Visiting Drought-Stricken Counties in the 2nd District This Weekend
This Saturday, I invited local agricultural producers to tour our district's drought-stricken farmers and ranchers with me. This year's drought is the worst to hit our nation since 1988, and USDA has designated 100 of 105 Kansas counties as primary natural disaster areas due to damage and losses from drought and extreme heat. With more than 20,000 farms covering 7.4 million acres, and 14,789 jobs from the meat and poultry industry alone, this is a very serious situation for our state.
The purpose of this visit is to highlight the ongoing need for flexibility and assistance from the Secretary of Agriculture and the administration, as well as to bring national awareness to the drastic situation facing Kansas farmers and ranchers. I would like to thank the Kansas Farm Bureau, Kansas Livestock Association, Kansas Corn Growers, Kansas Soybean Association, and Kansas Cattlemen's Association for their willingness to participate in the tour and assistance in coordinating our visit.
Discussion with Lawrence-Area Business Community
I participated in a roundtable discussion with local business leaders in Lawrence on Friday. The event was an excellent forum that allowed me to hear concerns from business owners about what tax increases would mean for their small business. What I heard was the fiscal cliff we are facing will have a significant impact on small business operations, including growth and hiring opportunities.
Next week the House of Representatives will consider legislation to prevent tax increases on families and provide certainty to small businesses. Recent economic reports show that our economy simply cannot sustain a tax increase on businesses that are still dealing with the recession. If we do not extend these rates, we risk a $4.3 trillion tax hike on everyone over the next decade. This includes a massive estate tax hike that will affect 24 times as many farms, and 13 times as many small businesses. More importantly, the legislation includes a pathway to a more sustainable, long-term solution: comprehensive tax reform. I am proud that the House Ways and Means Committee has lead the way in championing efforts toward a more fair and simpler tax code.
This week the Senate passed a bill that would extend current tax rates for those individuals earning less than $200,000 or families earning less than $250,000. The problem with excluding these higher-income folks, is that it unfairly punishes nearly one million small business owners that file their business income on their individual tax returns. These individuals are far from millionaires, and they are not taking that larger dollar amount home in salary or profits. Much of that money is used to pay bills, compensate employees, and reinvest in order to grow the business and create jobs.
According to a recent report released by the accounting firm Ernst & Young, if we raise the top two tax rates, it will hurt our already struggling economy and cost more than 710,000 American jobs. This is the last thing this country needs right now.
New Government Report Shows Economic Slowdown
On Friday, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that the economy slowed from a 2 percent economic growth rate at the beginning of the year to 1.5 percent during the months from April to June. The level of consumer spending and investment dropped to its lowest level of the year.
This report shows, yet again, that President Obama's economic policies are not working. Since 2009, the economy has only grown by 6.7 percent, which is less than half the average of 15.2 percent following the other nine post-World War II economic recoveries.
If the President continues to support more red tape regulations and create uncertainty by threatening to not extend current tax rates for all Americans, things will get worse. These policies are stifling job creators.
This week the House passed the Red Tape Reduction and Small Business Job Creation Act that prevents the administration from imposing major, new federal regulations until unemployment falls to 6 percent. Next week House Republicans will take another stab at getting the economy back on track by introducing legislation that will extend current tax rates for everyone for one more year, allowing us time to put together a plan for fundamental tax reform in 2013.
Audit the Federal Reserve and Bring Transparency to Washington
On Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 459, the Federal Reserve Transparency Act that would allow the Government Accountability Office to conduct a full audit of the Fed, particularly its monetary policy decisions. I co-sponsored this bipartisan effort to increase Congressional oversight over how the Federal Reserve spends trillions of taxpayer dollars.
The Federal Reserve lent out $16 trillion dollars during the financial crisis, an amount larger than the entire U.S. economy, or worse, our staggering federal debt. Although Congress "holds the purse," we are currently prohibited from looking into where the money goes.
Monetary policy affects every single American through inflation and changes in interest rates, both of which can have a direct impact on economic growth and unemployment. It is, therefore, the responsibility of Congress to understand how the Fed manages these funds.
Current monetary policy audits of the Fed are insufficient. Most Fed operations consist of transactions with foreign central banks, and other emergency lending actions. Yet, they are exempt from review. With a historic, sovereign debt crises brewing in Europe, it is critical that we look closely at our own balance sheet.
As a CPA, I know we need more transparency and accountability in Washington, and it should start with the Federal Reserve.
You can watch my remarks in support of this bill during debate on the House floor by clicking the photo below.
Supporting Young Kansans' Rights to Work on Family Farms
On Tuesday, the House of Representatives passed the bipartisan Preserving America's Family Farms Act to protect the rights of grandchildren, nieces, nephews and all other friends and relatives of a certain age to voluntarily work on family farms.
Last year, the administration and Department of Labor drafted federal rules to prohibit 14 and 15-year-olds from engaging in farm work they categorized as dangerous. Unfortunately, this rule was so broad that it could apply to such everyday tasks such as caring for animals older than six months or using a battery-operated screwdriver. Thankfully, the administration withdrew the proposed rule in April, but the threat of enactment still exists. This new legislation prohibits the Secretary of Labor from finalizing or enforcing this rule in the future.
Like many Kansans, I grew up working on a family farm where our newest generation has always been an integral part of farm life and operation. Safety is a big part of operating a farm, and should not be taken lightly. However, this 85-page rule was unreasonable and overreaching. It would unnecessarily restrict the participation of young people in agriculture-related activities. This is why I co-sponsored and voted for the Preserving America's Family Farms Act. Hopefully the Senate will pass this important legislation in the very near future.