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Mr. ISAKSON. Madam President, I, too, wish to rise and talk some about the President's statement of last Friday but from maybe a different approach than one might imagine.
The President said he thought the private sector was doing just fine. I was driving in the car when I heard the statement, and the statement took me back because I feared the President might not actually know how the private sector truly was doing.
Twelve weeks ago, I spent a week on the road doing townhalls, knocking on doors, visiting with Georgians. I come to the floor to provide some information to the President that maybe the private sector isn't doing that well, and maybe there is something we can do about it--this administration and this Senate--because right now we are doing nothing and America is languishing because of problems, some of which are our making.
The private sector, by definition, is everybody other than the government sector; at least that is my definition. Let me talk about everybody other than the government sector for a minute and why they are not doing very well. Let me talk about the homebuilder I met in Valdosta, GA, who talked to me about the fact that he had just sold a home he built. I said that is great; house sales are getting better. He said, the only problem is I could not get an appraisal for what it cost me to build the house, so I am selling it, but I am selling it at a loss. Part of that is because of the regulation and oppression that is on appraisers right now because of a fear of appraisal fraud.
Or the tomato farmer I talked to from Bainbridge, GA. He talked about the indignation he had when the Labor Department promulgated a rule--they did not end up passing it--that would have said you have to be 18 years or older to work on a farm, even if it was your family farm--an overreach of the Department of Labor that, fortunately, they pulled back, but the type of overreach that causes people to retrench, not build and expand and move their business forward.
Or the 81-year-old community banker I talked to yesterday on the phone, from Calhoun, GA, who had a significant amount of his savings invested in stock in the community bank he had been a part of so much of his life, which is now under a cease-and-desist letter from the FDIC and is being managed under what is called a cease-and-desist order, which means the FDIC is basically running the bank, or limiting its parameters. The bank is slowly but surely dissipating its capital base until it gets to 2 percent and then the Feds will come in and close the bank and transfer its assets to a bigger bank and give them an 80-percent loss share guarantee, and the bigger bank will foreclose on the property and move forward.
In fact, what was intended by Dodd-Frank to reduce too big to fail and empower banks has done the opposite; the bigger banks have gotten bigger, the smaller banks have become fewer, and American banking and capital investment is less.
Or the hospital I visited in Thomasville, GA, which just finished its completion, the Archibald Center--a great center. They were talking about the difficulties they were having with employees and the fear they had that the NLRB mini-union ruling on Specialty Health Care was actually going to become the law of the land through regulation, where micro units within a facility could actually unionize, where just nurses in the emergency room, or in the ICU, could unionize, and everybody else would not. Can you imagine a hospital, department store, or a manufacturer with a union in the shoe department, a union in the nursing department, a union in the lumber department, a union on the loading dock, micro unions throughout the organization? You could not function; you couldn't cross-train, you couldn't manage. You would weight the playing field between management and labor in favor of labor and to the detriment of the investor who made the investment.
I could go on and on. It is those visits that I have talked about, the people in those cities I have talked to in Georgia, people in the private sector--they are not doing well. And it is for fear of overregulation and of uncertainty. If we can do anything to empower our economy in the short run in America, we can call time out and say enough is enough.
As I told a member of the administration 2 weeks ago, the administration, I think, wants to eliminate risk. Our job is not to eliminate; it is to mitigate risk. If you eliminate risk, you take the power of investments in the private sector, entrepreneurship, and capital risk, you take it out the window. You can't eliminate risk, but you can mitigate risk. So let's get back to mitigating risk, making sure we have a safe workplace, but where capital investment can be made. Let's make sure we mitigate risk in banking, but not so much that we choke out the small family banker. Let's make sure that agricultural workers are safe, but that the son of a farmer can work on his father's own farm. Let's make sure we are not overreaching so far that we are making the private sector's plight worse than it is today.
My message to the Senate and to the President of the United States is that the private sector is not just fine. Though it may not all be of the government's making, part of it is. We are making it worse. We are trying to run a country based on the three-legged stool of legislative, judicial, and the executive branch, on a two-legged stool of regulation through the executive branch and judicial regulation through the judicial branch--cutting out the legislative branch. Do you know what happens to two-legged stools? They fall over. The private sector is falling over, and it is, in part or in whole, because of us.
I hope the President understands that there is a private sector that pays the taxes and makes America work--a private sector that is hurting--and we can help the private sector. Let's put our nose and shoulder to the grindstone, and let's move forward in these months leading up to the election and change some of the overregulation and empower the private sector, not accept that we think it is doing just fine.
I end with this, the front page of the USA Today. Average family wealth net worth in the United States has declined 39.4 percent, back to the level of 1992, which simply means the private sector has lost 20 years of accumulation, equity, and investment in the economy of the last 3 years. That is unacceptable. It is why we have the depression we have in this country. We need to get our shoulder to the grindstone, make it work, and let the private sector be just fine again because of an empowerment of the private sector, entrepreneurship, and capital investment.
I yield the floor.
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