IRAQ AND THE MIDDLE EAST -- (House of Representatives - March 01, 2005)
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under the Speaker's announced policy of January 4, 2005, the gentlewoman from Tennessee (Mrs. Blackburn) is recognized for 60 minutes as the designee of the majority leader.
Mrs. BLACKBURN. Mr. Speaker, we are going to talk about economic competitiveness in the economy tonight, but before we start on that topic, I just want to draw attention to a couple of things that have appeared in the newspaper and talk about Iraq and the Middle East.
There is an article that I pulled from the wires today, 2,000 demonstrate at an Iraqi bombing site, and this is really quite an amazing story, Mr. Speaker. This is from Baghdad: More than 2,000 people demonstrated Tuesday at the site of a car bombing south of Baghdad that killed 125 people chanting no to terrorism.
Mr. Speaker, our hearts go out to those individuals and their families, those that have lost their lives, and certainly our hearts continue to go out to the families of each and every man and woman in our military service. I think we join with every one of them, all of our military families and with all of these Iraqis who love freedom and are loving having the opportunity to grasp on to freedom, and we join them in saying no to terrorism and standing strong for freedom.
Another article that I saw today from Newsday, Mr. Speaker, some Arabs see beginning of a new era, and I think this is very important that we pay attention to this. One of my colleagues was talking about the headlines that we do not see on some of the national media, some of the leftist media, and I think this one is worthy of a mention.
It was a scene the Arab world's autocratic regimes have dreaded, and through the power of satellite TV, it could catch on as fast as the latest music video. Peaceful, enormous crowds carrying flags and flowers, bringing down a government. What happened in Lebanon this week, analysts say, is the beginning of a new era in the Middle East, one in which popular demand pushes the momentum for democracy and people's will can no longer be disregarded.
Mr. Speaker, our President has said that would happen. Repeatedly, he talks about how in the heart of every man and woman is the desire to be free and to seek that freedom and to have hope and to have opportunity. We have all heard our President say freedom is not our gift to the world; freedom is God's gift to all people.
It is so appropriate that we acknowledge that freedom, that we appreciate the sacrifice that is there for that freedom because it is through the expansion of that freedom that we enjoy the fruits and the benefits of a free society.
One of those is the opportunity to dream big dreams and have great adventure, have great successes and to see that lived out in our lives.
For many Americans, that is the opportunity to reach economic goals; to build businesses, to have a better life for their family. And tonight we are going to spend an hour discussing the Republican policies about encouraging entrepreneurship and economic growth in this great Nation.
We are going to highlight the Republican agenda for creating jobs in America. And it is clear that after battling the recession of 2001, weathering a terrorist attack cost us billions. There are even estimates that the cost to the American economy of September 11 and the travesty that took place there was $2 trillion, a full quarter of our Nation's productivity for a year.
After fighting an expensive global war on terrorism, being in the middle of that fight, we have faced significant challenges and we have made some very wise decisions. Over the past couple of years, despite very heavy criticism from some of our colleagues and from the tax-and-spend liberals, we, as a Congress, have made tax cuts, have reduced the tax burden that the American people are paying.
Mr. Speaker, it is certainly something that I know, as millions of Americans tonight are sitting down at their kitchen tables with pencil and paper and beginning to look at those forms, filling out their Federal income tax filings, that they are noticing the difference that the tax cuts we have passed are making in their lives. Certainly in Tennessee, I know there are Tennesseeans noticing for the first time in 20 years that they have the opportunity to deduct the sales tax they are paying from their Federal income tax filing.
It is amazing to me, and should be troubling to many Americans, that many across the aisle had the audacity to oppose this tax relief we have passed. They have opposed making some of these cuts and reductions. We are trying to be certain that the American public has more money in their pocketbook; that they have the opportunity to decide how to spend that money; and that they have the opportunity to grow those businesses.
We have known that small businesses and working families need tax relief, and we have fought hard to make that happen so that we see the opportunity right there for our economy, for the growth in our economy, for the opportunity for competitiveness not on just a local scale, not just on a local scale, but on a global scale.
Mr. Speaker, our support for tax relief has been vindicated, and we see that in the economic figures that are out there. This past week we found the economy grew faster than expected in the last few months of 2004. They revised the growth estimate up from 3.1 to 3.8. And for a lot of folks who are economic news junkies, they know that 3.8 is a pretty good rate. For those that are casual listeners, that is something we can be proud of, and we can talk about that. A 3.8 percent growth is very substantial.
In February, we had the twenty-first consecutive month, that is twenty-first consecutive months, of increased economic activity in the manufacturing sector. I want to be certain everybody hears and understands that: Twenty-first months of consecutive increases in economic activity in the manufacturing sector. That is nearly 2 years of growth. I think that is absolutely outstanding.
For some of the tool and die manufacturers that are in my district, from some of the manufacturers that we see of various component parts, of items that are being created, how exciting that they are seeing growth; that they are seeing growth in their jobs that they have right there in these local communities.
And that is not all of it. The overall economy grew for the fortieth, that is 4-0, the fortieth consecutive month in February. That is more than 3 years of solid economic expansion.
Mr. Speaker, these are figures that are hard to argue with. That 3.8 percent was our economic growth. That got revised up for the last quarter of 2004. We have had twenty-first consecutive months of increases in productivity in the manufacturing sector. We have had 40 consecutive months of overall economic growth. That means something is working right. Something is working right. Tax relief was needed, and we see that that tax relief is beginning to pay off.
I have another article here. I had the opportunity to do a little reading over the break, Mr. Speaker. This one is from the Financial Times. Look at this headline: "U.S. Chiefs' Confidence Highest in 3 Years." Well, that is a pretty good thing. The people that are running the companies, the people that are deciding whether to expand, whether to make capital investments, whether to create new jobs, they have a great deal of confidence.
It says here: "Confidence in the economy at the U.S. biggest companies has soared to the highest level in 3 years as increasing numbers plan to spend more on capital investment." Well, who would have thunk? You never would have thought that was happening if you were listening to some of our friends across the aisle. Because they do not want to talk about the good news. They do not want to talk about 21 straight months of manufacturing gains, 4-0, 40 consecutive months of overall economic growth.
Here is one that describes the results as "extremely positive"; another one, talking about capital investments by business, "are the best indicators of growth at this stage of recovery," and that this bodes well for the economy. Now, mind you, these are not small businesses. These are big companies. So we are seeing it with our small businesses, and we are seeing it with some of our new companies.
Republicans believe that government must remove the obstacles to growth. And it does not matter if you are a big or small company, it does not matter if you are an entrepreneur, it does not matter if you are new or some of our wonderful companies that have been there for 100 years. We have to get rid of some of the obstacles. And though some of our folks do not like to talk about rolling back taxes, rolling back those taxes is removing an obstacle. Another obstacle is the high cost of compliance with those taxes. Another obstacle is onerous regulation that comes from some of our Federal agencies.
Well, what do you know. When you start rolling that back, making the system easier to comply with, American entrepreneurs expand and they create jobs. That is something, is it not? Get the government out of the way, and you are going to see free enterprise go do what they are geared up to do, do what they are best at doing, do what they dream about doing, what they spend their lives trying to figure out how to do: how to create jobs, how to build a better mousetrap, how to get out there and sell that better mousetrap to people that are ready to buy improved products.
It is a great system. The way this economy works is something to get excited about, and I am thrilled that we have had the opportunity to see this kind of economic growth.
Mr. Speaker, I am joined here on the floor tonight by one of my colleagues, a gentleman from the freshman class I served in in the 108th Congress, the gentleman from Iowa (Mr. King). He knows a lot about how the economy works. He is a small businessman, a farmer, and he does a lot of thinking when he gets out there on that tractor, and he brings a lot of wisdom to this Chamber.
So, Mr. Speaker, I yield to him at this time.
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Mrs. BLACKBURN. Mr. Speaker, as we talk about the economy and talk about the need to have an economic Renaissance, to see this continue. As I said earlier, we have had 40 consecutive months of economic growth. A lot of times women do not look forward to that 40th birthday, but when we talk about the 40th month of economic growth, that is certainly a date that we want to celebrate.
The gentleman from Iowa (Mr. KING) mentioned tax reform and the cost of 22 cents of every dollar of manufactured good in this Nation being eaten up by compliance, and the importance of us having a wonderful debate about how we lower that cost so that every sector of our economy is going to see greater productivity and is going to see growth.
We know that working on our tax reform issues, working on tort reform issues to eliminate frivolous lawsuits, are going to be a way that we can begin to benefit, that we can see the products that are manufactured here be more competitive in a global marketplace.
As we look at the opportunities for trade in Tennessee, for example, where our exports have increased every year for the past 5 years, and we know that does equal jobs. Over the past 2 years, as the gentleman from Iowa (Mr. KING) said, we created about 2.7 million new jobs, and that will soon in a couple of months be 1.5 million new jobs per year.
There are a couple of industries that have seen good growth in the past couple of months: Apparel, textiles, transportation and equipment, electronic components and equipment, chemicals, industrial and commercial equipment and computers, instruments, photographic equipment, metals, food, wood and wood products. Virtually every State in the Union can claim at least one of these industrial sectors. In fact, one of the things that we have seen about job creation is that in 48 of our 50 States we have seen jobs growth. That is impressive. Over the past year, 48 of our 50 States have seen jobs growth. That is why we are beginning to see this 40 months of overall economic growth, 21 straight months where we are seeing increases in the manufacturing sector, and we know all of this means jobs. It all means jobs that are being created. We know that there is a lot of work ahead that we need to do to be certain that this economy keeps growing.
Mr. Speaker, much of our focus this session is going to be on economic growth, economic competitiveness, doing the things that encourage, that create the right environment. Our government does not create jobs, it is this free enterprise system that creates jobs, and doing things so we help create the right investment, focusing on tax reform and trade issues, on regulatory reform and on energy independence. These are the areas that are going to have a tremendous impact on our economy as it expands. We will continue to see growth in those sectors.
Mr. Speaker, I yield to the gentlewoman from North Carolina (Ms. Foxx) who is new to us this Congress. The gentlewoman from North Carolina (Ms. Foxx) has come to our Congress this year and is serving on the Committee on Education and the Workforce. And much of her focus, even though her Ph.D. is in education, she understands the importance of an educated workforce and lifelong learning and developing the skills that are so necessary to be productive in your job, to be satisfied in your job. The gentlewoman from North Carolina (Ms. Foxx) has some thoughts she would like to share with us tonight on economic competitiveness.
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Mrs. BLACKBURN. I thank the gentlewoman for bringing her perspective to the debate and for celebrating, allowing us to celebrate with the good people of Forsythe County, North Carolina, as they welcome 700 new jobs to their area. How exciting that is, and how exciting for us that we have a program like the workforce development programs that are very successful, that assist in retraining folks.
I know in my 7th Congressional District in Tennessee, we have seen tremendous success with the workforce development program. As a matter of fact, we have a program in Montgomery County, Tennessee, that is really attuned to the needs of our veterans and to our military spouses and our military retirees. And they are going to be honored later this week for their excellent work that they are doing for jobs retraining, helping people focus on the importance of developing and having that career.
Jobs and education, they go hand in hand. They are very important components of our economic competitiveness, just as tax reform, just as tort reform and the other things that we have discussed this evening.
Mr. Speaker, at this time I would like to recognize a member of the freshman class, new to us, but with a tremendous amount of experience in his home State of Texas where he has been a part of the business community, has served as a judge, and is a skilled legislator. The gentleman from Texas (Mr. Gohmert) is going to speak with us for a few moments about some of the things that are happening in Texas as in the process with our economic competitiveness issues.
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Mrs. BLACKBURN. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the gentleman from Texas. And I would like to commend him for meeting with the students and working with the students from Grace High School in Tyler, Texas, and for their study, their caring about the free enterprise system and seeking greater information on that. How exciting that they are doing that.
You know, Mr. Speaker, one of the things we are hearing from business schools all across the country, one of the things we are hearing from high schools, from tech schools is that more and more people are saying, I want to be an entrepreneur. I want to start my own business. I want to see if I can grab on to that American Dream of owning my own company, starting a company, having an idea, watching that idea come to fruition in the form of a company that creates jobs.
And it is so encouraging to me that the Republican leadership and our majority in this House is committed to doing the things that are going to be necessary to continue economic growth, long-term sustained economic growth like we have seen over the past 40 months.
I have got another article from washingtonpost.com that I had pulled today. This one is really interesting. Construction spending rose a strong seven-tenths of a percent in January, a month when generally they are not going to see that kind of increase. This pushed total construction activity to a record high of just over $1 trillion at a seasonally adjusted annual rate and followed an even larger 1.2 percent rise in December. What we are seeing is confidence and belief and the fact that people believe in the strength of this economy.
We have a freshman Member from Kentucky (Mr. Davis) who has joined this Congress this year. He is with us for just a few moments to talk about some of the good things that are happening in his State. I yield to the gentleman from Kentucky.
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Mrs. BLACKBURN. I thank the gentleman from Kentucky for talking with us a few moments about what he is seeing happening and his desire to see some changes take place here in the policies that we will make, the things that we will implement in this Congress, in the 109th Congress.
Mr. Speaker, one of the things that I do a lot and that I had the opportunity to do over the break is to visit with small business owners. I heard repeatedly from them that what they do not want and what they do not need is more taxes, more regulation, and more government. We hear them. The Republicans hear them. This majority hears them. We understand what they are saying. Unfortunately, I have a lot of colleagues who are not listening to these small business owners. I think it is important to note, small businesses in America represent over 90 percent of all employers and employ half of all private sector employees. They pay 44.3 percent of the total U.S. private payroll.
That is our small businesses and entrepreneurs that we have talked about today, the people that are starting businesses, that are creating so many of these jobs. Small businesses generate 60 to 80 percent of the net new jobs growth annually.
That is why it is so important that we carry forth on this commitment to be certain that we have the right environment for an economic renaissance in this country. Small businesses are the Nation's economic engine, and Republicans have worked to reduce their tax burden so that they have the ability to create more jobs. We have passed legislation that will give them more affordable health care options for their employees, Association Health Plans and Health Savings Accounts.
Republicans have passed legislation to stem the tide of frivolous lawsuits, and we are continuing to do more on the tort reform issues.
We are planning and continue to work daily on trade and opening foreign markets for American-made goods so that our employers in our local communities have access to markets around the globe, ways that they can place their products before a world that is ready to buy them. And we are trying to make certain that manufacturers are not being treated unfairly and that they have the opportunity to be competitive in a global marketplace.
Republicans want to pass a comprehensive energy policy so that America's economic growth is not held hostage to foreign energy production. We want to harness more of our domestic energy. We believe excessive government growth in spending crowds businesses out of the marketplace. We know that when there is a need, if government fills that need, then the private or not-for-profit sector does not move in and fill that need. We know that the growth of government needs to be curtailed so that less of the taxpayers' money is being required to pay for the government, so that taxpayers keep that money in their pocket. Reducing the size of government is what we have talked about over the past couple of weeks as we have talked about rooting out waste, fraud, and abuse and reducing the size of the Federal Government.
Mr. Speaker, we have a plan that will drive economic growth, that will continue to drive economic growth. We have had 40 months of overall economic growth. We would like to see another 40 months of economic growth and job creation for Americans. We have had 2.7 million jobs created in just under the past couple of years. We have 21 months where we have seen manufacturing increases. We had our last quarter of 2004 with 3.8 percent economic growth.
The fundamental difference between Republicans and Democrats is that we have a plan to continue to drive economic growth. And all of our small business owners, myself included, we know the cost that regulation imposes and the importance of rolling back regulation.
Among the top complaints that we receive from small business owners has to do with the Federal Tax Code, the cost of compliance. The gentleman from Iowa (Mr. King) spoke to that earlier. Twenty-two cents of every single dollar of manufactured goods in this Nation is spent in compliance. That is an obstacle that we need to get rid of, and we are committed to working on that. We know this Tax Code is overly complicated, it is time-consuming, and it is incredibly frustrating for millions of small business owners in this Nation. That is why Republicans are committed to a code that is flatter, that is fairer, and absolutely is simpler not only for individuals but for our Nation's small businesses.
Mr. Speaker, all over we have got a plan. It is the better plan. And we know the problems that are facing our Nation's economy. We know the problems that are facing this Nation's employers, whether they be small or whether they be large, whether they are small businesses or whether they are big business. And, Mr. Speaker, one thing that we know for sure in this 109th Congress, we are committed to moving forward on commonsense reforms that will continue to work toward greater effectiveness and greater competitiveness for our Nation's economy.