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Mr. BARRASSO. Madam President, I wish to take a few minutes today to talk about our Nation's economy. This speech is not about the economy that we wish we had; this speech is not about the economy that we used to have; this is about the economy that we have today.
By now, Americans are all too familiar with the bad economic news. The front page of today's Wall Street Journal provides little respite from that bad news. It reads, and here is the headline, front page: ``Household Income Sinks To '95 Level.''
Let me say that again: ``Household Income Sinks To '95 Level.''
The President talks about moving forward. But the reality is that the American paychecks are moving backward. The article goes on to describe a report from the Census Bureau, a report that illustrates what millions of Americans already know. We are not better off than where we were last year or the year before or the year before that. In fact, the Census Bureau data shows that household incomes in 2011 fell for the fourth consecutive year. Hard-working Americans do not need census data to tell them this, they know it. All they need to do is look at their paycheck. For many it is significantly smaller.
While paychecks continue to shrink, the cost of everyday living has gone up. Gasoline prices have gone up another 30 cents a gallon in just over a month. Americans recently paid the highest price ever on a Labor Day weekend for gasoline. One out of every seven people in America is now on food stamps.
In 2008, that was before President Obama's election, the poverty rate was 13.2 percent, and 38.8 million Americans were in poverty. This week's numbers show a 16-percent increase in just 3 years. Poverty rates remain stuck at their highest level since 1993.
I made many of the same points last week in the response to the President's weekly address, but I believe it is important to make them again. While many Americans worry about their shrinking paycheck, far too many others have no paycheck at all. Today, 23 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed. Many of these folks are our friends, our neighbors, and family members. The undeniable truth is President Obama is on track to have the worst jobs record of any President since World War II.
When the President was hyping his so-called stimulus program, his economic team claimed unemployment would not go above 8 percent and would be below 6 percent by now. Instead, it has been higher than 8 percent for 43 straight months. According to last week's jobs data, unemployment dropped from 8.3 percent to 8.1 percent. Why does that happen? It didn't drop because of newly created jobs. It dropped because 368,000 Americans simply gave up looking for work. They just gave up.
With the stimulus bill, the President promised jobs. The only thing he delivered was not jobs but more debt. It is bad enough that the stimulus was wasted. Even worse, he borrowed the money, much of it from China.
The reality is that America is not better off than it was 4 years ago. In terms of global competitiveness, the United States has dropped for 4 straight years. When President Obama took office, we were No. 1 in the world. Now we are No. 7. Why? American businesses are at a competitive disadvantage. That is because of our tax rates. They are the highest in the developed world. American businesses are being asked to create jobs in the face of a regulatory onslaught the likes of which we have never seen before.
Americans know what works. What works here in this country is low taxes, reasonable regulations, and living within our means.
President John Kennedy understood that. He said:
Persistently large deficits would endanger our economic growth and our military and defense commitments abroad.
He said that 50 years ago, in 1962. Washington's budget deficit that year, in 1962, was $7 billion. From $7 billion then to $1.2 trillion this year. For every year since he has taken office, President Obama has spent at least $1 trillion more than Washington took in--all of it borrowed. And there is no end in sight.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the government ran a $192 billion deficit last month alone. This is the highest deficit ever for the month of August.
Under his watch, government continues to spend too much, borrow too much, and grow bigger every day. President Obama's record of failure has come at a great cost to our country and to our future. The President's policies have failed to produce the results, the accountability, and the solutions that the American people deserve. The Obama administration is simply not moving our country forward.
A healthy economy comes from a growing private sector. Yet the President doesn't seem to appreciate or value the private sector. Remember, he said if you have a business you didn't build it, someone else did? In Wyoming and in communities all across this country there are bakers and florists and dry cleaners and farmers who did build their businesses and whose families have been working in them for generations. Those business owners know what President Obama does not. They understand, as Ronald Reagan put it, that you can't be for big government, big taxes, and big bureaucracy, and still be for the little guy.
As a Nation we are being bled by overspending, we are being choked by regulations, and we are being paralyzed by a lack of affordable energy. Just look at one of the President's favorite legislative accomplishments, the President's health care law. The American people knew what they wanted from health care reform. They wanted the care they need, from a doctor they choose, at a lower cost. Instead, what did they get? They got a $700 billion cut to Medicare, a government mandate that everyone must buy insurance, funding for IRS agents to investigate you, but too little money for doctors to treat you.
Similar to health care, the American people know exactly what they want from our Nation's energy policy. What they want is energy security. Yet the President continues to block the Keystone XL Pipeline and the oil and the jobs that come with it. The President has wasted millions and millions in taxpayer dollars on Solyndra, and the President continues to stifle domestic production of affordable American energy sources such as coal while driving up energy bills for the American people.
Since energy security is not a priority for this President, what about financial security for our children and grandchildren? Washington has piled a mountain of debt on the backs of future generations, and the President keeps adding more. On his watch, the national debt just passed $16 trillion, with no end in sight.
President Obama says he deserves a grade of incomplete on his handling of the economy, but people only ask for an incomplete grade when they know they are failing. He is now asking all of us to give him more time. The question is, Can we afford to give him that time?
As I said in the beginning of this address on the floor of the Senate, it is not about the economy we wish we had or the economy we used to have; it is about the economy we have today. It is about reality. Instead of giving President Obama 4 more years to continue the policies that have not worked and are not working, it is time for a change.
A SECOND OPINION
Madam President, I would also like to take a few moments today to talk, as I do each week in the Senate, as a physician and give a doctor's second opinion about the health care law.
I come to the Senate floor just about every week to talk about the health care law. I have practiced medicine in Wyoming for one-quarter of a century. I have taken care of families and many patients on Medicare. What I wish to do today is talk about the health care law's impact specifically on our seniors who rely on Medicare for their health care. Specifically, I wish to talk about how this law is going to impact those living in rural and frontier areas such as Wyoming.
I know it can be very challenging for people living in rural communities to get the care they need, especially from a doctor they choose. The associated press recently described this issue in an article entitled ``Boomers retiring to rural areas won't find doctors.'' The story highlighted the trouble Nina Musselman from rural Oregon had finding a new family physician when her previous doctor moved away.
After 1 year of going to different physicians who would treat her temporarily, she finally found a new permanent provider. The words she used to describe her experience were: ``It's a sad situation for seniors.'' Unfortunately, because of the President's health care law, the situation for seniors--especially those living in rural communities--is only expected to get worse. The article not only confirms that fewer doctors are working in rural areas but also that the program pays rural doctors less for a procedure. This fact, combined with the cuts to the program scheduled to take place under the health care law, means seniors in rural areas will have greater difficulty finding a doctor to take care of them.
Mark Pauly, a professor of health care management at the University of Pennsylvania put it this way: If the cuts to Medicare are allowed to go through, ``the doctors are saying: We're out of here.''
Professor Pauly adds:
The least they [the doctors] are saying is: ``We'll treat Medicare patients like we treat Medicaid patients,'' which is mostly not.
Over the past 2 weeks the Republicans and Democratic parties have held their nominating conventions. The Nation has had an opportunity to hear from both Governor Romney and President Obama about their accomplishments and their visions for America.
After hearing the President's speech, I was struck by the fact that he barely mentioned his health care law. The newspaper Politico stated: ``In back-to-back speeches, Obama and Vice President Joe Biden all but ignored the Affordable Care Act.''
It isn't surprising, given the fact that the law remains deeply unpopular with the majority of the American people. In fact, the latest Rasmussen poll found that half the people surveyed support repealing the health care law.
The President and Washington Democrats might be trying to avoid the law. As a physician who practiced in Wyoming, I believe the topic is too important to ignore. All seniors, especially those in rural America, need to know how this law will impact their ability to get the care they need.
Previously, the Institute of Medicine found that there are fewer primary care physicians--as well as other medical specialists--per capita in rural areas compared to urban areas. It is not just primary care physicians and it is not just specialists, it is both. So while people in rural America make up 20 percent of the Nation's population, they are only served by about 9 percent of the Nation's physicians.
The Kaiser Family Foundation tells us the beneficiaries in rural areas account for at least 60 percent of the Medicare populations in Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming. This is why I have such a passion for ensuring that all our seniors, no matter where they live, can receive their Medicare benefits. Unfortunately, all America knows is that the President's health care law made significant cuts to Medicare.
Specifically, the Congressional Budget Office told us the law takes over $700 billion from the Medicare Program. This money will not be used to improve the health care received by seniors but, rather, to pay for a whole new government program for someone else. In fact, if the cuts in the health care law are implemented, the nonpartisan Actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found that Medicare payments for inpatient hospital services would eventually be only 39 percent of private insurance rates.
The situation facing physicians is not any better. The actuary at CMS reported that in 2009 Medicare paid physicians approximately 80 percent of private insurance rates. Under current law, if the cuts are allowed to move
forward, Medicare will eventually only pay about 26 percent of the rate of private insurance. There is no question that the ramifications of these cuts will directly impact the ability of seniors to receive the health care they need.
As Professor Timothy Jost noted in the New England Journal of Medicine:
If the gap between private and Medicare rates continues to grow--
As it is under this law--
health care providers may well abandon Medicare.
For the millions of seniors who rely on Medicare, losing access to the program is simply not acceptable.
When the President passed his health care law, he proudly stated he was expanding health care coverage for millions of Americans. What he failed to mention is that this expanding coverage is being bought at the expense of American seniors.
Washington Democrats have long argued that the cuts to Medicare will do two things at the same time. They say it will expand health coverage for the uninsured and extend the life of the Medicare trust fund.
In Wyoming and all across the country people know we cannot spend the same money twice. Apparently, the President and supporters of his health care law, right here in this body, think they can. Their logic defies math and it defies common sense.
As a former Director of the Congressional Budget Office, Douglas Holtz-Eakin stated in a recent op-ed: ``Any suggestion that Medicare will last longer is an illusion--not a fact.''
America's seniors cannot afford the spending illusions contained in the health care law. Congress must act and repeal the law before Medicare is transformed from a vital program into an empty promise.
With that, I yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum.
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