ISSUES AFFECTING AMERICA -- (House of Representatives - January 16, 2008)
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under the Speaker's announced policy of January 18, 2007, the gentleman from Iowa (Mr. King) is recognized for 60 minutes.
Mr. KING of Iowa. Mr. Speaker, it is an honor to be recognized to address you here on the floor of the United States Congress, as always, and I appreciate this privilege. There are a series of subjects that come to mind that I think it is important for you to consider and for the Members and for those onlookers that are here to consider as well.
One of those issues has been front and center in my mind and in my legislative career as we watch these presidential debates that go on on both sides of the aisle, from the Democrat and the Republican side, and as we watch the caucus and primary season flow across the country, and as America waits with bated breath to see how this emerges, as far as who will be the nominees on either side for the Democrats and the Republicans.
A series of issues that come to mind that stand out to me that I would ask you, Mr. Speaker, to consider as you and as others take a look at where they might come down on their particular choice of nominees and the things that are important here in the United States of America, and I would submit this approach, and that is that there are a whole series of issues that are important to us and we talk about them and we debate them constantly. But we often overlook the necessity to prioritize those issues.
I will say there are roughly about 10 big issues out there that get discussed on the parts of Republicans and Democrats as we turn the focus of America towards who will be the next leader of the free world, the next commander-in-chief of the strongest nation in the world, the unchallenged superpower in the world.
Those issues include items such as Social Security reform and health care reform and tax reform, fiscal responsibility. The social programs, education for example, would be another one. How strong should our military be? How do we fight our enemies globally. How to do we get to the point where we can declare one day in this global war on terror against Islamic jihadists? And how do we secure our borders and how do we reestablish the, I will call it the sanctity of this Nation, the sovereignty of America? How do we reestablish that? How do we reestablish the rule of law in this country when we have watched the rule of law and the enforcement of our laws decline over the last 20 years, a little bit more than 20 years, I will say since the 1986 amnesty bill that Ronald Reagan signed and defined as amnesty?
What about the appointments that will be made to the Supreme Court but by the next president of the United States? As most of the pundits have analyzed, it looks like it will be perhaps two appointments to the Supreme Court that will come up in the next term. Those two appointments that are anticipated will change the balance in the court and perhaps have more impact on the destiny of America, and I will say will be the legacy of the next President. There will be big questions such as will Rowe versus Wade be overturned? Will the States be then in a position where they can determine their policy on protecting innocent, unborn human life?
The issue of marriage is coming forward here in this Nation. It is under assault across this country. It happens to be a bellwether issue within the State of Iowa. Judge Robert Hansen overturned Iowa's Defense of Marriage Act. In that decision, he just unilaterally erased the will of the Iowa people and replaced it with his own. That case is going before the Supreme Court. That will be determined.
If the decision of Judge Hansen is upheld, Iowa then becomes the Mecca for same-sex marriage, because there is not a residency requirement, which means then that weekend packages from Las Vegas or San Francisco traveling to Iowa for same sex couples to get married, and then they will go back to their home States to file suit.
These are big issues, Mr. Speaker, the issue of innocent human life, the issue of marriage, the institution, which goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden, and it is transcended and that sacrament of marriage has been preserved since before original sin and it survived the great flood, but it is under assault now from judicial activists. Those, life and marriage, will likely be determined by the next two appointments to the Supreme Court.
And will we have a President that understands that the Constitution means what it says and it means what it was understood to mean, the text of the Constitution means what it was understood to mean when it was ratified by our forebearers, and that each amendment means what it was understood to mean when it was ratified? It is not a living, breathing document, not a changing document, but a document that is a guarantee to the people here in the United States. The next President will make those decisions.
Of all the issues that I have laid out here, including our border security and our national security, which many times are wrapped up into one, and the refurbishment of the rule of law, which I believe is the central pillar of American exceptionalism, all of that is up for grabs in the presidential race that is being played out across America State By State. The world watches. The world watches because it affects them, because we will be electing the next leader in the free world.
Of all of these issues that I have laid out, Mr. Speaker, I would ask you to put those issues down into two different columns. I would label those two columns. On the one side I would label it the column called quality of life issues.
The quality of life issues are those issues that probably don't turn the destiny of America. They will change our quality of life and raise our standard of living perhaps and give us a little better security, but if we get them wrong, we can go back and try them again.
One of those issues that I would put in the quality of life side of thing would be the health care issue. That is about all they talk about over on the other side of the aisle, Mr. Speaker, except for change, change, change, change, and that may be what is in your pocket, Mr. Speaker. But when you don't say what you would change to, you are just going to change from what we are to something else under the presumption that doing something different, even if it is wrong, is better than what we are doing now, isn't good enough for the American people.
The American people are going to want to know what you would change from and what you would change to, what you would make different and why and what is the rationale. That will be a requirement moving into the general election. It may not be a requirement in the primary election, that change.
But the issues in the two categories, the one category which is quality of life issues, and I put health care in there. We can do some things with health care, and I think we should. And if we get some of those wrong, we can back up and we can try again and try to get it right. In fact, we have been doing that for some time, and I expect we will do that for some time. Health care belongs in the quality of life side, not in the destiny side, because it probably doesn't change the destiny of America, but it something that has to do with our quality of life. It is important.
It is important like Social Security reform is also important, Mr. Speaker. And we are here now with a bankrupt Social Security program. It has been a couple of years since I have checked the numbers, but the Social Security trust fund, the last time I checked it was $1.74 trillion. That is how much money this Congress owes the trust fund.
The trust fund is in little bonds in Parkersburg, West Virginia, in filing cabinets. I have a copy of one. It says $3.54 billion on this little piece of paper. It is an IOU from the government written to the government. But we haven't prepared to pay the Social Security liability that accrues starting as we go into the red, the deficit spending in 2016 or 2017, and then by 2042, all of the surplus is spent and now we are digging ourselves an even deeper hole.
But it happens to us in 2016 and 2017, because already the Social Security trust fund couldn't be trusted. That money has all been spent, and we have simply written ourselves an IOU and we have decided to take the paper out of this pocket, write ourselves an IOU of $1.74 trillion and take it and put it over in this pocket, because there is nothing in this trust fund.
It is important that we address the reform of Social Security, but if we don't do it this year or next year or 4 years from now, it gets harder and harder, but it probably doesn't change the destiny of America. So I put that over also in the quality of life side along with health care.
Then we come to tax reform. I am listening as my colleagues debate this around in committee and on the floor, Mr. Speaker, about what we will do about this impending recession. Well, the first question is, are we in a recession? And I can't quite hear somebody say yes, we are.
Most of the time we don't know we are in one until we look back and realize that we were, Mr. Speaker. So I am not going to submit that we are in a recession today. I would submit though that we are constantly on our way into one. We are either on our way to a boom or on our way to a bust or some minimized version of either.
So, yes, we are likely, since we have had this long, long period of unprecedented growth here in America, chances are we are going to have to make some corrections. And this economy is not an economy, and no free market economy has ever been, the kind where you just simply said we are going to grow this economy out, let's just say 3.5 percent a year, and we will lay the ruler on the graph, lift it up to a 3.5 percent growth and strike ourselves a line out there and say we are going to be on target every single day. It doesn't work that way, Mr. Speaker.
The way it works is that you have little periods of growth and little periods of decline, and as the graph ratchets its way up, if you look at it in more of an illuminated perspective, it looks more like a sawtooth, where it goes up and down and up and down. But all the while while that is happening, our gross domestic product is increasing, people are earning more money, our capital base is growing, and this economy that now sits here, as it has in the past year, the dollar went out past historical limits a whole series of numbers of times, it has grown exponentially from where it was 20 years ago. We have that much more assets to work with, an economy that is growing.
But if this category of our economic growth and our tax reform, if we get it wrong, we can back up and try again. We have been backing up and trying it again for over 200 years here in America.
So I will submit that tax reform also belongs over here in the category of quality of life issues, issues that are important to us, issues that have to do with whether we will be in a boom or whether we will be in a decline, and how much prosperity might be there and how we provide a tax program that takes the burden off of sectors of the economy so that they can earn, save and invest and expect a return off their investment. But I don't think the tax reform issue is a destiny issue. I think it is a quality of life issue.
While I am on that subject, Mr. Speaker, I want to address this issue that is before this Congress about whether there is going to be some kind of a check, a payout to everybody to stimulate the economy. Will we send somebody a rebate on their taxes and give everybody $200 of walking around money so they can go out in the streets and buy some Gucci bags and go to the massage parlor, like what happened with some checks that went to the southern part of the United States not that long ago? Is that a way to get us out of that economy?
When I think about that, I back up to 1992, Mr. Speaker, when Bill Clinton was elected President. He came into this city, was inaugurated in January of 1993, and immediately he said to this Congress, I need a $30 billion economic incentive plan, because the recession that had been kind of illustrated and probably was part of the imagination of the political campaign, I will argue it didn't really exist, but in order to get rid of it, he had to have this creation of this recession, President Clinton needed an economic incentive plan.
So he asked this Congress to appropriate $30 billion to go into make-work projects, make-work projects that we might see today as AmeriCorps. In fact, I think it actually came out of that inspiration. But the idea was to borrow $30 billion and put it into the hands of Americans and have that money be spent out into the streets of America, and then now this recession that he thought we were in would be solved because money would be spent into the economy and stimulate the economy.
Well, the $30 billion economic incentive package that was requested by President Clinton in the first month of his first term in office in 1993, was debated in this Congress from $30 billion down to $17 billion, and finally they concluded that $17 billion wasn't enough to make any kind of a difference and they just kind of dropped it.
Well, now we are up to about, one request I have heard was $300 billion to put into the hands of people, borrowed money so it could be spent to stimulate the economy. Other arguments are that we should cut corporate income tax and capital gains and a few other things, and I do support those changes.
But what needs to happen, Mr. Speaker, is the Bush tax cuts need it to be made permanent. The two tax cuts in 2001 and 2003 saved us from I believe a severe recession and perhaps a depression because there was enough vision in the eyes and in the mind of President Bush that we were under assault from a lot of ways. One was al Qaeda. The financial center had been attacked, and the things that had been designed to drive us down needed to be stimulated back the other way.
So we did those tax cuts in 2001. We did them in 2003. And this economy has boomed. Sometime last April, this government collected more money in a single day than had ever been collected before, stimulated by tax cuts.
And today we are hanging in the balance. The whole series of tax cuts winds down in 2010 and disappear and expire because they were set up to sunset, and politically that was the way that they were sold. And, of course, if those tax cuts sunset, they become tax increases; and those tax increases will be tax increases on capital gains, there will be a personal and corporate income tax. There will be tax increases on the estate tax, the death tax. And all of those things are in the way they prevent people from planning, they take away their confidence in this economy. And when you take away confidence in an economy, the result is people don't invest, they don't expand, they don't create jobs. And if you are not creating jobs and if you are not able to increase wages and benefits, then the money that is in people's pockets diminishes and they spend less money and this economy collapses eventually.
Extending the Bush tax cuts and making them permanent would be the single most effective thing we could do to cause this economy to turn around the other way and head back up again for another long period of economic growth. The single most important thing this Congress has a chance to do, and I believe that as history looks back on this time they will say, you had your chance, this was it. And I submit, Mr. Speaker, we should take that chance.
But back to this subject at hand of these quality of life issues. Tax reform is quality of life, because the dynamics in the economy are tied to it. Health
care is quality of life, because the very care that we get that gives us this robust health that we have enjoyed comes from the policies we put in place there and the incentives we put in place, and a lot of it is getting the regulations out of the way. And reforming Social Security is another quality of life issue. Those issues over on that side, quality of life, let's weigh them for the importance that they are.
But the decision that we are making in this Presidential race isn't a decision necessarily about what the quality of life will be for the Americans that live in the next 4 years, the first 4 years of the next term, or the next 8 years for that matter. This decision is far more important than our quality of life that will take place between 2009 and perhaps as late as 2017.
No, Mr. Speaker, the decision the American people need to make is a destiny decision. We need to be making a decision in this country about who will be the best leader in the free world that moves us forward, that lays the foundation down on the tracks so that the next generations will have that foundation to build on so that they can achieve the American Dream and they can aspire to leaving the world a better place than it was when they came, as we have had that responsibility handed to us from our fathers and our forefathers.
But I want to make an argument here, Mr. Speaker, about how important this is, in a sense of this country that we are that is America.
First of all, the Founders came here to the United States of America and they had a vision. That vision first was that our rights come from God. They don't come from humanity. They are not endowed upon us by a king or a foreign prince and potentate. They are not endowed upon us by a dictator. Our rights come directly from God. And they come directly to the people. And then the people hand that responsibility over to government to govern them, but always under the will of the people and always with the rights that are guaranteed to the people. And if this foundation of this great Nation, those values that we hold dear are diminished, if they are eroded, if we don't build upon that foundation, the next generation doesn't have a good foundation to build upon.
The culture that is created from the Constitution and from our religious values and our values of family and faith and freedom and free market economy and property rights, if this culture that is the culture of the United States of America that has within it the vitality of millions of immigrants that came here legally, that have injected their vitality into this overall American culture with an appreciation for the host country that is here and an obligation that they happily provide, which is to give back to this country, the country that so gladly welcomed them.
This vitality that is this Nation, this vitality of this culture is what raises up the leaders of today. And the culture of a generation ago was the culture that raised up the leaders of a generation ago, and so on, and so it goes as you look back through the history of America all the way back to before the Revolutionary War. So each generation is built upon the previous generation, and the leaders of each generation are produced and raised up by the culture, by the values of the current time.
And today, the values of the United States of America in their aggregate raise up the leaders that come in here to serve in this United States Congress. The culture of every 435 districts produces the leader that represents each of the 435 districts; and the cultures in the States produces the Senators, two for each of the 50 States that go to serve in the United States Senate. And the values of the congressional districts and the values of the States are the values that, at least presumably, are embodied within the people who are elected to come and serve in this United States Congress, Mr. Speaker.
The culture raises up the leaders, and the leaders reflect the values of their time and their place. And then the decisions that are made by the leaders, and I will take this to the decisions made by the President of the United States, lay the foundation and alter the culture and shift the values and set the principles that shift the culture for the next generation. And if we shift this culture now, the next generation will react to it, will reflect the new values of the new culture that has been changed by the decisions made by the leaders today.
That is why it is so important that we turn our focus to the destiny issues and begin to ask the question, who will best lead this country? Who will best lay the foundation for the decisions that will be made that will affect the formation and the shaping of the values of America which are our culture? Who will make those decisions?
And as I look forward into this, I will argue that those are the destiny decisions, Mr. Speaker, those issues that change the destiny of America. And when the destiny of America is changed, it shifts the culture, and the foundation of the culture will be the foundation that our entire culture grows from, that young people learn about.
Now, this menu of life that I had when I was a young boy in the early 1950s in Iowa, Mr. Speaker, was not quite such a varied menu of life as our young people growing up in America have today. I had a very, very bright black and white list on what was right and what was wrong, and what I could do and what I couldn't do. And it covered a whole gamut of things between telling the truth and working industriously and helping my fellow man and having a strong, faithful Christian background, and having a duty to my father and my mother and later on my wife and my children, and knowing that I needed to teach them in these same values so that they would go out and go to work every day and they would carry the values of our faith and our family and our freedom.
A lot more freedom has been injected into this society, a lot of it through the 1960s, and not just sexual freedom but freedom that has to do with illegal drugs and freedom for a lifestyle that is far more permissive than the lifestyle that was permitted in the environment that I grew up in, Mr. Speaker. Those are cultural changes. Our music reflects it, our literature reflects it, our movies reflect it, and our television reflect the shifts and the differences in our culture, and they reflect the differences in our values.
For example, could one imagine that there would be sitcoms and serial programs on TV that have to do with same-sex marriage or same-sex relationships even 10 years ago, let alone 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago. And I would say maybe 10 years ago, not much earlier than that could one have conceived of such a thing. That is how far this society has been moved quickly, much of it by the courts, much of it by the liberal media in the movie industry and the television entertainment industry. But the permissiveness is different than the society that I grew up in, and our values have changed.
Now, I am not one of the people who sits over on that side of the aisle and believe that change itself is a goal. I am one who thinks that we should be rooted in our values; we should identify the central pillar and all of the other pieces of the foundation of American exceptionalism, and we should refurbish those pillars of American exceptionalism and we should diminish those things that undermine those pillars of exceptionalism. But the permissiveness that has grown has changed our culture. And because of that, it is reflected here on the floor of Congress, and in such a way that I can go to St. Peter's Square and go to communion with more than one Member of Congress, and then next week come back here and on the floor hear one of those Members of Congress who walked to communion with the new Pope Benedict XVI, a very pro-life faith that we have, and have that Member that went to communion come to the floor and argue that there should be a constitutional right to partial-birth abortion. What a twist and a shape in our civilization and our society.
What that says about the foundation of our culture, that is something that has got to be shifted back, Mr. Speaker. It has got to be shifted back, and it needs to be changed at the Supreme Court level and all the Federal courts all the way down.
When we have law schools in America that teach the Constitution from case law and not from the text of the Constitution; if they presume that the students that come
there read the Constitution and understand it, I don't know where they think they got the education. But when they teach that the case law controls and the text of the Constitution does not control, that is something that has got to have a dramatic shift if we are to have any guarantee. And when I realized that, and I know that we have three or four members, maybe even more, of the Supreme Court that think that the Constitution is this living, breathing document that is there for them to manipulate at their will, and when I think of the prospect of one or two or more justices in the Supreme Court potentially being nominated by a liberal President and confirmed by a United States Senate that believe that the Constitution can mean what a judge wants it to mean, especially if it is an activist decision because of a judge that might conclude a result rather than the text, I think that is wrong, Mr. Speaker, and I think it puts our constitutional guarantees at risk.
We have an issue before the Supreme Court that was just heard the other day on the second amendment, and there was an amicus brief that was offered apparently before the Court and by the White House that the second amendment is an individual constitutional right, but it could be regulated by political subdivisions, by cities or counties or States. And I could argue that if you are going to guarantee my second amendment rights but tell political subdivisions that they don't have to respect that constitutional right, that it is no right at all. And we need judges that understand that. We need appointments to the Supreme Court that understand that this Constitution means what it says, and we need Federal judges appointed all the way down the line with that philosophy.
I dream of the day that, for example, when Justice Roberts went before the United States Senate and he spoke about his beliefs in the Constitution and his understanding of case law, he went through that confirmation. And when he handled that in an exceptional fashion, it was extraordinarily impressive and absolutely worthy of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. I thought I detected a tone that was more constitutional in Justice Alito's confirmation hearings, when I recall him speaking more openly about the Constitution meaning what it says, and having less deference to case law and more deference to the text of this Constitution. And I dream of the day that, in order to get confirmed to the Supreme Court or perhaps confirmed at any Federal court level, Mr. Speaker, that an appointee would have to profess belief and conviction in the text of the Constitution rather than the deference to case law that may have been manipulated by liberal judges that have come before them.
Those appointments to the Supreme Court, if we are successful in confirming those judges that believe the Constitution means what it says and that it is not a living, breathing document, if we get appointments and confirmation of those kind of judges, at some point the law schools will have to start teaching the Constitution for what it says, not for what some piece of case law might say about that Constitution. And I think we should be able to drill back to the Constitution and always anchor it in the text of the Constitution. If we get appointments to the Supreme Court that do so, we can transform the guarantees that we have, and we can change the dynamics within all the law schools in America, and we can change the understanding here in the House of Representatives, and we can change the understanding of the Constitution in the United States Senate, and we can go back to those fundamental guarantees. Because after all, Mr. Speaker, if the Constitution doesn't mean what it says it means, if it is there, something that only a judge can determine is in the emanations and the penumbras of the Constitution itself, if that is all it is, then what guarantees do we have at all? Is the Constitution then some archaic document? Or is it a tool to be deployed by activist judges only for them to decide when they will amend the Constitution? Or is it a guarantee to the people of the United States as it was designed to be?
I would submit that if the Constitution were offered to the American people to be ratified with a little caveat there that, well, the judges will be able to rewrite or define it whenever they see fit, it would have never been ratified by the several States and would not be the document that has held together this free country that we are.
Destiny issues, Mr. Speaker. The appointments to the Supreme Court, the next one or two or perhaps more appointments to the Supreme Court, will redirect the destiny of America.
We either go into the abyss of judicial activism, the judicial activism that found a right to privacy that didn't exist, a right to abortion that didn't exist, and a Roe v. Wade decision that was poorly reasoned and an unjust mandate on the American people that has taken us down this path where next week will mark the 35th year of Roe v. Wade. We have already marked the 50 millionth innocent little unborn baby that has been aborted and not given a chance at life.
The solutions to our problems are in the generations that will come after us, and 50 million have been denied this opportunity to breathe this free air in America, creating a sin against this Nation and a hole in our heart and a vacuum that is filled by tens of millions of illegal immigrants that have come across our border. And we can't talk about that openly, Mr. Speaker, because it becomes a reactionary thing.
But we should put the whole formula together. The quality of life issues pale in comparison to the destiny issues, and the destiny of America is wrapped up in Roe v. Wade. Next week when we mark that 35th year, 50 million babies aborted before they had an opportunity to breathe free air and contribute to this society and have been denied the right to life.
Marriage is being attacked from all sides, mostly within the courts because they understand that they cannot win these cases to the legislatures across America, and they can't take their case to the United States Congress.
But it changes the destiny of a country if you destroy marriage. Some will say why am I worried about two people of the same sex getting married and moving next door to me; it doesn't affect my life. It may not affect my life if that were my neighborhood either. And I don't know that I would take a personal objection to that.
But I would ask, Mr. Speaker, that people step back and take a broader look and think about how the culture gets shifted and changed, and think about the menu of life that little kids would have in a society where we would see a court impose same-sex marriage on America. If you can make the argument in court that two men ought to be able to get married and access all the benefits that are saved right now, preserved, protected and promoted for a man and woman joined together in holy matrimony because the State has an interest in promoting marriage because that is a crucible through which we pour all of our values. But if we open that up to a man and a man or a woman and a woman, what standard do we draw the line upon next? What standard do we say it can't be two men and a woman or two women and a man, or three women, or a brother and a sister and a mother? Where do we draw the line?
I recall some testimony before a hearing in the Judiciary Committee a couple of years ago, the now chairman of the Finance Committee said, Well, it would be two consenting adults. Two consenting adults doesn't satisfy a standard here in America. Two consenting adults could be twin brothers, a brother and a sister, a mother and a daughter, a mother and a son, a father and a daughter. Those things would all be rejected and objected to by society's norms today.
But is this about breaking down society's norms? Is it about breaking down our values? Is that really the agenda over here on this side of the aisle, Mr. Speaker? I will submit it is. The agenda is change, change, change. Change sells at every one of those Presidential rallies across the country because that is the mission of that side of the aisle. Change for what purpose?
I will submit that if I had a magic wand and an infinitely long list, and I could say that Speaker Pelosi and the people whom she works with and those philosophically aligned with her, you can make me a list of all the things on your wish list, and I will assume here in fantasy land that I have a magic wand and I can grant every wish.
So here we are in the middle of January, and you can spend all year long putting that wish list together, Madam Speaker. When it comes midnight, all of the things that you want to change, the full breadth of the imagination of your wish list and all of your ideological colleagues, put that list together and submit the list, and when the ball drops in Times Square to turn us into the new year 2009, at the stroke of midnight, with the help of the magic wand, could grant every wish on the wish list, I would argue that should that happen, and the deal would need to be you get your wish, but now you have to be quiet for the rest of your life. You fill out your wish list, and now you are going to have to be satisfied and live with the results of your request, and maybe even the consequences of your request, but just the results.
If that happened and the wish list were achieved at midnight, December 31, 2008, at the stroke of midnight on the new year of 2009, and the deal was no more complaints, you have to be happy you have finally gotten everything you wanted, now and forever, or even for a decade or a generation, that team that put the list together would stay up the rest of the night not celebrating but looking to see what it was that they forgot to change. What they wanted to tear down of society's values today or what they forgot to change for tomorrow.
There is no anchor. There is no philosophical anchor. There is no philosophical core because the core changes. For me and for my colleagues, we have a philosophical core, Mr. Speaker. This core is rooted in our constitutional values and the values that are laid out by our Founding Fathers and the rights that come from God and the values that are taught through the family that is joined together in holy matrimony. And the ethics of faith and worship and freedom and hard work and the obligation to leave this world a better place than it was when we came, that achievement of the American Dream, that laying out a culture that raises up the leaders for the next generation that will lay a new foundation on top of the old one so that the next generation can build on that and achieve the American Dream, all of that is wrapped up in the value system of the people that I go to conference with, the constituents that come out day after day after day to talk to me, to talk to nearly a multitude of Presidential candidates that went across Iowa for the past year or more.
These values matter. These destiny issues matter. The next two appointments to the Supreme Court matter, and those will be the appointments that will uphold all of our constitutional rights. They will uphold our second amendment rights, for example. And our rights to freedom of speech and religion and assembly. And they will understand the 10th amendment; the responsibility that the power is not designated for the Federal Government, are reserved for the States and the people, respectively. That devolution of power down to the States, that idea called federalism, the States' rights idea need to be preserved and promoted by the next President of the United States. We need to understand basic fundamental principles.
But the destiny of America is going to be tied to our ability to be able to produce leaders that make decisions today that lay the foundation, that shapes the culture that tomorrow raises up tomorrow's leaders who will then lay the next layer on top of that foundation.
And if we get it wrong, if we get a flaw, if we get a rotten piece in the foundation and we have to build upon that, we can't go back and take that section back and reform and reshape and repour it. The destiny issues we are stuck with. They are our decisions and we have to live with them, and that's why it is important.
So as I have spoken about Roe v. Wade and life and marriage and appointments to the Supreme Court and emphasize how important that is and how essential that we have a President who makes those appointments, and when he closes the door of the Oval Office after all of the lobbyists have come and gone and after all of the political supporters and advisor and the chief of staff and all of the people that advise the President, when they are all done weighing in and the door closes on the Oval Office, I want a leader in that office that I know shares my core values, Mr. Speaker. I want a leader in that office that I don't have to wonder about whether he is swayed by someone's special interest or whether he is swayed by some temporary benefit or some trade or some deal or some bargain or something other than the best interests in the long-term good for the United States of America as grounded in our core values and understanding the very principles that this Nation was founded upon and the necessity to adhere to those core principles and move forward and build another layer of a sound foundation.
That's what I want in a leader, Mr. Speaker. And those will be appointments to the Supreme Court that will shape the foundation of our culture and our destiny.
But another component of this, an essential core component of this, as I mentioned earlier, of all of the pillars of American exceptionalism, the pillars of faith and family and freedom and the Declaration and the Constitution and the free-market economy and property rights and the devolution of power from the Federal Government down to the States and the States' rights as separated within the 10th amendment, all of those issues are pillars of American exceptionalism.
And another pillar would be the vitality that comes with legal immigration. We have had the privilege in this country of having, for the most part of our history, a smart immigration policy that attracted people to come into the United States that had a dream. And many of them sold themselves into indentured servitude for perhaps 7 years just to get a boat ride from London to Baltimore, for example, and went to work and worked off their passage because they knew that they could become free and they could then go to work here and build a dream and raise a family.
I look back at my ancestors and what they have done, and most, if not all of them, have participated in that dream. But from every donor culture in civilization, we got the vitality of that culture and civilization.
The people who didn't have a dream, didn't find a way to get on a boat and come to the United States, they sat back where they were. They were content to live within that society and environment that didn't provide the opportunities that were here because they didn't want to take the risk or they didn't have the energy or just didn't share the dream. And I don't say that, Mr. Speaker, to diminish anyone who didn't come to the United States. I say that to identify that we skimmed the vitality off the top of every donor civilization that sent people here across the world. And they came here with an extra vigor and energy and dream, and we found a way to bring them together and assimilate them into a common culture, this greater overall American culture. And when they got tied together, they latched onto that opportunity and got in the harness and went to work. We found a vitality here that had never been created in any society or civilization anywhere in the world. That is often a missed component of American exceptionalism is the vitality that comes from the donor civilizations that sent legal immigrants here to the United States. That is a vitality that I want to preserve and promote and protect.
Another one of the reasons that we have been able to be a successful Nation, because we are a Nation not of men but a Nation of laws, of all of the pillars of American exceptionalism that I have mentioned, the central pillar of American exceptionalism, Mr. Speaker, is the rule of law. If we do not protect and preserve the rule of law, you can only then go back to what kind of political influence you have: who do you have favor with, who can you get to do you a favor, who can you get to set aside a law, and who will be immune to the law.
In this country, justice has always been equal for everyone regardless of their economic or their social status or their ethnicity or their national origin. If you are a member of the human race, you get the same version of justice in America and the same opportunity in America as anybody else. And it has not been about equality of results; it has been about equality of opportunity. Those protected civil rights that are identified in title VII of the Civil Rights Act are there, and they need to be protected so everyone has an equal opportunity.
And the rule of law gives us that guarantee that we can work within that environment and that rule of law will protect our property rights and let us build, earn, saving and invest. But if we become a society and a civilization that has disregarded the rule of law and perhaps created contempt for the rule of law, I believe that central pillar of American exceptionalism would have been removed from our society or diminished or eroded to the point that it no longer has the credibility that it has, let me say that it had, 20 years ago.
I believe that pillar called the rule of law needs to be refurbished and restrengthened because it is essential for America to continue to be an exceptional Nation. For us to continue to be a leader in the free world, the leader in the free world, we simply must preserve and protect and refurbish the rule of law.
So as I look to the 1986 amnesty bill that was signed by Ronald Reagan, defined as amnesty, and if you lay the components of that bill down alongside the components of either one of the two Senate versions of the comprehensive immigration reform bill, the McCain-Kennedy bill, that's probably the one that most often defines it, the components of those bills, when you do a side-by-side comparison match up almost identically. The 1986 amnesty bill, the McCain-Kennedy comprehensive immigration reform bill match up side by side, piece by piece almost all the way down.
President Reagan called it amnesty. I remember the debate in New Hampshire the other night where it was alleged that anybody that says that anyone who supports comprehensive immigration reform in the Senate, or that anyone who calls comprehensive immigration reform in the Senate amnesty is a liar. That came out in the debate.
Mr. Speaker, that offends me, because I know what amnesty is and the American people know what amnesty is. And either of the two versions that were presented in the United States Senate last year was amnesty. And I don't know how anyone can argue otherwise, except to go back to the President's speech in about January 6 of 2004; that was the first aggressive effort to roll out comprehensive immigration reform. That speech attempted to redefine amnesty, and there's been an attempt on the part of the administration and the open borders crowd to redefine amnesty for the last 4 years.
You just can't trump Noah Webster, Mr. Speaker. People in America know what amnesty is. And if you wanted comprehensive immigration reform, which I'll call comprehensive amnesty, then you should have just stepped up to it and said, yes, we're for amnesty, and we're going to define for you what amnesty is, too, and we're going to also argue that we have to grant amnesty, or otherwise we can't accomplish the goals that we'd like to see with immigration reform.
If they would have made that argument, Mr. Speaker, and I don't make that argument, but if they had, their argument would have had a lot more credibility. But instead, the proponents of comprehensive immigration reform sought to redefine the term amnesty, and they got bogged down in trying to tell the American people that the word we understood to mean amnesty meant something different.
They argued that, well, it's not amnesty if somebody has to pay a fine. It's not amnesty if you make people learn English. It's not amnesty if you require them to pay their back taxes or pay their bills or be an honest citizen and not get locked up and be convicted of a felony.
Mr. Speaker, they argue that if you required all of those things, it wasn't amnesty. And so of all of those things that I've mentioned, those are required of people that would come here legally to become an American citizen, including pay the fee in order to be naturalized.
By the time you add up the dollars that are required to come into the United States legally and achieve a lawful permanent resident status and the fees for a green card, and the fees to be naturalized as a citizen, you're pretty close to the dollar figure that they first proposed would be necessary in order, if you're here illegally, to buy your way into legality. It's lawful permanent residence, a green card, naturalization, citizenship of the United States for sale for paying a fee that they called a fine that they said that they are going to absolve the issue of amnesty.
Now, the American people understand this, that when you commit a crime in America, there's a penalty for that that's listed in the penal code, whether it's a Federal law or whether it's a State law. And the penalty that's listed needs to be the one that's applied to the perpetrator upon conviction.
You can't go rob a bank and be looking at life in prison for robbing a bank, and after you rob the bank, they come along and change the law and say, well, now the penalty is only going to be a year in prison rather than life in prison. If you did that for a whole class of people, that would be amnesty. If you said to the bank robbers, you're going to have to pay a fine now instead of being locked up in prison for 10 or 20 years or life, and you did that to a whole class of people, that's amnesty.
The distinction for amnesty generally comes into, are you going to waive the penalty or reduce the penalty for a class of people for a crime they've already committed under a different penalty clause, a different penalty phase? If you do that, you're granting amnesty, Mr. Speaker.
And what is amnesty? I've defined this many times. It's many times in the Congressional Record. It's gone through the House Judiciary Committee. To grant amnesty is to pardon immigration lawbreakers and reward them with the objective of their crime. Pardon and reward. Pretty simple concept.
If people are here in the United States illegally, and the Senate gets their way, well, they actually voted it down over there, so some in the Senate who at least were aggressive enough to advance this got their way, then they would have pardoned the immigration lawbreakers en masse, by the tens of millions.
While I'm on that subject, you know, we've been saying here in this Congress for at least 5 years, there are 12 million illegals in America. Twelve million. It's interesting to me that last year we stopped 1,188,000 illegal border crossers on the southern border; that's the Border Patrol doing their job. And most of them self-deported, volunteered to go back to their home country. Most of them went across the line to the south to their home country; about two-thirds of them did. So we've stopped 1,188,000.
And according to testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, the Border Patrol says they stop a fourth to a third of those who try. So that means, and you do the math, about 4 million tried to go across the southern border. Most of them made it. Two out of every three, or three out of every four made it. You kind of do the math on that, 4 million border crossing attempts, and that works out to be about 11,000 a night trying to get across our southern border, most of them making it, the significant majority of them making it across the border, 11,000.
Now, what does that mean? Four million in a year. 11,000 a night, Mr. Speaker. To put that in context, I just ask the question, how large was Santa Ana's army? And go back and read the historical reports. Most of them will fall between five and 6,000 was the size of Santa Ana's army.
So every single night, coming across our southern border, on average, and I say night, not day, because most happens at night, the equivalent of twice the size of Santa Ana's army, 11,000 come pouring into the United States illegally, accumulating at a rate a lot faster than not just 12 million 5 years ago, but a number that I believe today significantly exceeds 20 million illegals in the United States of America, putting pressure on our social services, putting pressure on our health care, putting pressure on our schools, putting pressure on our infrastructure, our utilities, our roads, our streets, our sewers, our lights.
We're building infrastructure to accommodate for people that if ICE got there first wouldn't be there to put pressure on our infrastructure. And under the guise of what? The idea that the argument made by the open borders crowd, by the comprehensive amnesty people, and that would include
everybody on the Democrat ticket and some of the folks on the Republican ticket for President, Mr. Speaker, advocating that we need to legalize tens of millions of people here. And I guess you can eliminate law breaking if you just eliminate the laws.
They argue that this economy can't prosper if we don't have massive amounts of cheap labor, and that if they all went home tomorrow this economy would collapse.
Mr. Speaker, I'm here to put this into perspective for the American people. You have to think of this United States of America as one big company. 300 million people here. And of those 300 million people, we have a work force of about 142 million. And out of that work force, about 6.9 million of them are illegals working in our economy, 6.9 million of the 142 million.
If you do the math, you're going to come down to around 4.7 percent of the work force is illegal. And of that 4.7 percent, since they're lower skilled people, on average, they're doing only 2.2 percent of the work.
So, if you're managing a factory and say you're a good manager and you show up at 7:30 in the morning and your employees clock in at 8 o'clock and the production lines have to start and you run from 8 till 5 and you work 8 hours and you kick product out the door and you load it on trucks and it has to go every day in an 8-hour shift, you have to produce the gross domestic product of that company.
Well, this Nation has to do the same thing equivalently. So, at 7:30 in the morning, if you, as a manager of a company, discovered that 2.2 percent of your work force, remember, that's the percentage of the work that's being done, not the percentage of the work force; but if 2.2 percent of your work force wasn't going to show up, it would take about 5 minutes to type out a memo that would go to all the departments in your company that would say, we're going to have to make up for a loss of 2.2 percent of our production today and every day until we can hire enough people to replace those 2.2 percent that didn't show up.
And my memo would say this. Your coffee break in the morning isn't going to be 15 minutes today; it's going to be 9 1/2 minutes. And your coffee break this afternoon isn't going to be 15 minutes, it's going to be 9 1/2 minutes because we have to pick up 2.2 percent of the production if you're going to go home at 5 o'clock.
Now, I made that management decision today because you might have plans, but we can decide to work till 11 minutes after 5 every day and you can get your full coffee break morning and afternoon. But 2.2 percent of the work, if all the work in America was done in an 8-hour day, amounts to 11 minutes out of an 8-hour day. That's the impact of the illegal labor in our work force here in America.
And the rest of it's just distribution, Mr. Speaker. The rest of it's recruitment lines and it's training and it's education and it's letting the market work; letting companies that need labor go out there and do the recruitment, do the training.
It's never been easy. And I've been an employer most all of my life. I met payroll for over 28 years, 1,400 some consecutive weeks. And I can remember recruiting in the high schools and around and making sure that I had a good program out there so that we could hire good people. I didn't always make the best decision. But we were able to put together a good, reliable work force because that was part of our operation.
Today the argument is, well, no, we don't have people lined up for these jobs, and so, therefore, that proves we need to open the borders some more. Well, of course they're not lined up for the jobs. Of course they aren't; not if you're not going to pay them the wages that it takes so that people can take care of their families and pay their way in this society.
Supply and demand. And we're watching the middle class in America collapse because of a flood of cheap labor coming in on the low side of the economic spectrum to provide cheap labor in the factories for the elitists in America who are increasingly moving into gated communities and sending their children to Ivy League schools and believing that their descendants will all be able to live in the upper crust and have cheap labor to take care of their yards and their mansions and the labor in their factories, while the blue collar person in America, the one who, of the 16 or 17 percent of Americans who are high school dropouts, the American citizens that decide that education isn't in their future, but would like to go work in the local factory, punch the time clock and go in there and do an honest day's work for an honest day's pay, that dream that was achievable 20 years ago, that dream that would allow them, the blue collar people, lower educated people with a good work ethic to be able to punch the clock and do a day's work for a day's pay and buy a modest house and raise their family and go fishing and go to the ball game and do those things and be part of this society, that dream is almost gone, Mr. Speaker, because those jobs have been flooded and diminished by low skilled labor pouring into America. Labor is a commodity like corn and beans or gold or oil. And the value of it will be determined by supply and demand in the marketplace. And when you flood lower skilled jobs with low skilled people, you're going to see wages go down. They've, in fact, gone down in some of the categories. And unemployment in America has gone up within the categories of the lowest skill. There's direct evidence in this economy that the flood of cheap labor is holding wages down.
Twenty years ago, people that worked in the packing plant in my neighborhood were making about the same amount as a teacher. Today, they're making about half as much as a teacher is making, and they can't make it any longer. And so society pays the burden of health insurance and that burden on the schools on our infrastructure, while the companies get a discount on their labor.
We need to think this thing through, Mr. Speaker, and we need to hold the Presidential candidates, whether they're Democrats or Republicans accountable. We need to ask them, please define amnesty. Accept my definition; to pardon immigration lawbreakers and reward them with the objective of their crime. Pardon and reward. Accept that definition, take the oath not to promote amnesty, to veto any bill that might come before their desk that is amnesty. Let's have a little tighter labor supply in America. Let's re-establish the sovereignty of the United States of America by building the fence and end birthright citizenship, and apply our laws in the workplace to shut off the jobs magnet.
Let's let attrition kick in and let people make a decision to go back to their home country. They got here on their own; they can go home on their own.
We have got to build a country for America. We have to have an immigration policy that's designed to enhance the economic, the social and the cultural well-being of this country, and we need to export our values to other countries so they can build on the same dream. If we do that, not only would this Nation be a greater Nation but this planet and the people on it will be better off, and we will have achieved the American dream.
We will have not just left this Nation a better place for the people that come behind us; we'll have left this world a better place for the people that come behind us.
With that, Mr. Speaker, I thank you for your indulgence.