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Fiscal Responsibility

Floor Speech

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Location: Washington, DC


FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY -- (Senate - September 18, 2008)

Mr. BROWN. Mr. President, I am always both amused and amazed to hear my friends on the other side of the aisle talk about taxes, because they are always talking about cutting the corporate tax rate. They always say our corporate taxes are higher than anyplace in the world. But that is on paper that they are the highest. The effective tax rate, what corporations are paying, is much lower. They know that and we know that.

It is so often a smokescreen. Senator McCain and my friends on the other side of the aisle always want to talk about tax cuts. It is always a smokescreen to cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans while the middle class, again, bears the brunt. The Obama tax cuts are all about the middle class. He wants to cut taxes on people making $30,000 and $50,000 and $100,000 and $150,000 a year.

Certainly people making $300,000 a year can afford a little more, and that is exactly the way Senator Obama has looked at it, and the way so many of us have looked at it as well.

We want to get our fiscal house in order. We have seen what happens with President Bush and Vice President Cheney. We have seen what happens with the Federal budget. We are spending close to $3 billion every week on this war in Iraq. These tax cuts, which have gone overwhelmingly to the richest citizens, have put us behind the eight ball. And we have seen our budget surplus--the day George Bush was sworn in--go to more than a $1 billion a day budget deficit. That is because of tax cuts for the rich. Not for the middle class, tax cuts for the rich. We want to move some of that money to middle-class tax cuts. And as we exit the war in Iraq and we begin to free up money, we want to use that for the domestic needs many of us have talked about.

The real reason I came to the floor, though, was to talk about what has occurred this week, what has happened on Wall Street. I am fairly incredulous that some in this body would still be saying we have too much regulation. It is pretty clear the cowboys on Wall Street and the deregulation of the Bush era--the Bush years--have led us to these problems. Not that this leads us to a Great Depression. I don't believe that. But it has led us back to some of the same kinds of unparalleled zealous greed on Wall Street which we haven't seen since the 1930s.

But what concerns me is that I remember 3 years ago, in early 2005, George Bush, Dick Cheney, and John McCain barnstormed the United States and campaigned all over the country for Social Security privatization. They worshipped at the mantle of how important it would be to have these private accounts; that if only people on Social Security invested in the stock market, think how much better off they would be. That was in 2005. Imagine if Bush and Cheney and McCain, and others around here, had succeeded in that endeavor. Imagine what people would be doing today if we had privatized Social Security. When people opened their statements--if they had private accounts--imagine what they would be feeling today with what has happened in the stock markets.

That, to me, is the biggest contrast between the direction the country is going in now, the direction John McCain and George Bush wanted to take also, and the direction so many senators, such as Senators Whitehouse, McCaskill, and others in this body want to take us. Do we want to privatize Social Security, put senior citizens at the mercy of Wall Street? What would happen to their solid, guaranteed Social Security payments? Do we want to do that or do we want to make sure we will protect those Social Security payments?

I can't get Social Security out of my mind this week as I have seen what has happened with AIG, and what happened a few weeks ago with Bear Stearns, and what happened with Lehman Brothers and the stock market, and that we would possibly put people into private Social Security accounts. That is what John McCain wants to do. That is what they tried to do in 2005.

That is why I am so thankful that enough people in this body and in the House of Representatives, where I was in those days--and, more importantly, enough people in the United States, enough citizens--pushed back and said no to the Bush-Cheney-McCain privatization of Social Security. It wouldn't have worked then, and it clearly won't work now. It is a bad idea. It is one of the major issues I think we will see in the fall campaign, this whole idea of privatizing: privatizing Medicare, privatizing Social Security, privatizing the military, and all these contracts that Halliburton-Bechtel have.

Senator McCaskill, who will speak in a few moments, has done a great deal of work in trying to root out all the waste and all the illegalities, if you will, in some of these private military contracts. This whole effort to privatize has clearly cost taxpayer money. It has caused great risk for far too many people in Medicare. Thank God we were able to stop the Social Security privatization. If they had had their way in 2005, seniors would be much more worried about the cuts and the decline and the disintegration and the disappearance of their dollars if we had instituted private accounts, coupled with higher gas prices and food prices, and all that we have seen.

So again, I remind my colleagues that they have not given up on their idea in 2005. We know they will try it again. If they have a majority, and if Senator McCain is elected, we know they will try privatization again. It was a bad idea then, it is a bad idea now.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.


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