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Monday: Manchin Invites All West Virginians to First Bipartisan Federal Fiscal Summit

Statement

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

In another bipartisan first for the state of West Virginia, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) will host the state's first-ever bipartisan federal fiscal summit on Monday. The conversation is free and open to the public, beginning at 9 am at the Culture Center Theater.

Former Senator Alan Simpson, a Republican, and Erskine Bowles, the White House Chief of Staff under President Bill Clinton, will join Senator Manchin as the featured guests at "Our Finances & Our Future: A Bipartisan Conversation About the Facts" on Sept. 10 at the state Cultural Center Theater. The two men also spearheaded the renowned National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.

"The old saying is as true today as it ever has been. You can't help others if you're not strong enough to help yourself. And it is time to make America strong again," Senator Manchin said. "I am not one of those politicians who can turn a blind eye to our debt. The people of West Virginia sent me here to look at the facts, make hard choices and work with both Democrats and Republicans to do the right thing for our state. No matter how hard it will be to fix our problems -- and it's clear that everyone will need to have a little skin in the game and share these sacrifices -- I am determined to do it.

"But no Senator -- no matter how committed -- can do it alone. That is why I am so pleased to announce that two of this nation's greatest financial leaders will be coming to West Virginia to hold an open forum with the people of our state about the future of our finances."

Senator Manchin pointed to West Virginians' ability to come together to solve serious problems, as they did when he was Governor.

"Bowles and Simpson paint a grim picture about the problems we're facing. And in December of 2010, they laid out a serious blueprint for a solution -- one that isn't perfect, but that has earned more support from members of both parties than anything else that has been proposed in Washington," Senator Manchin said. "Since then, too many of our leaders have put their heads in the sand about this proposal, and the choices we face. But West Virginia is different from most states. We welcome the hard truth, because we know we have to face the truth. And believe me, we can handle the truth.

"So I can tell you this: I'm not talking about fixing our nation's finances from some ivory tower, from some rigid ideological position. I'm talking about this country's finances because I know how much it costs all of us to live in debt. I know the burden of high interest payments, and the way that it robs the opportunity to pay for more important priorities. I know how much stronger this country will be when we manage our debt. I know because we came together in West Virginia and improved the quality of life in our state."

Audio of Senator Manchin's floor speech is available here:

https://s3.amazonaws.com/sdmc-media.senate.gov/Manchin/080112_MANCHIN_1_RADIO.MP3

YouTube video of Senator Manchin's floor speech is available here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2VNgv8SPYN4&feature=youtu.be

Senator Manchin's August 1st remarks as prepared for delivery are below:

I rise today to announce a rare opportunity for the people of my great state, who care so much about the future of our country.

When I travel all around my beautiful state of West Virginia, one of the biggest concerns I hear from the people of my great state is simply that our nation's finances are in such bad shape that we could be the first generation that leaves this country in worse shape for our children and grandchildren.

I am determined to make sure that doesn't happen. I am determined to bring people together to fix our finances and put this country back on the right path. I am determined that all of our children and grandchildren will be able to live a more fulfilling and prosperous life than we do.

But we are running out of easy options to put our country's financial house in order. And every day that we delay a big fix, the price will be higher. The changes will be more painful. The choices will be more stark.

With our country's finances so far out of control, all of the priorities that all of us care about -- whether it's creating jobs, maintaining the best military in the world, keeping the core of vital programs like Social Security or educating the next generation -- all of those priorities are in jeopardy.

If you care about rebuilding America -- investing in our highways, our roads, our airports, our water, our sewer systems -- you can't do if you can't pay for it.

If you care about creating jobs and giving our businesses some certainty -- you can't do it if you can't pay for it.

If you care about educating the next generation and preparing this generation with the skill sets they need for the jobs of today and tomorrow -- you can't do it if you can't pay for it.

If you care about having an energy policy that uses all of our domestic resources in the cleanest possible manner, if you care about developing technology for clean coal, if you care about finally ending our dependence on oil from hostile countries -- you can't do it if you can't pay for it.

If you care about having the best military in the world, one that can defend the liberty of this great nation at home and where needed abroad -- you can't do it if you can't pay for it.

If you care about helping the vulnerable and keeping our vital core promises -- like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and Head Start -- you can't do it if you can't pay for it.

Any nation that wants to be a strong nation, that wants to invest in its priorities, that wants to leave the country in better shape for the next generation -- cannot be shackled by crippling debt.

And if the federal government can't get its financial house in order, the hard truth is that all of these priorities will be slashed -- sooner than any of us would like to admit.

Whether you consider yourself a Democrat, a Republican, an Independent or have no affiliation, whether you consider yourself a liberal, conservative or centrist -- wherever you fall on the spectrum, none of the priorities that you care about can happen unless we can pay for it.

The old saying is as true today as it ever has been. You can't help others if you're not strong enough to help yourself. And it is time to make America strong again.

***

Let me give you some troubling figures that illustrate how bad it's gotten: The debt hole we have dug for ourselves now equals the entire amount of goods that this country produces -- in other words, our gross domestic product. That hasn't happened since 1947.

Think of the next group of lawmakers. In 2033, which is just around the corner, they're going to have to look Americans in the eye and tell them that Social Security will be able to pay out only 75 percent of the check that we owe. They'll have to say it's because the group that came before didn't do their job.

Think of 10 years from now, when every man, woman and child in this country would owe more than $79,000 to pay off our debt. Today it's at $50,700 -- and that's way too high. But it's only going to get worse if we don't do our job -- and fix it.

There are 3 million jobs going unfilled in this country because they say that the workforce doesn't have the right skill sets and our unemployment rate has been at record highs for years.

So, just who exactly is supposed to pay for all that debt? If you do the math, the picture isn't pretty. We're not balancing our budget, we're not training people for the jobs of the future and we're leaving our children and grandchildren a massive debt that, as of today, equals the entire economic production of this great nation.

To me, however you do the math -- even if you use funny Washington accounting tricks -- this situation adds up to a train wreck.

I'm determined to prevent this oncoming train wreck, and I will do all I can, working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle. You didn't send me to Washington to put the next generation into more debt. You sent me there to get them out of it.

Putting this country back on the right path will hurt, but we have to be willing to come together across party lines, determine our highest priorities and make tough choices. That's what the people of West Virginia sent me here to do, not cater to any one special interest group.

***

There are plenty of politicians who will talk about fixing our financial problems. Who will pay lip service to coming up with a plan. Who will talk a good game, but in the end will let the problem continue to fester.

I am not one of those politicians who can turn a blind eye to our debt. The people of West Virginia sent me here to look at the facts, make hard choices and work with both Democrats and Republicans to do the right thing for our state. No matter how hard it will be to fix our problems -- and it's clear that everyone will need to have a little skin in the game and share these sacrifices -- I am determined to do it.

But no Senator -- no matter how committed -- can do it alone.

That is why I am so pleased to announce that two of this nation's greatest financial leaders will be coming to West Virginia to hold an open forum with the people of our state about the future of our finances.

Former Senator Alan Simpson, a Republican from Wyoming, and Mr. Erskine Bowles, the White House chief of staff under President Bill Clinton, are two of the toughest and smartest people in this country when it comes to our finances.

Since I've been here, the most bipartisan effort to fix our finances has been led by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson. They were asked to head up the President's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. It was bipartisan when it began, it has stayed bipartisan all this time and it has grown with the number of Senators from both sides of the aisle who understand that we need a big fix that comes from both sides of the aisle.

Bowles and Simpson paint a grim picture about the problems we're facing. And in December of 2010, they laid out a serious blueprint for a solution -- one that isn't perfect, but that has earned more support from members of both parties than anything else that has been proposed in Washington.

Since then, too many of our leaders have put their heads in the sand about this proposal, and the choices we face.

But West Virginia is different from most states. We welcome the hard truth, because we know we have to face the truth. And believe me, we can handle the truth.

On September 10, West Virginians will have an opportunity to hear some truth-telling. I am so proud that Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles will hold a forum: "Our Finances & Our Future: A Bipartisan Conversation about the Facts" at our magnificent cultural center. They will present the facts -- and there's no doubt that the facts are dire -- and lay out the magnitude of the problem we face. And then we'll talk about solutions. It's a rare opportunity to have a frank, bipartisan conversation about the grave conditions of our nation's finances.

So I'm inviting all West Virginians -- business, labor, senior groups, the young people who will be expected to pay off our debt, and anyone else with an interest in our future -- to come and participate in this session.

We'll talk about what this framework would do, which is to find the balance between revenue and spending, fundamentally changing our tax code and cutting spending. In short, it makes our system more fair.

Let's look first at the tax code. Some Americans -- because of their connections and ability to hire lobbyists -- have manipulated our tax code so that they get special tax breaks. That's not right.

Too many corporations that depend on the strength of this great nation -- like GE -- are paying nothing or virtually nothing in taxes. That's wrong.

We need to make our tax system more fair and straightforward. The bipartisan Bowles-Simpson plan would end many of those loopholes and lower tax rates for everyone.

And when it comes to our spending, right now in this country, we spend so much more than we can afford. I know so many Americans who would be willing to pay more in taxes if they believed that we were using it well -- to pay down our debt or invest in critical infrastructure.

But we're not spending well. I've always said that public servants can do one of two things with public tax money -- spend it or invest it. And quite frankly, we've been doing too much spending and not enough investing.

Our annual deficit -- the amount we spend versus the amount we take in -- is $1.2 trillion dollars this year alone. Looking into the future, if nothing changes, we'll have deficits every year for the next decade.

No one can tell me that we can sustain that pace -- and still afford Social Security, Medicare, defending this nation and educating our children. The math doesn't add up. The bipartisan Bowles-Simpson framework addresses this by cutting more than $2 trillion from our spending over the next decade.

And after we address our spending and our tax code, guess what happens? Our interest payments -- the amount we're spending every year just for the privilege of borrowing money from countries like China to finance our day-to-day operations -- will go down by nearly $700 billion over the next 10 years.

That's the bipartisan Bowles-Simpson framework. Yes, it will have some painful cuts, and yes, everyone will have to share in the sacrifice. But because the pain is spread out, no one takes too deep a hit. And that is why I believe this proposed blueprint is the only plan that has garnered any real show of bipartisan interest or support.

***

When I became Governor of West Virginia, our state's finances were in a tough place. We had to make very hard choices about our priorities, and not everyone was happy with every decision.

Seven or eight years ago, people believed that West Virginia was hopeless. That we would always be challenged. That our finances would always be on the brink. That we wouldn't be able to invest in our priorities. That our economy would always be stagnant. That our credit ratings would always be miserably low. That we wouldn't be able to turn any of that around.

But I tell you what. At the end of my term, we had lowered tax rates, reduced our food tax, ended our fiscal years with a budget surplus each and every year -- and increased our credit rating three times in three years.

Together, we weathered a recession better than 45 other states. We're finally getting the last piece of our puzzle in place, with a fix to our retirement system.

So I can tell you this: I'm not talking about fixing our nation's finances from some ivory tower, from some rigid ideological position. I'm talking about this country's finances because I know how much it costs all of us to live in debt. I know the burden of high interest payments, and the way that it robs the opportunity to pay for more important priorities. I know how much stronger this country will be when we manage our debt. I know because we came together in West Virginia and improved the quality of life in our state.

And I know we can do it together in this country.

***

The truth is, Democrats don't have a lock on good ideas, and neither do Republicans. But with less than 100 days to go before the election, you're not going to hear many Democrats giving Republicans any credit and you won't hear many Republicans acknowledging that Democrats have anything to bring to the table.

That's a true shame. We won't fix our problems with a go-it-alone attitude, because the only way America has ever solved our problems is to put partisanship aside and come together for the good of this great nation.

The West Virginia fiscal summit is just one honest way we can take an important step toward coming together to solve our problems -- and one more way for the people of West Virginia to show this nation that we can and will do the heavy lifting it will take to put this country back on the right track.

Thank you, and I yield the floor.


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