30-SOMETHING WORKING GROUP -- (House of Representatives - February 25, 2009)
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Mr. ALTMIRE. And I thank the gentleman from Connecticut. And the gentleman is absolutely correct on a number of points. He mentioned that he came to this Chamber for this discussion just as the previous group was wrapping up. I had been here a little bit longer and got to hear some of what they had to say, Mr. Murphy and Madam Speaker.
Mr. Murphy mentioned that we have a Republican Party that is joining the debate and having the discussion. I didn't hear a whole lot of joining the debate going on. I heard a lot of, as the gentleman from Connecticut said, revisionist history. And one of the items of revisionist history that I'm most intrigued by that you hear not just during these Special Order debates, but from talk show hosts around the country, and others, is the revisionist history that Franklin Roosevelt had nothing to do with the recovery that took place after the Great Depression. I don't recall learning that in school when I was growing up. I don't recall that talking point being a part of the discussion. But now we're hearing a lot about, well, the New Deal really didn't work, and nothing that was accomplished by that administration solved any of the issues that they inherited during the Great Depression.
And I think about that when I hear some of the discussion that our colleagues on the other side bring to these Special Orders. And many of them have become friends and colleagues and people that I admire. But the discussion that I hear, I wouldn't consider that to be a debate. I don't think that we're hearing good faith efforts to reach compromise and to work together. I think what we're seeing is a lot of finger pointing. I think we're seeing a lot of blame being cast around and a lot of passing the buck because, as Mr. Murphy said, we have not yet heard anyone own up to the fact that this Nation is in the economic crisis that it is in today because of the policies of the very recent past. And we can point fingers and we can cast blame, and that's not what this is about, that's not what we're doing today.
But it is instructive to think about how we got to where we are. And when you hear prescriptions being put forward for getting us out of this incredibly deep ditch that we find ourselves in, the people who are bringing forward these prescriptions have a record, they have a record of success or not. So I think the reason it's instructive to look at the decisions that were made in this Congress that led us to where we are today, when you hear people stand on the floor and say, here's my point of view, this is where I'm coming from, this is the way I think we can get ourselves out of this economic situation, let's take a walk down memory lane. Let's think about, well, what is that person's track record in voting for economic plans?
And I do want to remind Mr. Murphy and Madam Speaker that we have a country now, eight straight budget deficits, these deficits are now forecast as far as the eye can see, we all know that. And we're going to talk about the economic recovery plan tonight and we're going to talk about the details of what was in that plan and what was not in that plan, equally important. Because I heard a lot of discussion about things that weren't even related to what was in the economic recovery plan. We'll have that discussion in a moment.
But what's important to think about when you consider what individuals have credibility and what groups have credibility when talking about the budget deficit and which do not, it has to do with the fact that these eight straight budget deficits that we've had followed four consecutive budget surpluses that President Bush inherited. And one of the things about the economic situation that we find ourselves in is when we get out of this--and we will, as a Nation, get ourselves out of this, as the President said last night--when we get out of this, we're going to be able to step back and look at the fiscal policies that worked and didn't, and look at the people who were in power that made those decisions that led to success and lack of success on the economy. Because it's a pretty clear discussion that you have when you say, here's the economy that President Clinton had, a very slow economy, to put it kindly. He had an enormous budget deficit--the largest budget deficit ever recorded was under President Bush's father up to that time--President Clinton inherited that situation. When President Clinton left office, the four straight budget surpluses that I was just discussing--and those surpluses were forecast as far as the eye can see, the 10-year budget projection, as we've talked about many times, Mr. Murphy, was $5.6 trillion over 10 years. That was in surplus. If we had just kept in place the fiscal policies that we had at that time when President Bush put his hand on the Oath of Office--Bush 43--if we had just kept in place those fiscal policies, we could have nearly paid down the entire national debt as it existed to that time now 8 years later. But of course we didn't keep those fiscal policies in place, we went in a completely different direction, which is the way it works; when one party controls the White House, they implement certain policies, when one party controls Congress, they implement certain policies. When the same party controls both the White House and Congress at the same time--as happened during the first 6 years of President Bush's term--they chose to take the economy in a completely different direction, and boy did they ever. The economy went in a completely different direction than those four straight budget surpluses and one of the fastest periods of expansion and growth in economic history in America.
So now we find ourselves with a new administration. And yes, that administration has a Congress that is of the same party affiliation, and we will see how that plays out. But where I'm going with this, Mr. Murphy, is, policy discussions in the future, you will be able to see very clearly what happened during the Clinton administration with the economy, what happened during the Bush administration; where did they begin, what did they leave their successor? And of course history has yet to be written about where President Obama leaves the economy. But I think it's safe to say it couldn't possibly be worse than what he inherited.
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Mr. ALTMIRE. I thank the gentleman.
And as I indicated earlier, one of the things that I think the American people find so troubling about the direction the debate is taking, let alone the policy implications, is exactly what the gentleman from Connecticut talked about, that there appears to be a strategy of betting on success for the Democratic side and the Republican side appears to be betting on failure. I will leave it to others to speculate on what their desire is for the outcome. We will trust their motivations, but they certainly think that we're in failure mode.
Now, I find that to be very troubling because I want to have a Congress that works together where all sides are heard. And President Obama made every effort to reach out to the Republicans and solicit their opinions. And I do think, Madam Speaker, that when you hear things like we heard earlier, a discussion on how this economic recovery plan that we passed was going to lead to government-run health care, well, there is no provision in that recovery plan that alludes to, relates to, correlates to, leads to government-run health care. It is not in the bill that we passed, which is now law. There is no provision for the field mouse in San Francisco that we heard so much about. There are no earmarks in the bill. We heard when the President referenced earmarks, there was derision from the other side last night during the President's remarks, which I think the American people find disingenuous because there are no earmarks in the bill. There are zero earmarks.
So when I'm thinking about how I'm going to vote and I'm thinking through what's in the bill and what my constituents want me to do and I have people weigh in with an opinion, one of the things I'm going to consider is what's their motivation in offering that opinion, but is it an informed opinion? And if an individual comes up to me and complains to me about field mice in San Francisco or earmarks in the bill or how the bill is going to lead to universal health care, it's pretty clear that person has either not been truthful about what's in the bill or not made an effort to learn what's in the bill. Neither of those leads to good policy decisions. And I think that's what the gentleman from Connecticut and I are getting to.
So I am going to have the very, very high honor at this time of doing something that we don't do very often here in the 30-Somethings. We have five core members, Ms. Wasserman Schultz from Florida, Mr. Ryan from Ohio, Mr. Meek from Florida, who are the leaders and the originators of the group from back before Mr. Murphy
and I were able to win election to this House. Mr. Murphy and I have participated and are going into our second term now. So we are very honored tonight, and as everyone knows, Madam Speaker, who watches this over the airwaves, we have just a tremendous fan base for the 30-Somethings. There are countless individuals.
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Mr. ALTMIRE. A handful of people that do actually pay attention to the 30-Something Group. So for them this is a very exciting moment because we are tonight going to initiate a new Member into the 30-Somethings with his maiden 30-Something speech, a great Member also from Ohio; so he is very close geographically to both Mr. Ryan and my district, which is in Pennsylvania. And at this time for all of those 30-Something junkies that are out there and pay attention to what we have to say, the very small group that that is, I would turn it over to Mr. Boccieri from Ohio.
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Mr. ALTMIRE. The gentleman was correct in pointing out where the middle-class Americans in this country were before this recession even started. And the economic policies that were in place actually led to a decrease in real dollars of median household income over the 8 years President Bush was in office. And that was the case even before the recession started in December of 2007, a real decrease in median household income over the term in office.
Now, that's not something that people in western Pennsylvania want to hear. That's something that was a cause of alarm that was not dealt with in previous Congresses or by the administration.
And, unfortunately, what we had was, in the early part of the administration especially, the enormous spending that took place, without pay-as-you-go budget scoring--which we have talked about many times--without that offset that says, very simply, you have to have money on one side of the ledger if you want to decrease revenue or spend more money on the other. It's a very simple concept. We all do it in our own home checkbooks and every business in America has to do it, balance budgets. If you want to spend more, you have to pay for it somewhere else in the budget.
Well, that wasn't happening, and the outrageous spending that took place, running up literally trillions of dollars in debt, was running the country on a credit card. We have talked many times about the policies that were put into place as a result of that, all the spending that took place. They were running the country on a credit card. Well, guess what? Like any credit card that any American would use, eventually the bill comes due. And that's what this recession is about. The bill has come due.
Now, with any credit card, there is interest that's accumulated with that. And we have talked before and it's incredibly important to the discussion to think about when you think, where are we going to go with this stimulus plan, is this the right course of action. One of the largest line items in the entire Federal budget is interest on the national debt. It's going to be somewhere in the neighborhood of $300 billion this budget year for just interest on the national debt--$300 billion. That's a lot of money. That's money that's going to interest.
And that's because of the decisions that had been made in the past, but there is nothing we can do about that. There is nothing we can do about what was in place when President Obama took office and when the 111th Congress took office. But what we can do something about is where do we go from here. So we have talked enough about how we got here. Where do we go from here?
It was the vast majority of the American people and certainly the majority of both the House and the Senate believed that the best course of action was to immediately inject some funding into the economy, yes, in the temporary way that's going to increase our debt even more, which is what we heard from the previous special order. But the cost of doing nothing would have increased the debt even more.
Because when you have a downward spiral in the economy like we have, when you lose 500,000 jobs in November, 550,000 in December, 600,000 in January, and you see that that is going to be the continuing process if we do nothing, those are people that are no longer taxpayers, because they are out of work. Those are people that, in many cases, are now receiving social services, often Federal money; that, instead of paying into the system, are receiving from the system by the hundreds of thousands every month with no end in sight, if we do nothing.
The economy, the economic slowdown, the lack of credit, the foreclosures that take place, all of that, along with unemployment, increases our debt more in the long term and even the short term than we had to do with our stimulus. So that's what that was about. It was about putting money back in the hands of the American people through tax cuts that affect 95 percent of the American people, a tax cut for 95 percent.
It's about putting money in every sector of the economy, spreading it and casting that net as wide as we possibly could to connect to every community in the country and make sure that they can share in the economic recovery that we hope this plan leads to.
There is no guarantee of what that level of success is going to be. In fact, there is no guarantee of success at all. We are very hopeful, but there is one guarantee: If we had done nothing, the situation would get worse. That is the guarantee.
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Mr. ALTMIRE. I thank the gentleman.
Tomorrow, on Thursday, we expect the President to drop off his budget here in the Congress so we can all have a look at the details of the plan that were discussed last night.
And what I find so exciting and so refreshing about the approach that we are going to see with this budget is we are going to consider the economic policies, moving forward, in their entirety. What are some of the major issues that affect every family, every individual, every small business, every business in this country? Well, energy, health care, and education. Those are three things that have been neglected for a very long time in Congresses both Republican and Democrat.
But that is over, because we have a President, as we heard last night, who understands that the only long-term solution to the economic problems that we have today is to solve our energy crisis, our dependence on foreign oil that Mr. Boccieri referred to.
We have to find a way to improve our health care delivery system, to increase access, so that we don't have 43 million Americans that lack any health insurance, we don't have small businesses that experience double-digit cost increases year after year. Less than half of small businesses in the country are able to offer health care to their employees at all.
And by including in the discussion on the economy health care, energy, and education, we are taking a comprehensive look at the future of America, at the issues that are going to allow America to remain the preeminent Nation in the world for knowledge and innovation and technology.
And that's something that, by looking at it together, we are going to be able to continue that success, dig our way out of the ditch that we are in right now with the economy, but not forget about the issues that have to be a part of that, moving forward, including a look at government spending, as we have talked about, and the other policy issues.
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Mr. ALTMIRE. I thank the gentleman. I will take the opportunity to wrap up.
We have, over the last two election cycles, heard the message from the American people. I think the first time around it was a referendum on the policies of the past, that they wanted to move in a new direction and they weren't happy with the way things had gone. But the second election, the one that we just came through several months ago, was about turning the country around and moving in a new direction, and that is what we have done. We can have disagreements. I am sure the gentleman from Texas is going to express some of that disagreement following us, which is great. That is what democracy is all about.
But I do want the American people to consider, Madam Speaker, that they have got what they voted for over the past two election cycles. They got a change in direction. They got new policies in this Congress, new policies at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. And we are all hoping for success. I am sure my friend from Texas is hoping for success as well. We need to turn the country around.
But I do want the American people to know that this Congress and the new administration are dedicated to moving this country forward, to implementing the changes that the American people voted for and asked us to engage on in their behalf.
So I would thank the gentleman from Connecticut and thank the gentleman from Ohio and welcome him to the 30-somethings. And I would say that any American who wants to learn more about Mr. Boccieri and the 30-Something Group can go to the House Web site, which is speaker.gov/30something with the number 30, and learn all about our new member from Ohio and any other member of the 30-somethings they want.
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