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Mr. LeMIEUX. Mr. President, we are having difficult times in this country, difficult times in my home State of Florida--the highest unemployment
anyone can remember, nearing 12 percent. Florida, unfortunately, is No. 1 in mortgage foreclosures in the first half of the year; No. 1 in being behind in its mortgage payments. Our people are struggling. Our small businesses are struggling. People are struggling to make ends meet. As we face this very difficult time it is natural that the people of my State and the people around this country would look to their leaders in Washington for help.
Certainly government cannot solve all problems. But we here in government do not want to make the problems any worse. Right now we are on the verge of raising taxes on the American people. Tax cuts that were imposed in the last 10 years are set to expire if this Congress fails to act by the end of the year. What is this going to mean to the average Floridian, to the average American, if their taxes go up? It depends upon where you find yourself, in terms of how you pay your taxes. We know the tax brackets are going to increase. For example, the 10-percent tax bracket would disappear and those taxpayers would move up to the 15-percent bracket, capturing all those with incomes below $34,550. It is not just going to affect the people at the upper end of the tax scheme but it is going to affect everyone. When people are having a difficult time making ends meet, to have to pay more in taxes is exactly the wrong thing to do.
Some have said let's extend the tax cuts for those who are in the lower brackets and let's increase those who are at the higher brackets. The problem with that is you are again hurting this economy because we know that people who pay in the higher brackets are job creators. In fact, many of them are small businesses. In our country, small businesses often file as if they were individuals. Subchapter S corporations file as if they were individuals. By not continuing these tax cuts, by raising taxes in the middle of the recession, as many as three-quarters of a million small businesses in this country would have their taxes increase.
I was talking to some folks in Pensacola last week. The gentleman I was speaking to told me the story of a businessperson who related that he is being laid off at his job. The reason he is being laid off is his employer told him when his taxes go up he is not going to be able to afford to keep that employee on. When you raise taxes on small businesses you hurt job creators, exactly the wrong thing we should be doing in this very difficult time.
Instead of tackling issues that could help people get back to work, my friends on the other side of the aisle here are debating a campaign issue, a political issue about alleged campaign finance reform. Where is the initiative to try to put Americans back to work? Where are the offerings from my friends on the other side to get Americans back to work so we can get out of this very difficult economy? We on our side have proposed things such as cutting the payroll tax. If we cut the payroll tax 3 percent, every employee in America would get a 3-percent pay increase. Every employer would have 3 percent more they could use to buy a new piece of equipment or hire a new employee. That is the kind of policy this government could do to get people back to work.
Instead, we passed a $1 trillion health care plan that we found out today is going to require 80 percent of small businesses to change their health care offerings--probably more expensive. So that promise, ``If you liked your health care plan, you can keep it'' is going to ring hollow. We passed the financial regulation reform bill that is causing people in Florida to wonder whether they should move their businesses overseas. We passed huge forms of regulation--more bureaucracy, more spending. What is it doing to job creation? It is freezing it. When I go home to Florida and talk to businesses, they say: I don't know what government is going to hand me next. I don't know if I hire that 25th or 50th employee if I am now going to be fined for not having the right kind of health care. I don't know what is in that 2,000-page financial regulation bill. I don't know what is in that 2,000-page health care bill. What does it mean for my small business?
We have frozen American business, especially small business, which creates two out of every three jobs in this country, with too much bureaucracy, too much spending, too much borrowing, and too much debt.
That goes to another important point about my friends on the other side of the aisle trying to raise taxes in the middle of a recession. This government does not have a revenue problem. This government has a spending problem.
I came to the Senate a year ago, appointed to serve the people of Florida, 18.5 million Floridians. When I came to the Senate on September 10 of last year our national debt was just shy of $12 trillion--$11.7 trillion. The national debt today is $13.5 trillion. We have gone more than $1.5 trillion in additional debt in 1 year. It took 200 years for this country to go $1 trillion in debt. Why on Earth should the American people sacrifice more of their hard-earned money to give this body more money it is going to waste?
The American people have no confidence that we have any ability in Congress to spend their money wisely. They are right about that. That is why they are so angry, and they have a right to be angry--another $1.5 trillion in debt. These numbers are so enormous it is hard to get your brain around them. A trillion dollars is $1,000 billion. I tell folks when I meet with them, if you took $1 bills and laid them out on the ground, $1 million would cover two football fields; $1 billion would cover Key West, FL--3.4 miles square of $1 bills blanketing the ground. A trillion dollars would cover Rhode Island--twice. This is an enormous amount of money.
If you look at the 2009 budget, the 2010 budget, the 2011 budget--each one of them is about $1.3 to $1.5 billion in debt. That is more than $4 trillion debt in 3 years.
We cannot afford the government we have, let alone the government that some in this Chamber want. We need to do a much better job of spending the money we are spending now. But this body does not budget. We go through some procedure that is called budget but what we do is take last year's budget and add to it. No one goes into the agencies of government and says, Are these agencies spending their money efficiently and effectively? No one checks to see if every dollar spent is spent wisely. We are not jealous with the American people's dollars, we just spend them.
Most don't know what we spend them on. Most don't know what those dollars are for. That is because we do not balance our budget. We do not do what American families do when they sit around the table in a difficult economy and say: You know, we are not going to be able to take that vacation this year; or, You know, maybe our daughter cannot have those piano lesson; or, Maybe we have to put the braces off until next year. The hard decisions Americans are making right now are not being made in this Chamber. We are spending more and more of your money, so why on Earth should we take more of your money and give it to government when it is not being spent wisely?
The next generation's future is in jeopardy. If we continue to spend the way we are spending, the debt and deficit will be out of control. Right now we spend $200 billion a year on interest alone--paying for the obligations we should not have incurred in the past. That will turn to $900 billion by 2020 when the projected debt for this country will be $25 trillion. My friends, if we are $25 trillion in debt and we are spending $900 billion a year in interest payments, this government will not function.
This is not just a problem for our kids; this is a problem for us. This problem is going to visit us in the next 2 to 5 years. Washington does not have a revenue problem. Washington has a spending problem. Let's get about the business of getting Americans back to work. If Americans are back to work, there will be more people paying taxes, there will be more revenues. Let's get about the business of balancing the budget and spending money on things that are efficient and effective.
This body should not budget and spend money every year. We should do it every 2 years. My colleague Senator Thune has proposed that. Let's spend the other year on oversight making sure your money is spent wisely. If we are required to balance the budget, we will actually look in these agencies and see if they are spending your money wisely. If we do those two things, we can save America. So let's get about that business. Instead of talking about increasing taxes on small business and individuals, let's cut the payroll tax. Let's give employees a pay raise and employers a chance to hire new employees and buy equipment. Let's pass the free trade agreements with Colombia, with Panama, and South Korea. We know those agreements will create more jobs, especially in a State such as Florida. Why have they not been sent to the Congress for approval? My friends on the other side of the aisle like to talk about job creation, but none of the measures that is coming to the floor of this body, or very few, have anything to do with getting Americans back to work.
Today we are missing another opportunity as this body debates alleged campaign finance reform instead of caring about what the American people care about and that is creating jobs.
Mr. President, I yield the floor. I suggest the absence of a quorum.
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