Political Drama At The White House
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Mr. KINGSTON. I certainly am. I wanted to ask the gentleman from Missouri something.
Mr. AKIN. I yield.
Mr. KINGSTON. As I understand it, this theater tomorrow, this summit at the White House about health care, I want to make sure I understand, is it health care only? Certainly they're going to talk about jobs. We had the stimulus program when the unemployment was less than 8 percent. It is now over 10 percent. The stimulus program, which was over $800 billion, was spent over a year ago, it's deficit spending, it's borrowed money, and it was supposed to keep unemployment from going to 8 percent, now it's up to 10 percent. Certainly tomorrow at the White House the topic isn't going to be more spending for a government health care program. Certainly they do plan to talk about jobs.
Am I correct or incorrect?
Mr. AKIN. What you just said, Congressman Kingston, I would wish that that were true. I think the American public is concerned about unemployment. Somebody made the comment that unemployment is an important issue, but it really becomes critical when you are the one that is unemployed. Yet my understanding is that this drama, this political drama, is basically rehashing the same old play, which is, here we go again with this health care situation.
You made the comment that they had, I think it was a $787 billion, some people called it a stimulus plan.
Mr. KINGSTON. If the gentleman would yield a second.
Mr. AKIN. I do yield.
Mr. KINGSTON. Actually, as price tags tend to expand after legislation is passed in Washington, the Obama stimulus plan was $787 billion, but they revised it now another $75 billion, so it is well over $800 billion.
Mr. AKIN. Over $800 billion?
Mr. KINGSTON. Yes.
Mr. AKIN. Some of us stood here and said, This is not going to work. I was standing on this floor a year ago and I said, This stimulus plan will not work. It wasn't because some of us were such geniuses. It is because we had learned from Henry Morgenthau back in the 1930s, who stood before the House Ways and Means Committee and said, we tried this idea of excessive government spending, money that we didn't have, and we tried to spend money like mad. This is the guy who was Little Lord Keynes's buddy, he was FDR's Secretary of the Treasury, and he said, it doesn't work.
Now, I don't think you had to be a rocket scientist to figure that when you and your family are in trouble economically that what you do is don't go spending money like mad. If spending money was going to give us a good economy, boy, we would have a great economy right now.
Mr. KINGSTON. I'm glad you brought that up. Because as you know, as Republicans we overspent.
Mr. AKIN. We did.
Mr. KINGSTON. We spent way too much money. Now, I will point out this year's deficit alone at $1.4 trillion is more deficit than George Bush had in the entire 8 years. Let me repeat that. Eight years of Bush is still less debt than 1 year of President Obama.
Mr. AKIN. Let me just toss that number a different way. George Bush's worst debt year was with a Nancy Pelosi Congress, and that was about $400-something billion. I agree with you that was too much debt. And that was '08. You go to '09 with President Obama, and his very first year was $1.4 trillion, three times more than President Bush. And then they want to say, yeah, but it's Bush's fault. Wait a minute.
Mr. KINGSTON. Actually, also there might be something to it if the President had not been Senator Obama. Because Senator Obama voted for every single appropriations bill; and the Bush stimulus program in May of '08, about $168 billion; July of '08, Fannie Mae, $200 billion; Bear Stearns, $29 billion; AIG, $85 billion going to $140 billion, done by the Federal Reserve.
Mr. AKIN. What you are saying, Congressman Kingston, a billion here and a billion there, that starts to add up, doesn't it?
Mr. KINGSTON. It absolutely does. But the thing I am saying on this Federal Reserve spending is that neither Senator nor President Obama has spoken out against that. He embraced the TARP bill, the Wall Street bailout, with both arms. That is $700 billion. Then there was $410 billion for the omnibus spending bill. And then, as you pointed out, $800 billion for the stimulus bill. Now he is proposing $950 billion for this government health care plan. And yet he still says that he wants to reduce spending.
I'm on the Agriculture Committee. We had a hearing today with the Secretary. I think the Secretary is a very decent Secretary. But the proposal of the administration is to freeze agricultural spending. Agricultural spending has gone up 26 percent since 2007. Yeah, you have a run on the bank----
Mr. AKIN. Wait a minute. This is one of these ones just like we are talking about in that health care plan. This doesn't compute, does it? We say we are going to freeze something that we just raised by over 25 percent in a year or two. That's incredible.
Mr. KINGSTON. There is no end to this. Today at the Business Roundtable the President said something like, I am a staunch capitalist, I believe in the capitalist system. And yet let's look at the last record. There is not a government regulation that this administration hasn't embraced and said, look, we need the government to do this.
Mr. AKIN. Government to do more and more things. You know, if we go back to that whole thing you are talking about on that supposedly stimulus bill, this is such basic stuff, and yet somehow the administration doesn't understand it. We have a lot of unemployment, we have a whole lot of Americans that would like to get jobs, and so the question is what can the government do to try to get those jobs going? And I have made a list of all the wrong things to do. These are the things that are job killers.
Now, if you take a look at what are the things that kill jobs, first thing off the bat, we score the stimulus bill you are talking about, the health care bill that is supposed to be the centerpiece of this great political drama tomorrow, and it is supposed to be something new, and they are going to open the box and it is going to be the same old ugly thing that was there before. What is it that kills jobs? This stuff is not complicated. Anybody who ran a lemonade stand as a kid is going to understand what these things are.
The first thing is economic uncertainty. If a guy that owns a business, because you think all these jobs, most of them are in small businesses, 500 or less, that is 80 percent of the jobs in America, if you take a look at those guys and if you say, hey, I don't know what in the world the future is going to bring, you are going to go, boy, I don't want to take any risks because we just don't know what's going to happen. You've got this huge tax for the socialized medicine bill, you've got this global warming deal, which is a tax on energy, tons of red tape that go along with it, a lot of uncertainty.
Mr. KINGSTON. The gentleman is right. Investment money is going to sit on the sidelines until the government sets the rules and keeps them. Businesses can adjust. Even if the rules are a bit excessive and high and unreasonable, business will adjust to it. But if you keep changing it, they can't adjust. So of course investment capital is going to sit on the sidelines. That's just economic common sense.
Mr. AKIN. So the first thing is if you take a look at what we have been doing, we have injected a whole lot of uncertainty into the system to begin with.
Mr. KINGSTON. With more to come. More to come. As you said, cap-and-trade, but you did not mention the banking bill. This is another financial takeover. And you know, I haven't seen a lot of wisdom behind the government-knows-best mentality of the Pelosi House.
Mr. AKIN. Congressman Kingston, I am glad you mentioned that, because when I take a look at some of this uncertainty, I think of three nets that are being thrown over free enterprise. The first was a net on everything that has to do with energy. And as an engineer, energy is very pervasive in everything.
So, if the government is regulating energy all over, that's, as you say, a government takeover of a type.
The next net is over all of health care. But the third net most people don't know about, and I'm very thankful that you brought that up, and that is the net over all the financial transactions. Now, you put those three nets in place and you don't have very much of free enterprise anymore, because the government is tinkering and tampering and adjusting and fiddling around with the rules in all of those areas. And that really builds that economic uncertainty, and that's a job killer.
Mr. KINGSTON. Well, you know, it's interesting the way the Pelosi-Reid-Obama triumvirate always is coming back to government and Washington solutions because, as I see it, looking at the government performance, Republican or Democrat, it hasn't been effective. Just think about Washington, D.C., two weeks ago, shut down because of snow. Now, you know it might be worth 48 hours, but this was a town where, essentially, everybody in the government took off for a week.
Now, it's interesting. My son works in Washington, D.C., in the private sector. Somehow, his roads were open. And I saw that over and over again, the private sector people could get to work 2 weeks ago in the snow. Not every day, not every hour, because it was a bad storm. But for government employees----
Mr. AKIN. My friend, you've mentioned that snow. I heard--I wish you could tell me if it's true. I heard that the snow was going to continue unless Al Gore said ``uncle.'' Is that true?
Mr. KINGSTON. Well, let's just say the global warming campaign has been a great disappointment except for the Vice President's pocketbooks. He's done real well on this financially.
But, you know, you think about the government efficiency. Think about Katrina. What was that, $120 billion to rebuild New Orleans? I would think Democrats and Republicans share the blame. Government did not do a very good job.
Think about the war in Afghanistan, now going into its eighth year. We have not executed the war very well.
Think about Social Security. It's going broke. I look at my 24-year-old son and your children. They are not going to get it. That's a mathematical reality. That's not political spin. It runs out of money in 2030, period. Now, we could tinker around the edges and postpone that maybe a year or two, but it needs working.
Mr. AKIN. Now, one of my favorites there is the Department of Energy. Did you know why the Department of Energy was originally created? Quiz time.
Mr. KINGSTON. I have a feeling it was Jimmy Carter trying to get us off Middle East oil. Is that----
Mr. AKIN. You go to the head of the class. The whole purpose of the Department of Energy was to make sure we're not dependent on foreign oil.
Mr. KINGSTON. And I think, at the time the export or the import amount from the Middle East was maybe 50 to 60 percent, or, no, excuse me. It was about 35 percent, and now it's up to the 50 or 60 level.
Mr. AKIN. Of course the Department has grown tremendously as we've become more dependent on Middle Eastern oil. What was it they said? The compassion of the IRS and the efficiency of the post office or whatever.
Mr. KINGSTON. Yes. But let's talk about the Department of Education. Boy, I tell you what. School systems have really done well, haven't they, since the Department of Education. I mean, there's no way you could argue that.
Mr. AKIN. Did you know there was a report that was done on the Department of Education? I think it was during the days of Ronald Reagan. Their conclusion in the report was that if a foreign country had done to America what the Department of Education had done to education, we would consider it an act of war. I thought that was kind of an interesting report that we're paying money for a department that has done what would be considered an act of war.
Mr. KINGSTON. Well, you know, the old expression, I'm from the government, I'm here to help. I haven't found a school board or a school board member back home or a teacher in the classroom who can't spend the money more efficiently and more effectively because, you know, there's an old Loretta Lynn song about raising children. One needs a spanking, one needs a hugging, and one's on his way. And you know, that's the situation with education. It's the teacher in the classroom who knows how to teach Johnny, not some bureaucrat on the sixth floor three offices down at the Department of Education in Washington, D.C.
Well, you know, what about Medicare?
Now, Medicare's a very important health care program for our seniors--my mom's on it and I think your parents are--and yet it's going broke. $36 trillion in unfunded assets? What are we doing to senior citizens? The program is going broke, and yet we have our head in the sand.
Mr. AKIN. What I was just talking about here on the floor a little bit with this great drama that's supposed to take place tomorrow, the question is, you know, drama, there's supposed to be some element of it being credible. A science fiction movie, it's a cheesy movie if it's unbelievable. And yet what's going on tomorrow is we're going to take $500 billion out of Medicare.
Now, and then the idea is that after people watch this 6-hour great debate, that they're going to be happy and they're going to like the bill when they find that they've taken $600 billion or $500 billion out of Medicare. And I'm thinking, I'm not sure that people aren't going to just say that bill is ugly.
Mr. KINGSTON. You know, there's a joke about the guy asks his friend, he says, Why don't you ever read the Bible? And he says, Well, you know what? I just don't understand all that stuff that's in there. And the guy replies and says, Well, I don't think it's the part that you don't understand that is bothering you.
And the President says over and over again, I guess this is maybe his background in, you know, Ivy League schools or, you know, the circles that run around in the Northeast that, well, the American people, bless their heart, they just don't understand this health care bill. You know, what has he given, 50 speeches? I don't know. I know I had 19 town hall meetings. The people understand the health care bill. If there's one certainty in the whole debate it is that the American people understand the Obama-Pelosi health care bill.
Mr. AKIN. That's what I find is almost comical in this whole thing because, you know, you take a look at the American public--and this is my 10th year in the U.S. Congress, and I've got constituents that are reading this stuff, and they know the bill. And you can't tell me these people don't know what's in this bill. People know what's in it, and they don't like it. They think it's ugly
Mr. KINGSTON. You know, the town meetings that you and I had, the town meetings where you did not have to have an invitation, the town meetings where you invited Democrats, Republicans, Tea Party members, independents, out-of-towners, nonregistered voters, the kind of town meeting where you had open mikes and anybody could stand up and say anything they wanted----
Mr. AKIN. Those meetings seemed to have been pretty exciting this last year.
Mr. KINGSTON. Well, you know what I found though? The people were reading the bill. And I've got to say this to the people who supported the bill, they found some good stuff in there and said to me, you ought to support that. And there were some things in there that I think are worthy of supporting.
But I still think it's very difficult to make a bad bill a better bill. I think it would be better to start all over, pick and choose some ideas from Republicans. You don't have to start at Ground Zero as if you've never heard of health care reform ideas, but you should start all over in this legislation.
What if this was the Pelosi-Boehner-Reid-McConnell bill? What a different thing. And I think that's what we want to do. We want to work with the Democrats.
We were shut out of the stimulus bill. We were shut out of the omnibus bill. We've been shut out of health care. Maybe tomorrow isn't just theater. Maybe it's the turning point. I hope that it is. You know, I'd like to see something get done. But a lot of times, you know, these things are just positioning.
Mr. AKIN. Let me just respond to what you're saying because maybe I'm being too pessimistic about this. But let's take a look at the format. The format is we're going to huddle behind closed doors. We're going to produce a bill. You get 24 hours to look at it, and then we want you to come and tell us how much you like it. That doesn't seem to me to be sort of an open the kimono and let's work together as a team. It's more like, if you don't support me, then my way or the highway.
Mr. KINGSTON. Well, let me ask you this now. Who gets to look at it in 24 hours and when? Who is this group of people and when?
Mr. AKIN. Well, I'm not exactly sure of that. My understanding was the bill was supposed to be released 24 hours from the day that they're talking about it, and the only thing I'd seen earlier this morning was outlines, and the outlines, of course, the Congressional Budget Office can't score it. And it appears to be very much the same thing as the Senate health care bill is everything we can tell. We've been told that there aren't special deals in it, and yet as we take a look at it, we find that there are. Somebody managed to take a look at the ones that were there before and a lot of them are still there. The Louisiana Purchase is still in it, as I understand.
Mr. KINGSTON. I understand there's some special interests for Louisiana, Connecticut, Michigan, and those are the deals we know about because those were a little bit more visible. But you can imagine all the other oddball stuff in there, the hospital wings that will be built here and there.
Mr. AKIN. Hospital's in--my understanding is the hospital is in Connecticut; Medicaid dollars, Vermont, Massachusetts, New Jersey; drug companies; extra cash for union health care plans. I have a list of some of these. Montana coal miners. Florida seniors don't have to pay that Medicare Advantage. You know, Medicare's being cut, but you don't if you're a Florida senior. It's not cut there, but in other States it is. If you're a union guy, it's not. But if you aren't, you know. And then there's North Dakota Medicare payments. Hawaii hospitals are exempt from the cuts. And longshoremen. I didn't know about longshoremen. But there are, of course a bunch of these special deals in the program.
Mr. KINGSTON. So special interest groups have clearly been on the inside of this and their fingerprints are all over the health care bill.
Mr. AKIN. Yeah, exactly. That's the situation.
And I guess the other thing is, I think the American public is worried about this job thing. Excessive taxation is a big deal, because if you own a small business and you tax that guy really heavily, the small business owner is not going to have any money to invest in new equipment or new plants and things, so heavy taxation on a small business owner is going to be a job killer. And yet, this bill on medicine puts a heavy, heavy tax on small business owners. So, in that sense, it's a job-killing bill.
Mr. KINGSTON. And, you know, not to mention there will be a new tax on individuals because, you know, when you're forced to buy something, that is a tax. And so there would be less money for customers of small businesses on a discretionary basis. Whether they're buying hamburgers or clothes or tires or whatever, they'll have less of it in their pocket.
Mr. AKIN. Did you know that there are supposedly 36--I know Missouri is one of them. That's my home State. There are 36 States that have legislation moving exempting the States from having to be required to purchase health care when the government demands that everybody has to buy federally approved health care? There are 36 separate States moving legislation to stop that. That doesn't say something's popular.
Mr. KINGSTON. Well, again, the American people do understand this Pelosi-Obama-Reid health care package. And, you know, I think one of the great examples of government efficiency we saw in August, Cash for Clunkers. It was a program, actually pretty simple program. You turn in your old gas guzzler, you trade it in for a more fuel-efficient car. We give you a tax credit. They take your old car, put it out to pasture and put it down. And, you know, it's kind of an easy thing to follow. Stimulates the car dealerships.
Well, that program was supposed to last from August to November. It was a $1 billion program. I think they hired 100 employees, came back a week later and said they needed 1,100 employees and $3 billion. And even doing that, Cash for Clunkers was dead and defunct within a matter of weeks.
So you now feel that that same government that brought us Cash for Clunkers, a $3 billion program, is going to be able to run a $2 trillion health care bill.
Mr. AKIN. Well, I thank you, gentleman, for joining me today. And the question at the beginning was is this going to be a credible theatrical performance tomorrow or are people just going to tune in to the Olympics. I guess we'll see tomorrow what's going to really happen, but I'm not sure there's much new, from what we can see about what's being proposed from the White House.