we were.
It was because the economy was booming and revenue to the federal treasury was at an all-time high.
So that should tell us we need to do two things.
We need to cut spending, not just raise taxes so Washington can spend some more and throw a wet blanket on the economy and the job creators.
But we need to cut spending, fix these entitlement programs so we can keep our promise to our seniors who in many cases are relying upon these for their very livelihood.
And then we need to get the economy moving again by growing the jobs in the private sector by adopting a national energy policy that says we prefer domestic or American energy sources rather than those from abroad.
And Mr. President, we need to do it soon.
And I'm saddened to see that, as a result of the insistence on the part of the Vice President and our friends across the aisle that taxes must be a part of any package of debt reduction, that the Majority Leader in the House of Representatives and the Assistant Leader here in the Senate, Senator Kyl, have reached an impasse and said they don't see any point to continuing the negotiations at this point.
I hope that the Vice President—indeed, I hope the President of the United States himself, who is the only Democrat who can get this deal done—will reconsider their approach and will say we will help work with Republicans to live within our means, reduce spending, and try to get our economy moving again so we can alleviate our children from the debt burden that now they are inheriting from us.
Every child born in America today will come into this world with $46,000 roughly in debt that they owe.
That's because of what we have been doing here in Washington, or rather what we have not been doing, which is living within our means.
It's time to do that.
And we need to work together to solve the problem.
Mr. President, I yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum.