Good morning, Secretary Solis. Thank you for being with us today to discuss the policies and priorities of the Department of Labor.
On February 13, President Obama released his fourth budget proposal since taking office. The Associated Press reported the fiscal year 2013 budget blueprint "[takes] a pass on reining in government growth" and "reprises a long roster of prior proposals," such as more stimulus spending and tax increases.
According to Politico, "the bottom line is a fourth straight year of $1 trillion-plus deficits." And USA Today editorialized the "best test of a budget proposal these days is whether it reins in the national debt," adding, "The election-year budget of President Obama fails that test."
I couldn't agree more. The reality of the president's budget is disturbing. Among its flaws, it contains:
* $47 trillion in government spending over the next decade;
* $1.9 trillion in tax hikes on families and job creators; and
* $11 trillion in new debt piled on the backs of our children and grandchildren.
These figures come from the House Budget Committee -- but in the interest of nonpartisanship, I'd also like to note the Congressional Budget Office recently said the president's budget will lead to a $977 billion deficit next year -- breaking the president's promise to cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term. Additionally, CBO said this budget proposal will bring a total of $6.4 trillion in deficit spending over the next 10 years.
One year ago, more than 150 of the nation's leading economists called for immediate action to rein in federal spending to support economic growth and private-sector job creation. It is clear that with this budget, the administration has again chosen to ignore the urgent plea for fiscal responsibility. Regrettably, the president's budget is less of a serious plan to help get the economy back on track than a partisan, political document.
As Secretary of Labor, you are well aware of the difficulties facing the nation's workers and employers. With gas prices rising, consumer confidence falling, and job creation largely flat, it is now more important than ever to ensure the federal government is not standing in the way of economic growth and job creation.
The modest improvement we've experienced in recent months is a testament to the strength and enduring optimism of the American people that as a nation we always overcome adversity. However, a budget that simply doubles down on the failed policies of the past is a disservice to the country and will undermine the progress we have made. Working families cannot prosper under the crushing weight of this much debt, and no "economy built to last" can be constructed on massive tax increases and explosive federal spending.
Quite frankly, the president's budget embraces the wrong priorities and reflects a failure of leadership. The policies and priorities for the Department of Labor, for example, present a clear example of the flawed policies that are hurting job creation and restricting our economic recovery.
The department's use of taxpayer dollars sends a strong message to employers that they have an adversary in the federal government, not an ally. For example, in policies governing workplace safety and wage and hour standards, punitive enforcement actions take precedent over efforts to help employers understand and comply with the law.
The department is also advancing costly regulatory schemes that are creating even more uncertainty for job creators, such as crafting an injury and illness prevention plan that would burden employers with more mandates but do little to improve workplace safety. And while employers face more punitive measures, union leaders continue to enjoy less transparency and accountability over how they spend workers' dues.
Despite this misguided agenda, I remain committed to finding common ground on real solutions that will help our economy grow and create jobs. We have found areas of agreement in the past, including expanding free trade and extending tax relief. It is vital that we build on these past efforts.
One area in which I hope we can work together is reform of our nation's job training system. I commend the president for highlighting in his State of the Union address the confusing maze of job training programs spread across the federal government. However, in recent months and in the budget proposal before us today, the president has also called for new job training programs which would further complicate the tangle of existing programs. To reconcile the president's statements with his policy proposals, Representative Virginia Foxx and I sent a letter to request additional information about the president's plan, and while I appreciate the response you provided, I'm afraid it still leaves important questions unanswered.
Where is the plan to create one program for job seekers, and how does it fit into the president's call for more programs? Your letter described two new initiatives as "short-term investments." How "short-term" will these investments be, and how do we ensure they don't add to the confusion already facing workers? These are just some of the important questions we are interested in discussing with you today. We share a commitment to ensuring America's workers, employers, and entrepreneurs have every opportunity to prosper, and I look forward to learning how the manner in which you intend to spend taxpayer resources will aid in this endeavor.