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Public Statements

Congressional Budget for the United States Government for Fiscal Year 2005

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, the Senate has a full agenda of business this session. To give the American people a full year's worth of work, I had hoped the politics of the election this fall would maybe wait at least until some of the leaves had sprouted on the trees late this spring.

Sadly, that is not the case. We see the one thing in full bloom in Washington, DC, right now is all politics, all the time. The most repeated political saw can be summed up by quoting Charles Dickens. We are told today in America: It is the best of times, and it is the worst of times. It is the best of times for some, and the worst of times for others. We are not one nation, indivisible, but two Americas, they say-two Americas.

What are we? Are we staring into painful reality or are we just hearing political spin?

Well, Mr. President, I would like to think of myself as a fair person. So I think we should let the facts themselves do the speaking.

Fact No. 1: To say it is the best of times and the worst of times at the same time is simply political spin. It is spin to say the same fact can be good in one place at one time but bad in another place at another time. Yet many of our colleagues insist on that very twist, that very twist of logic.

So let's look at the unemployment number, for example. When the unemployment rate dropped to 5.6 percent back in 1996-5.6 percent back in 1996-the Senate Democratic leader, our friend, Senator Daschle, said:

The economy is doing extraordinarily well. Extraordinarily well.

We have the lowest rate of inflation and unemployment we've had in 27 years.

That is when the unemployment rate was 5.6 percent in 1996.

At the same time, President Clinton was saying:

I was gratified to hear our partners praise the strength of the economy. . . . Lower interest rates have helped us slash unemployment to 5.6 percent.

That was President Clinton in June of 1996.

So, in 1996, 5.6-percent unemployment was viewed by our friends on the other side as good news and a healthy economy.

Today, we have 5.6-percent unemployment under President Bush-the very same unemployment figure, a different President. Today our good friend, Senator Daschle, says:

President Bush suggested that the current unemployment rate of 5.6 percent was a good number. Well, I was a little surprised at that. I'm not certain I would agree that it's a good number.

In 1996, under a Democratic President, 5.6 percent was considered a good number; 5.6 percent today under a Republican President is not considered a good number.

Our friend Senator Clinton from New York says about the 5.6 percent today:

This Administration refuses on so many fronts to accept the obvious and in this instance it is obvious the economy is not creating jobs.

President Clinton, when unemployment was at 5.6 percent, was praising the healthy economy. Senator Clinton, when the unemployment rate is at 5.6 percent, says the economy is not very good.

It is difficult to understand how this same 5.6 percent jobless rate back in 1996 can be considered indicative of a healthy economy and today not be so considered. So a 5.6 percent jobless rate was the best of times under President Clinton and now it is the worst of times under President Bush. It's the best of times under President Clinton, worst of times under President Bush. This is spin. That is all it is. How can at one time 5.6 percent be considered the sign of a healthy economy and at other times not?

We see the same kind of spin on policy. Under the previous administration and when the House and Senate were controlled by our friends on the other side of the aisle, temporary unemployment compensation benefits were allowed to expire at 6.4 percent unemployment. Again, temporary jobless benefits expired when the jobless rate was at 6.4 percent and not a word of complaint was heard from our friends on the other side of the aisle in 1994. It was the best policy back in 1994 to allow temporary unemployment to expire at 6.4 percent. That was the policy back then. Now 10 years later, when the same temporary unemployment compensation benefit expired because the unemployment rate is at 5.6 percent, the same policy under a better economy is called an outrageous act.

So the very same decision made under a Republican President is the worst policy. Under a Democratic President, it is the best policy. It makes no sense. Why would it be good policy to let the temporary unemployment policy expire at 6.4 percent under a Democratic President and not be a good policy at 5.6 percent under a Republican President? What can we conclude from all of that? It is political spin. That is what it is-political spin.

Letting temporary jobless benefits expire at a 6.4 percent jobless rate under President Clinton and a Democratic Congress is the best policy, but letting the same benefits expire at a 5.6 percent jobless rate under President Bush and a Republican Congress is the worst policy. It is all Washington spin.

But it is not just the number or policy that gets spun around; it is also the words. Let's look at the much discussed term "outsourcing." The term "outsourcing" has become a lightning rod. When an economic advisor to President Bush discussed the outsourcing of jobs, amendments were offered, strong condemnations were delivered, and heads were supposed to roll. When the former President's Secretary of Labor claimed, in a Washington Post op-ed on November 2, 2003 that high tech jobs are going abroad but that is OK, not a peep was heard about the former Secretary of Labor's writing.

This is Secretary Robert Reich, November of this past year. Headline: "High Tech Jobs Are Going Abroad! But That's Okay." This is the Democratic Secretary of Labor. Again we see the same words as the worst idea by a Bush advisor but a great idea by a Clinton advisor.

Confused? It is just more Washington spin. When the outsourcing issue was discussed by a Bush advisor, it was considered the worst advice. When the same thing was said by a former Clinton Labor adviser, it was considered good advice.

What can you conclude from all of this? Just Washington spin. The whole issue of outsourcing shows how things are spinning out of control. After all, Robert Reich, the former Democratic Labor Secretary, is Senator Kerry's top labor adviser and a member of his steering committee. It says so right on his Web site. Perhaps most amazing is their campaign road show announcement on outsourcing that charges President Bush continues to send jobs overseas. But in the very next sentence they announce the participation of Robert Reich in these road shows.

This is the same Robert Reich who said high tech jobs are going abroad, but that is OK; the same Robert Reich who says he doesn't believe the outsourcing of jobs is something to lose sleep over; the same Robert Reich who says it makes no sense for us to try to protect and preserve high tech jobs or block efforts by American companies to outsource; the same Robert Reich, the top labor adviser to Senator Kerry, who is at political events across the country to bash Bush for his adviser's views on outsourcing.

If this doesn't leave you dizzy, nothing will. Why all the spin? Why is this word acceptable by one speaker but an outrage when uttered by another? Why is policy fine one day but a horror the next? Why is the number applauded one day but the same number condemned the next? Confused? That is what you get in a political year.

The sky-is-falling crowd seems to be spinning the wheel of misfortune hoping to hit the political jackpot this fall. And to win this fall, they must say the sky is falling this spring. They must put the worst possible spin, the worst possible light on our current economic situation.

Opponents claim we have had the greatest job loss since the Great Depression. How many times have we heard that, the greatest job loss since the Great Depression? That was a time when one out of four Americans was jobless. Today we have 138.5 million jobs and growing in the United States. Comparing our economic situation today to the Great Depression is utter nonsense. In the Depression, one out of four Americans was unemployed. Today there are 138.5 million jobs and growing. Close to 95 percent of Americans who want a job are employed. The sky-is-falling crowd says this is the worst number in almost a century.

So the political season is here. Facts don't matter; up is down; left is right; the best is worst, and vice versa. To be sure, the economy is not perfect. As long as someone wants a job and can't find one, we are not going to rest. But let's be honest. If a 5.6 percent unemployment rate was good 8 years ago, then a fair person would have to say it is not so bad now. But we haven't heard that, nor will we hear that. Instead we are told we are in a jobless Armageddon. Why? Because this is an election year and that is just the way the world spins.

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