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Public Statements

Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for Fiscal Year 2014

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Ms. STABENOW. I look forward to colleagues who will be joining me to express strong support for the budget that has been reported out of the Senate Budget Committee. I first want to thank our chair, who has done a yeoman's job in putting this together. She has had so many different assignments dealing with the budget and efforts to come to responsible reform and put our country back on the right track in order to bring down the deficit and grow the economy. One more time she has stepped up to the job. So I want to thank our chair for all of her efforts.

Let me start, first of all, by saying this is very simple when we look at what we are talking about in this budget. As I said also, I want to thank the ranking member for his courtesy throughout the budget process. While we have very different views, this was done in a very professional and courteous way on all sides. I really appreciate that.

But this is a very different view, both in what we debate and how we view this budget, which is a values document for the country, and the budget that is being debated in the House of Representatives. It comes down to something very simple. Our budget strengthens the middle class. We believe it is critically important that we grow the economy from the middle out. That means making sure folks who are struggling to stay in the middle class have a fair shot, people trying to get in the middle class have a fair shot, and that we grow the economy by understanding the economic engine of America comes from having a strong middle class.

On the other side, the Republican budget just plain simply protects the special interests, special interest deals in the Tax Code and other special interests in other kinds of policies. It is just very different and does not grow or support the middle class.

I also think it is very important that we not just talk in theory but talk about what has happened in the past and what has worked and what has not. We should do more of what works and less of what does not work. We need to start by looking at what happened as we came into 2001.

I was fortunate to be a new Member of the House of Representatives in 1997 when, under President Clinton, we all worked together and balanced the budget for the first time in 30 years.

I came to the Senate in 2001. We were debating the largest budget surplus projected in the history of the country. That is where we were. The question was, What kind of economic policies, what kinds of approaches will be put in place to be able to manage that fact, that we had the largest budget surplus projected in the history of the country?

There were two proposals put forward at that time. When you look at the way the debt was going from 2001, it is amazing. If we had only taken a different track than what happened. I remember as a new Member, a new Democrat, that our leader on our side of the aisle, Senator Conrad, came forward with a proposal that I believed was eminently reasonable. He said: Why do we not take that budget surplus and divide it into thirds: one-third of it for strategic tax cuts to grow the economy; one-third of it for strategic investments in education, science, R&D, moving the economy; and one-third to prefund the liabilities for Social Security for the next 75 years.

Imagine if we had done that. Instead, what happened was the surplus was put into a huge supply side tax cut, benefiting, as we know now, the wealthiest in the country, adding to a situation where the wealthy have gotten wealthier and wealthier in the last decade, the middle class has shrunk and shrunk, and more and more people are struggling today. So it was all put into a large tax cut, and then we proceeded to go into two wars that were not paid for, a Medicare prescription drug plan not paid for, and nothing else paid for for a decade. We ended up with the largest deficit in the history of the country. That is what this President walked into. That is what we have been faced with.

Now, when we look at where the debt has come from, and why it is important that we focus on the economy, we know the biggest piece of where the debt came from was the tax cut geared to the wealthiest Americans, which has been famously called trickle down economics. The folks in Michigan are still waiting for it to trickle down.

Then we saw the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. We are so appreciative of the President leading us out of the war in Iraq. We are closing down the war in Afghanistan. So that piece is being addressed. We have addressed the tax cuts at the end of the year, to ask those at the top to do more of their fair share. So that is being addressed. We go on down to the Recovery Act, which was so important to be able to try to focus on the middle class and get things going again. We did have some success with this. Then the other piece, the 30 percent of what is happening right now is the economic downturn.

So as we go forward today, even though we have addressed the high-end tax cuts, the wars ending, we no longer see the rescue-and-recovery measures. The economy is still 30 percent of our deficit. Frankly, we will never get out of debt with 12 million people out of work, which is why we, as Democrats, have made sure we are front and center focused on jobs and the economy in this budget.

We have to create opportunities for jobs for small businesses, for manufacturers, for the private sector, for entrepreneurs to be able to be successful so we have strong economic growth while we are putting forward a balanced budget. That is what we are attempting to do. That impacts what we do in this budget.

In fact, the efforts we put together--we know what happened when the President came in: 700,000 jobs a month being lost, the banks and financial markets in big trouble. We all know the story of what happened and what the President walked into on day one. But we have been focused on supporting an economic growth structure that would create jobs, create jobs. We are seeing that turnaround from the lost decade of jobs. We saw certainly in manufacturing huge job losses from 2001 on up to 2008. We know what happened with the automobile industry, which, by the way, because of our rescue efforts and support for them, is roaring back now and creating jobs. By the way, tremendous private sector investment is coming into the city of Detroit. The private sector is helping us turn that around. We are very proud of that. We are also seeing now jobs being created. As fast as we want? No. But we understand we have to focus on these numbers, which is creating jobs, if we are going to, in fact, get out of the deficit hole.

We have to reduce the deficit if our country is going to be more competitive, and we have to grow more jobs. We have to create opportunities for middle-class families. We know we need progrowth policies such as the ones in our budget that focus on innovation, education, rebuilding America through infrastructure, whether it is our courts, whether it is our roads or rails or water and sewer projects or what we do on technology. To compete we have to build, and we have to focus on what will create jobs.

We are now at a spot where we know if we focus, as we are in our budget, on growing the economy from the middle out rather than the top down, based on what was done in the 1990s when we did that, when we balanced the budget in the right way by investing in the future, investing in education, investing in innovation, and then also making smart cuts to balance that out, we balanced the budget. We had 22 million jobs that were created.

That is what this budget does again. It is focused on those policies that worked, not just debate back and forth in theory, but policies that actually worked in the 1990s to balance the budget, to grow the economy. We saw the policies being advocated by our friends on the other side. We did that already. We did that 2001 to 2008.

I do not know about anybody else, but I know people in Michigan do not want to relive that. That was not our idea of economic growth. It certainly did not balance the budget. It put us in the largest deficit in the history of the country.

So the budget in the House says: Boy, if you liked 2001 to 2008, you are going to love this. Two million jobs next year alone are lost in the Ryan Republican budget. And similar policies are being advocated by colleagues on the other side of the aisle.

Let me just take a moment; I see my colleague, Senator Reed from Rhode Island, is here, who I know wants to be a part of this and is such an important voice. But let me just say a couple of things. We understand we need to make smart spending reductions in order to balance the budget. In fact, we have already started doing that. One of the things which is so frustrating to me is to hear colleagues talk about spending cuts without acknowledging what we have done for the last 2 years. So we already know we have put ourselves on a path for $2.4 trillion in deficit reduction. And 70 percent of that has come out of services for the middle class, the most vulnerable. It has been cuts in spending for things that would actually grow the economy, innovation and research.

I am desperately concerned as chair of the Agriculture Committee because we have seen agricultural research decimated around issues of food safety and pest and disease management and other critical things, on invasive species, that we may not feel right away but are things that will affect our future. So we have already seen major cuts.

At the end of the year a small amount of money, 30 percent of the deficit reduction, was done. We have actually been asking those at the very top, who have the most benefits from the tax cuts, the most benefits from the efforts to rescue Wall Street, the most benefits in general, just to do a little bit more--30 percent of what we have already done. So what we have said is that going forward, the final amount we need to do, between the $2.4 and $4 trillion, we are insisting that be done in a balanced way and not one more time to come back on the middle class who have already had the brunt of the sacrifice, the brunt of the cuts. It is not fair.

So we have replaced across-the-board cuts. We have had colleagues in the last few days complaining about the sequester cuts. Please vote for this budget. It stops those across-the-board cuts and puts something in that is much more common sense.

Those across-the-board cuts would cut 750,000 jobs this year alone. When you add what the Ryan Republican budget would do in the House, that is another 2 million jobs next year. It is a jobs killer.

What we are saying is replace it with a responsible, balanced approach. That is what we need to do, but it does it in a way that sets priorities.

The House says spending cuts again. This is predominantly education, innovation, construction. They also include eliminating Medicare. There is no way our majority will support this policy.

There is a whole range of things that hit the middle class, seniors, veterans, and vulnerable citizens. We say our cuts will be different. We are willing to make priorities and smart cuts on the direct spending side, but there is a whole range of things we can do in the special interest deals and Tax Code for the other half.

I totally reject the idea which has been put forward here so far today that our budget somehow raises taxes on the middle class. That is absolutely false. We have report after report after report which indicate by closing loopholes which are sending jobs overseas, cutting subsidies that aren't needed anymore, such as the top five wealthiest companies in the world, the top five oil companies--there are trillions of dollars in savings. Do this by cutting things that aren't necessary and are special deals in the Tax Code. We say half of the amount needed, yes, should come from there.

On the other side of the building, what we see is a very different picture. The Ryan Republican budget, when they look at their tax cuts, 55 percent of what we are doing in tax cuts goes to the top 1 percent. I feel this is Groundhog Day over and over. It is the same thing we have heard over and over. Give it to the top, it will trickle down. We did that. It did not trickle down. At least it didn't hit Michigan.

This budget does it over and over. Two-thirds of what they do in the House goes to the top 5 percent of taxpayers. What is left for middle-class families? We say something very different to grow the economy. We say we need in a global economy to outeducate, outinnovate, and outbuild. The President has said that over and over and our budget invests in those things that allow us to compete, grow the middle class, and create jobs while doing what we need to do to make smart, commonsense decisions on spending in the Federal Government.

Here is what I am worried about. Right now, when we look at U.S. investing in research and development, compared to what is happening around the world, the greatest country in the world, the United States of America, is down. We are losing ground on investments while everybody else races to be like America--everybody else. China wants to be like us and have a middle class. They are investing in innovation. We see proposal after proposal after proposal to cut our ability to compete for the future. This is why the Senate budget prioritizes research and development by replacing the devastating across-the-board cuts with a balanced and responsible approach which preserves $10 billion in R&D funding every year and for the future.

We continue support for medical research, one of the areas where we are the leader. We strengthen the National Institutes of Health. We have increased investments in renewable energy technology. There are so many opportunities for us. I am very proud today Michigan is No. 1 in new clean energy patents, and new ideas are coming. It is part of the economic engine which is bringing jobs back to Michigan.

Investing in our 21st century manufacturing sector is also here. Senator Baldwin put forward a proposal on manufacturing hubs which I strongly support. Other colleagues, Senator Coons and others, have supported the manufacturing extension partnership to help small manufacturers as well.

We are also investing in exports and opening markets abroad. We know when American companies are able to increase their exports by $1 billion, they create 5,000 new jobs.

In infrastructure, we need roads and bridges. The chair of our committee is a strong advocate for ports as well in the global economy, being able to export and import. That investment in rebuilding America is in this budget. The American Society of Civil Engineers just released their report card, and they gave America a D-plus. We are not going to outcompete the world with a D-plus on infrastructure.

This budget makes historic investments in our workforce. We know from hearing from CEOs that workforce development education is absolutely key to our future.

Before asking my colleague from Rhode Island to join in this discussion as well on jobs--I speak as the chair of the Agriculture Committee--I thank the chair for including in our efforts creating a 5-year farm bill, which not only participates in deficit reduction of $23 billion but is twice what we would be required to do under sequestration.

The farm bill is a jobs bill. I don't know of any other bill that has an impact on 16 million jobs in this country. The farm bill does. It supports agriculture and rural America. The farm bill is a part of this effort.

My colleague from Rhode Island is deeply involved in efforts to create jobs, balance the budget, and reduce the deficit. I ask unanimous consent I be permitted to join in a colloquy with Senator Reed at this point. He has been a champion in job creation, and I am very grateful he came tonight to join us.

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Ms. STABENOW. I thank my colleague, the distinguished Senator from Rhode Island. When I think of him, I think of his advocacy for our men and women who make up our troops--and I know our budget chair as well--and his strong leadership on veterans issues.

I think about $400,000 being an average tax cut for a multimillionaire under this budget versus what will happen to our veterans or folks coming home from the war and now trying to get a job, trying to do what they need to do to get back into the community and society and so on, and I wonder--the Senator has been such a leader on this and, of course, has experience with his own distinguished career in the military--if he might speak about those issues, his own experience with people coming home. Are they getting the $400,000 tax cut?

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Ms. STABENOW. I would simply, first of all, again thank our chair, who understands and gets this, not only about how to grow the economy and the middle class and in a commonsense way to balance the budget, but she has been such a leader on veterans issues and reminds us every day about those coming home and what they need, as does Senator Reed as well, with his own service as well as his efforts with regard to our veterans.

I would be happy to defer to Senator Reed, if he has additional comments. I didn't mean to interrupt him before. If he has additional comments to make, I would certainly allow for that, and then I would be happy to wrap up at some point.

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Ms. STABENOW. I thank the Senator from Rhode Island again for his comments, his leadership, his advocacy for our military men and women and our veterans, and for the economy, for people who need help. As he said, there are a lot of people on the edge right now trying to just hold on, to stay in the middle class, or trying to get in the middle class, and our budget is for them. It is about growing the economy from the middle out.

What makes us different from other countries around the world is that we don't have just a few very rich people and a lot of poor people. We have had a robust middle class. People in Michigan feel that eroding every day, so we need to be laser-focused on making sure we keep that strong middle class that not only grows the economy but creates opportunity for young people to grow up and go to college, to dream big dreams and know that in America they can succeed and be whatever they want to be, that they have a shot. That is the American dream, and that is what we are fighting for.

Our budget, bottom line, strengthens the middle class. It creates opportunities for people to work hard no matter where they live, what their background is, so they have a shot at making it. We believe that to our core.

The Republican budget is represented by the House budget, and the proposals here on the floor on the Republican side are geared to the wealthy and the well-connected, the special interests of this country, to keep their special deals going. Let's try trickle-down economics one more time. It didn't work from 2001 to 2008. We lost 5 million manufacturing jobs. But, hey, why not try it again? Well, we say no, let's use something that has worked.

So let me in conclusion say again that the Republican tax cuts represented by the Ryan budget--55 percent of the benefit goes to the top 1 percent. As my friend the Senator from Rhode Island indicated, those at the very, very top are getting $400,000 in a tax cut, and $400,000 is more than the vast majority of Americans and certainly the vast majority of people in Michigan make in a year. Can we afford to do that? Is that the right priority?

I find it so interesting that we had a colleague speaking passionately for the past couple of days now about his concern about closing airports in rural areas. I have those concerns about closing rural airports. Well, our budget doesn't do that. Our budget invests in infrastructure and keeps those open, as opposed to the across-the-board cuts that have been objected to by the Senators trying to make changes in the budget this year and the Ryan Republican budget in the House.

We believe strongly that we should build a budget in the future on what has worked in America, and what has worked is strengthening America with investments so we can out-educate, out-innovate and out-build to win in a global economy. That is what this is about.

Our businesses tell us they are concerned about getting the right workers for the right jobs. It is a major issue right now.

That is something we have a responsibility to be a part of.

The Democratic budget invests in education, invests in innovation, and invests in building for the future. I worry every day about this kind of a chart that shows that the United States of America--not a third world country--is investing less in research and development than competitors around the world. It makes no sense. The innovations are here. The smart scientists are here. The cutting-edge technology is here. And we need to keep it here. Our budget places a huge value on it.

Then, finally, it is all about jobs and making sure when we figure out and when we look at how to balance a budget, that we understand we will never balance a budget with more than 12 million people out of work. We have to focus on jobs and growing the economy. We have to.

Thirty percent of our deficit right now as we look at this going forward is in the slow economic recovery. We know it was bad prior to 2009 when President Obama was elected. It has gotten better, but it is not where it needs to be. And it won't be where it needs to be unless we invest in innovation, in education, and rebuilding America's infrastructure. That is what we do. This budget makes sense. This budget is for middle-class families all across America.

I urge my colleagues to support it.

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