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Hearing of the House Budget Committee

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


Federal News Service February 3, 2004 Tuesday

HEADLINE: HEARING OF THE HOUSE BUDGET COMMITTEE

SUBJECT: THE PRESIDENT'S BUDGET FOR FISCAL YEAR 2005

CHAIRED BY: REPRESENTATIVE JIM NUSSLE (R-IA)

LOCATION: 210 CANNON HOUSE OFFICE BUILDING, WASHINGTON, D.C.

REP. SCOTT GARRETT (R-NJ): Yes. Thank you. I wonder if I can get that chart that was up. I just want to go back to that 1 percent, 10 percent and the taxpayers who are in this country. Sorry about that. While we're waiting for that, on TV a week or so ago, there was a show with 20/20 John Stossel, I don't know if you saw it. He just wrote a book of "Myths, Misconceptions and Stupidity," I think, was the name of the program and one of the issues was, who is paying the taxes in this country?

And he was talking to one of the many people running for president right now and the question was, What should be the top 1 percent in this country be paying? And the response was maybe 5 percent or maybe 10 percent or even maybe 15 percent. And finally, Mr. Stossel said, "Would you be surprised to know that they are already paying almost a third of the federal budget?" to which the candidate immediately did, as candidates do, change the subject to something else.

That was a surprise to me a year ago when we found out that this tax package that we passed was a progressive tax cut and it is actually shifting the burden, which I think is appropriate where we are and we should stick with that plan. Maybe it's no surprise in the president's State of the Union address when the president spoke and said that certain taxes were going to be lapsing at the end of this year. You may recall that some people on the other side of the aisle actually started to applaud. Maybe they fall into the category because there is around 22 percent of the American public right now who believe that they are in the top 1 percent of the income tax range.

All in all then, what you can say out of this whole two hours that we've been here, there is one thing that we can agree on, that the deficit continues to be a problem from both sides of the aisle. I think we can probably agree that most people here are not going to be championing eliminating the child tax credit, the marriage penalty tax nor the expansion of the 10 percent. So if that's off the table, the tax cuts are off the table, increasing them, then it leaves us with the spending issue.

Now, again someone from the other side of the aisle in the paper today is reported as saying that the president's budget is crowding out healthcare, education and veterans. And yet, when I saw a chart, after you look at homeland security and defense, the chart shows that-well, Medicare, of course what already know what the spending is like on that, and healthcare.

Education, we still seeing substantial increases in educational spending, and veterans also is the next in line right after education. So I don't know how anyone can say that this budget is crowding out any of those areas.

Some of us conservatives, we may actually raise some questions, are we still spending appropriately in those areas, because-maybe you can comment on this at the end-one report said that in certain states-not my state in New Jersey, but in certain states, when it comes to educational funding, so much money has been coming over the last several years from the federal government to the states-so much money is coming into those states that they actually have to put it into reserve because they cannot spend it fast enough. I see you nodding you're nodding your head. I don't know if you've heard that as well. If that's true, then why are we still seeing significant increases in spending on the education side of the equation?

The other question I have is 65 programs to be eliminated sounds like a whole lot of programs, and I applaud you and would like to have more information on that. When you gave us the number of $4.9 billion that that comes out to, another $4 billion to $5 billion after that, I'm bad with math, but the percentage of that out of the entire federal budget of $2.4 trillion is probably a pretty tiny number. And so I guess I leave you with the question of, can't we do better than that? Aren't there more programs that can be totally eliminated?

You made reference before to one of the questions about the efforts going on right now as far as efficiency studies, the long term of programs. And I think I saw in one of those charts someplace that around-one of the studies show that around 6 percent of the federal programs that they looked at are operating efficiently. My words, not the study's report. Around 23 percent said that they were moderately efficient, but around 50 percent of them, they really couldn't measure whether they were doing their job or not.

So how do you-and I know you have to do this, but how do you come to us and say, even with all the information that we have, we know that-we don't know that half the programs are really doing the job. We know that only around, you know, 6 percent are actually doing the job, and yet we still want to spend more in all these areas. Can't we do better than that? Can't we at least do the idea of freezing all those programs until we get back to see how we improve them and make sure they are efficient, fall in that 6 percent, or to increase that number of eliminated programs from 65 to a much more significant percentage of the federal budget?

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