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State of the Economy

Location: Washington, DC

STATE OF THE ECONOMY -- (House of Representatives - February 03, 2004)

The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Barrett of South Carolina). Under a previous order of the House, the gentlewoman from Ohio (Ms. Kaptur) is recognized for 5 minutes.

Ms. KAPTUR. Mr. Speaker, as the prior speakers were dealing with the foreign wars in which the United States is engaged, here at home the Bush administration has built an economy teetering on a house of cards, or should I say an exploding house of debt.

There is more economic anxiety in our country than at any time that I can remember since the Reagan recession of 1982. President Bush is trying to act as if nothing is wrong, but people know better. They know something is wrong, something deeply wrong with America's economy here at home. They know that jobs are going overseas by the thousands, and they do not know how much worse things are going to get before they get better, or if they are ever going to get better.

More and more people are wondering whether our jobs are ever going to come back. In my district, almost every week brings the news of another plant closing. This week it is Georgia Pacific, maker of Dixie Cups, leaving Sandusky, Ohio, and 206 long-time workers terminated. Hundreds and hundreds of family-owned tool and die and machine tool businesses in Ohio and the Midwest have fallen victims of unregulated competition from China.

The manufacturing sector in the Nation's heartland is in the intensive care unit, and President Bush is offering Band-aids. He was in Ohio last week, he came to us empty-handed, but then he went around the country and raised millions more for his campaign coffers. In his State of the Union address delivered here, he did not even propose extending unemployment benefits for those workers who have lost their jobs.

There is great economic anxiety in our land because workers do not know how much longer they can hold on to their health benefits. There is great economic anxiety in our land because people see Congress and the President giving $87 billion to Iraq and the President's corporate cronies, but leaving 43 million Americans without health care coverage.
There is great economic anxiety because the average American family lives by a rule that Washington breaks every day. It is called the rule of balancing your checkbook. If a family bounces a check, their bank hits them with a fee for insufficient funds. But apparently that does not apply to President George Bush and his Republican Party. They have proposed the biggest budget deficits in history and call it economic progress.

President Bush has proposed a back-breaking $521 billion budget deficit for this year. And when we add in the Social Security funds that they are borrowing, it is actually $709 billion. Next year, his deficit is proposed at $364 billion, but it is actually $607 billion if he does not raid the Social Security fund. And if he is as wrong this time as he has been in his fiscal projections in the first 3 years, the budget deficit for fiscal year 2005 will hit over $734 billion.

That is the highest deficit in history, and that does not even count the additional funds that they are going to add for the war in Afghanistan. We seem to have a President who talks a lot about national security, but has forgotten about economic security.

I can remember, coming from our family, what happened back in the 1920s and 1930s when Washington spent with abandon. We know that Wall Street likes debt, but they like it too much, and they deal in paper wealth, not real wealth. And when our predecessors during the 1920s and 1930s forgot the difference between real wealth and paper, and spent with abandon, they literally brought down America's families and financial system right around them. The dollar lost its value, and we face that precipice again.

The Great Depression of the 1930s was the largest economic disaster our Nation ever experienced. Our family, like everyone else in the Nation, felt the impact of wild behavior on Wall Street and reckless government in Washington. Our family lost all their meager savings, and I am sure that the irresponsible people who have raided our people's 401(k) plans have done the same thing in this modern day. Just ask the former employees of Enron. And I do not mean George Bush's close personal friend, Kenneth Lay. I mean the people who lost everything when the Lay scam was exposed.

A look at the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, the largest hole in history. It is supposed to ensure our workers' pension benefits in private companies. It is over $11 billion in deficit. The President says it is not a crisis. It surely is a crisis when the largest instrumentality that we have to back up our workers' retiree benefits does not have the insurance to do it. He best pay attention.

Mr. Speaker, the economic anxiety that is gripping America tonight is real. We are losing jobs to unfair trade agreements. The President wants to expand NAFTA. Workers are running out of unemployment benefits. The President says there is no crisis and, therefore, no need for extended unemployment benefits. Retirees are losing their pensions, and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation is losing money hand over fist. The President says there is no crisis, but indeed the system is at risk.

Mr. Speaker, in closing, let me say to the American people the way to change our Nation for the better is for people to register to vote from coast to coast. If we can change the captain of our floundering Ship of State, we can put firm new leadership at the helm and begin moving again toward a better tomorrow for all.

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