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Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for Fiscal Year 2014

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. DELANEY. Mr. Chairman, I want to thank my friend and colleague from New York for yielding me this time. And I also want to thank my friend and colleague from Texas for his leadership on the committee.

Too often, Mr. Chairman, we talk about our budget in absolute terms, and we don't talk to the American people about what budgets really are, which are choices. As we go through each line item of revenues and each line item of spending, we tend to characterize these things in very dramatic terms, as if any change, up or down, on any line of revenue or any line of spending, would have catastrophic implications.

We don't have an honest dialogue with the American people about what budgets really are, which are choices and statements of priorities, which is why, in my opinion, this Congress, and the administration, have failed to recognize the two dominant themes facing our country and our world right now.

The first is the fundamental need to change the fiscal trajectory of this country across the long term, and the second is the need to invest in our future and our children to prepare them for a world that is fundamentally changed because of globalization and technology.

We cannot do these two things--we cannot change the fiscal trajectory of this country and we cannot make investments in our future and our children--unless we do two things: first, reform the entitlement programs in this country; and, second, take actions to raise revenues.

Last year, 13 percent of the American population was over 65. In 2030, 20 percent of the American population will be over 65. This singular fact dominates our whole discussion around our fiscal future.

Just to put this into perspective, if we don't change the trajectory of our entitlement programs, in 10 years they will consume 70 percent of our spending and literally crowd out every other priority we have as a country. And just to put this in a sharper focus, right now, as a country, if you add up all the spending at the Federal, State, and local level on Americans over 65, that number is $27,000 a year. If you do the same math on Americans under 18, that number is $11,000 a year. That is a 2 1/2 to 1 ratio of statements of priorities that we are making in our budget.

Just to be clear, I don't come here thinking we should spend less on the elderly. I don't come here thinking that we should be cutting taxes. I actually think we should be raising taxes. But we fundamentally have to change the trajectory of entitlement spending in this country if we want to invest in our future.

Prior to coming to Congress, I spent two decades in the private sector. I started and led two companies that became New York Stock Exchange listed companies and, in the process, created several thousand jobs. That experience taught me two important lessons: first, we have to look at the facts, always; and, second, we have to think about the future, and we have to plan for the future.

I have already talked about the facts. Now I want to talk a little bit about the future.

If we want to create good jobs and reverse some of the trends that the gentleman from Texas just talked about and demonstrated to us, we have to make investments in making this country more competitive. That is the fundamental issue facing our country right now, Mr. Chairman, is to make this country more competitive.

To do that we have to do several things:

First, we have to continue to invest and reform our educational system. There has never been a stronger correlation in our country's history between having a good education and getting a job.

Second, we need a national energy policy to ensure that we have clean and inexpensive energy across the long-term. If you look at the history of successful economies, the two most important numbers are the cost of money and the cost of energy.

Third, we have to reform our immigration system.

Fourth, we have to invest in our infrastructure.

To do these things requires investments. We will fundamentally not be able to make these investments unless we, as I said, reform our entitlement programs and raise revenues.

We are confronted with two choices in our budgets, and these are insufficient choices. The American people deserve better. On one hand, we have a choice where we don't recognize the reality of where the entitlement programs are going, and the other choice is we slash and cut the critical investments we need to make to have a future. We can do better.

Each party likes to take the high ground on a balanced approach, but what does that really mean? To me, a balanced approach means several things.

First, we need additional revenues through measures like the Buffett rule, by closing certain corporate tax loopholes while also lowering corporate tax rates. The Buffett rule levels the playing field, does not raise rates, but it makes sure that there is parity in terms of taxes that are paid; and it will do a significant amount towards closing the income inequality gap in this country, and it will produce more revenues. That is the first thing we have to do.

The second thing, we do need to reform on entitlement programs, and we should do four things. We should means test; we should raise the cap; we should change how the cost of living adjustment is calculated; and we should change the retirement age, not for people who do manual labor, but for everyone else. That is the second thing we need to do.

The third thing we need to do is we need to look at our discretionary spending and our defense spending, and we need to make these expressions of our priorities around our future. Some of that will require additions;

some of that will require subtractions.

These are things we need to do to have a balanced approach. This is the choice that this Congress should have, an approach that invests in our future and changes the fundamental trajectory of our entitlement programs while taking care of those most vulnerable. That, to me, is a balanced approach.

I am proud to be a Democrat. I am proud to be a Democrat because of our historical fight for those left behind and because of our view that we have to invest in our future. I would like my party to lead on fundamental reform to these entitlement programs, and do it now, so we don't have to affect current beneficiaries or people who are close to being beneficiaries. I want to take those savings with additional tax revenues and invest it in our future, invest it in our children, invest it in making this country more competitive so that we can create jobs that have a good standard of living.

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