Budget: Congressional Progressive Caucus Budget Debate
House Chamber, Washington
March 28, 2012
I want to congratulate the Progressive Caucus on producing a budget that actually addresses our crushing deficit (unlike the President), and produces numbers that are right in line with the House Budget Committee’s “Path to Prosperity.”
The difference between the two is that the Republican plan reduces the deficit by reorganizing our government services into a more efficient and streamlined structure savings trillions of dollars, while the Progressive Caucus substitute would radically increase spending, supported with $6.8 trillion in new taxes over the next decade.
What does that mean in real numbers? About $22,000 from the earnings of every man, woman and child in America -- $88,000 for a family of four.
Don’t worry, we’re told, we’re not taxing working class families – just rich people and the corporations.
Let’s get a few things straight here.
First, it turns out that many of those rich people aren’t rich and they aren’t even people. They’re small businesses filing under sub-chapter S – the very same small businesses we’re depending upon to create 2/3 of the new jobs that Americans desperately need.
To whack small businesses with crushing new financial burdens and then expect them to create more jobs is simply absurd.
Second, remember that ultimately businesses do not pay business taxes. Business taxes can only be paid in three ways. They are paid by consumers through higher prices; by employees through lower wages (or no wages at all as jobs disappear); and by investors – mainly pension plans – through lower earnings.
Now let’s talk about fairness. In 2009, the top one percent of taxpayers (folks earning $344,000 per year) earned 17 percent of all income and paid 37 percent of all income taxes.
As a class, they’re paying more than their fair share, but the Progressives are right that some individuals within this class pay less than their fair share because of their disproportionate access to tax loopholes.
The Progressives want to get rid of some of those loopholes – and that’s good – but at the same time they want to increase others. They don’t mind government picking winners among its friends – they just want to do the picking.
The Republican plan calls for the ultimate elimination of these loopholes, while lowering overall tax rates so that no American pays more than a third of their earnings to the government. That’s fairness.
The underlying force destroying our nation’s finances can be summed up in three numbers: 35, 33 and 76.
35. 33. 76.
In the ten years from 2002 to 2012, population and inflation COMBINED have grown 35 percent. Despite the recession and the recent tax cuts, federal revenues are still up 33 percent in the same period – very close. The third number is what’s killing our country. Seventy six percent is the increase in spending – twice the rate of our revenues; twice the rate of inflation and population growth.
By the way, has anyone seen a 76 percent increase in the quality of our highways or our institutions or our law enforcement or our border security? We’ve paid for it.
That’s what’s out of control under this administration. No nation has ever taxed and spent its way to prosperity, but many nations have taxed and spent their way to economic ruin and bankruptcy.
When we’re told that this is the worst recession since the depression, I remember a time more recently when we had not only double-digit unemployment, but double-digit inflation, mile-long lines around gas stations, interest rates at 21 ½ percent.
That was the end of the Carter Administration. Maybe we don’t remember those days as vividly because they didn’t last very long.
We elected Ronald Reagan whose policies were very different than the current administration. He cut spending as a percentage of GDP, he cut the top marginal income tax rate from 70 percent to 28 percent, he reduced the regulatory burdens crushing the economy and he produced one of the most prolonged periods of economic expansion in our nation’s history.
Warren Harding, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton all followed similar policies with similar results.
Phil Gramm recently estimated that if the economy today had tracked with the Reagan economy, 17 million more Americans would be working right now and income would be $5,700 higher per person.
We know what works and we know what doesn’t work. The House Budget Committee’s Path to Prosperity follows principles that have time and again consistently and rapidly produced economic expansion and prosperity. The Obama Budget, the House Democrats Budget and the Progressive budget before us now double down on policies that have bankrupt nations throughout recorded history.
That is the choice before us today. That is the choice before the American people in November.
Let’s choose wisely – our future depends on it.
Congressional Progressive Caucus Budget Debate - Closing Remarks
March 28, 2012
The reason these times are so impassioned is because we have arrived at a moment when two very different visions of society are competing for our nation’s future, and they are very much reflected in the budgets put forward by the two parties in this House.
America’s prosperity and greatness spring from uniquely American principles of individual freedom, personal responsibility, and constitutionally limited government. America’s founders created a voluntary society where people are free to make their own choices, enjoy the fruit of their own labors, take responsibility for their own decisions and lead their own lives with a minimum of government interference and intrusion.
When someone needs help, we freely give that help, but we ask in return that they make the effort to support themselves to the extent they can.
Our government views no one person or group as more or less worthy than any other. We are Americans. We will be judged on our own merits and we’ll make our own choices – including what kind of car we’ll drive; what kind of toilets we’ll have in our homes; how we’ll raise our children; what kind of light bulbs we prefer; what we’ll have for dinner.
Today, a very different vision competes for our future: that of a compulsory society, where our individual rights are subordinated to the mandates of government bureaucrats, where innocent taxpayers are forced to bail out the bad decisions of others and where consumers are compelled to purchase the products or underwrite the losses of politically favored companies.
Under this vision, the purpose of government is not to protect individual freedom but to improve society, however those in power decide it should be improved: to take from those it declares are undeserving to give to those it declares are deserving. To put it more succinctly, to take from each according to his abilities and to give to each according to his needs.
That’s what this is all about.
Not more than a hundred steps from where we debate right now, Thomas Jefferson reviewed the bountiful resources of the nation and asked, “With all these blessings, what more is necessary to make us a happy and a prosperous people? Still one thing more, fellow-citizens – a wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.”
This is the “Path to Prosperity” put forward by the House Budget Committee. Let us be clear: the various Democratic plans, including the one before us now, fundamentally reject these principles and replace them with values alien and antithetical to those which built our nation.
That is the question that our generation must decide in all of its forms, including the question put to us today by this substitute amendment.