BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. ISAKSON. Madam President, while the majority whip is on the floor, I want to pay him a compliment about some remarks I am going to make this morning. A group of 6 people in the Senate, three Republicans and three Democrats, about a year and half ago began getting together to deal with our fiscal problems in this country, both entitlements as well as our tax system as well as spending. I commend him for his work on that because I am going to talk exactly about what this Senate and this Congress has to do in the months ahead to deal with the fiscal cliff we are about to go over, but I want to acknowledge the fact that many of us, most importantly the distinguished majority whip, have been working on solutions that we are going to have to take if we are going to save the Republic and the economy.
I wanted to pass that on to the distinguished majority whip.
In my State of Georgia, the most recent report on unemployment posted our unemployment rate at 9 percent. In our State we advertise foreclosures every Friday and leading up to the first Tuesday. We set a record in the month of July on the number of foreclosures being advertised.
Yesterday in my office I had a meeting with the President of Lockheed. They are headquartered in Fort Worth, but they have one of their largest manufacturing facilities in Marietta, GA. They are going to have to send out their notice of potential layoffs that will take place because of sequestration. We just got the second quarter GDP report that said we are still slowing down and going down to 1.5 percent from a previous quarter of 2 percent. All indicators are that we are heading to a second bump in our economy, and what has been a very protracted and weak recovery is beginning to fail, and we are looking at a fiscal problem that is going to affect this country for decades to come.
I encourage my colleagues in the Senate to recognize the clock is running and time is running out. We can no longer postpone doing those things
we must do as a Congress to save the Republic and save our economy and begin producing jobs in this country.
The most important thing our people need is certainty. They need certainty in regulation, and they need certainty in tax policy. The American people need to know we are going to do what we have to do to save this Republic and to save this economy. For the few minutes I have this morning, I wish to talk about that. All the solutions are on the table. The problem is that none of us seems willing to take them off the table and put them on the floor and deal with it.
Let's talk about spending. Our deficit has been announced for this particular fiscal year to be $1.2 trillion, $100 billion less than the total spending of the U.S. Government. We have to cut discretionary spending. We can't totally balance our books by cutting discretionary spending. We have entitlements. Our entitlements are growing because of what? Our economy. Why are food stamps up from $35 billion to $87 billion? Because a lot people are hungry and a lot of people are out of work. Why are AFDC and many other programs rising rapidly? It is due to the economy. If we can deal with the spending and if we can deal with entitlements, then we can begin to bring back certainty and our economy will come back and our jobs will come back and there will be less pressure on the entitlement programs.
We are going to have to also recognize that ``entitlements'' is not the right word for programs such as Medicare and Social Security. Those are contracts with the American people. I pay 6.2 percent of my income--the President does as well--to the payroll tax for my Social Security. I paid 1.35 percent for my entire life to Medicare. That is a contract with my government. We have to fix those programs.
Social Security is easy. Social Security is fixable by moving the eligibility date to the outyears. For my grandchildren, eight of whom are under 8 years old, that ought to be 69 or 70 years old before they become eligible. We don't need to cut their benefit or raise their tax, but we need to actuarially put out their eligibility. That is what Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill did in 1983 to save Social Security until the current pressure it is under right now.
Medicare is the tough animal to deal with. We are going to have to recognize that we have to get out of the fee-for-service business and then do a premium support business. That way, we can quantify premium support and know how much we are spending, and the American people have the choice of buying the insurance and the coverage for Medicare that they want. It ought to be means tested. We ought to make sure that those who can afford more insurance, like myself, have less support and those who are in need have more support. But it should be quantified in terms of support for premiums, not a fee-for-service reimbursement system.
In terms of our revenues, everybody always wants to talk about taxes. Last week we had a debate that was meaningless and worthless over political positions of two political parties on tax systems. We need to look at Bowles-Simpson. We need to clean up our Tax Code. We need to use the tax expenditures that we get as income by reducing them and waiving them. We need to use that income to reduce the rates on corporate taxes and all the marginal rates of taxation so we can encourage people to spend their money, invest their money, and make our Tax Code simple. We don't need to raise taxes, we need to raise their attitude. We need to improve the plight the American taxpayers have today by giving them certainty and a tax code that is clean, a tax code that is fair, and a tax code that produces jobs, revenues, and growth.
My message this morning is this: If we go up to probably Friday when we go home for the month of August and we come back in September for 60 days and wait until the election, we are putting off dealing with issues that affect our economy, affect our people, and affect our future. I, for one, stand ready the minute the leaders are ready to put these issues on the floor, and let's vote on them. Let's deal with the future of the American people, their taxes, their entitlements, and the guarantees we made to them on Social Security and Medicare. Let's deal with our responsibility. Let's not sequester spending, let's cut where we should cut and let's add money where we should add money. Let's run this country like a business and not like a political action committee.
I yield to the Republican leader.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT