Search Form
First, enter a politician or zip code
Now, choose a category

Public Statements

Economic Development Revitalization Act of 2011

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I have listened to this debate all morning, as an original cosponsor with Senator Snowe on her bill. I wish to talk about the EDA first, and then I will talk about what most of us do not realize because most of us have not taken the time to look.

There are 80 economic development programs in the Federal Government through 4 agencies that spend $6.6 billion a year. Not one of them has a metric on it to see if it is successful.

We have heard all morning about $3,000 per job. That is all self-reported stuff. No oversight on it. No committee oversight on it. No hard work to see--there is not a metric on one of these programs to see if it is working. Now we have a bill on the floor to spend another $500 million a year on something we have no idea what--we have anecdotal evidence, but what does the OIG say? The OIG says, first of all, this program has been used as a congressional slush fund to direct money to friends of Members of Congress. That is what they say. Fully one-third of the projects never come to completion. So the money that was spent on it ends up being totally wasted. We are reauthorizing a bill that nobody can show the statistics that it is, in fact, effective. It is not just that we are reauthorizing this bill, we have 79 other programs.

Ask yourself a question. We are $14 trillion in debt. We are nearly bankrupt. We are running a $1.5 trillion deficit. And we have a bill on the floor to spend $500 million, and we do not know whether it works. We claim, anecdotally, we see positive things every now and then. Well, you know, there are positive outcomes to illness too. But the fact is, we do not know what we are doing.

What the Congress ought to be doing is saying: If, in fact, it is a role for the Federal Government to have economic development activities, then we ought to center it in 1 area, and we ought to have 1 or 2 programs, not 80 with 80 sets of administrators, 80 sets of commissions, and $6.6 billion a year, with half of it not accomplishing any purpose for the American people other than make the Senators and Congressmen feel good because they think they may have done something.

So the whole idea that we would put forward a bill that has never truly been oversighted in terms of the way everybody else would oversight the way they spend their money to see if it is effective in the whole, not anecdotal evidence of one company or one benefit--put it all together, and if we have a role, let's put together a program that will work, No. 1; No. 2, that has metrics on it so we can measures whether it is effective when we are actually borrowing the money to do this. By the way, if we actually pass this bill and $500 million gets spent, we are going to borrow $200 million from the international financial community to do it. When we know one-third of it is wasted, that just does not make any sense.

So the whole idea of Congress passing this EDA bill, in light of not doing oversight on the other 79 economic development programs under the other 4 agencies, is the definition of insanity. We don't know what we are doing.

Now, let's talk about regulation for a minute. There is well over $2 trillion in the United States sitting in small, medium, and large businesses right now that is not invested for jobs. Why is that? Why are people afraid to go out and invest and get a return on capital? It is because they do not see any clarity in the future. The administration we have today has issued 40 percent more regulations--40 percent more regulations--than any administration in history in the first 2 years. One of the reasons people do not have confidence is they cannot handle the regulatory framework that is coming at them so fast.

The other thing I have observed is that when regulations are written, they are oftentimes written without people with the real knowledge of what they are writing the regulations for. Eighty percent of the regulations written in this country are written by lawyers within the agency in which they are doing it. Now, I like lawyers. That is good enough. But how about having someone who has real experience in the area in which they are writing the regulation rather than a lawyer write a regulation for it?

A great example is that one of the good things about the new health care bill was going to be where we combine things into accountable care organizations, where we end up putting hospitals and doctors and physical therapists and mental health workers all together, and then we work as a team so we can cut the costs and not have duplication and get better outcomes. The regulations on that were 220 pages long, with 65 things you have to do every day on every patient to report back to the Federal Government. Well, that is just idiotic. It is asinine. Yet that is the regulation that came out on what I view as one of the few positive things about the affordable care act.

The Senator from Maine outlined the cost of business regulation to small businesses and large businesses. It is $1.7 trillion a year; that is, fully 12 percent of our GDP is the cost of regulations that are coming from the Federal Government.

All this bill says is--it is a way to force the administration and the agency--it does not matter if it is a Republican or Democratic administration. They are both the same. It does not have anything to do with what party is in power in the administration, but to hold the agencies accountable, that they will look at the impact of the regulations they write so they are not counterproductive to our country.

We are at a time period where we are at great risk as a nation--great risk--because we are so overly exposed on our debt and our deficit. For every 1 percent increase of interest rates that we are going to see next year, it is going to cost us, the taxpayers of America, $150 billion additional. And there is no question we are going to see interest rates rise in this country. So we do not create the confidence of the small and medium businesses to go out and build that next production line or build a way to produce this next new idea, because what they are seeing is so much blowback from an unaccountable, misdirected Federal Government.

So what Senator Snowe wants to do is totally connected with common sense. But you know what, we don't want to do that. We don't want to do that. And the excuse is that we have not been through committee. Well, let me tell you, one-third of the bills that come to the floor of the Senate have never been through the committee, and now we are saying an amendment has to come through the committee. It is ludicrous. It is also false. It is that we really don't trust the American people. That is what it really says, we really don't trust the American people to use common sense. The reason we don't is because we have no connection with common sense whatsoever in this body, and because we can't figure it out, we don't think they can. So Big Brother has to tell you every time, every location, at every situation what you can do.

The thing that has changed in my adult lifetime is when I was a medical device manufacturer in the seventies, the presumption was on the government to prove that I was doing something wrong.

With our regulatory framework now, the presumption is on you, the American citizen, to prove you didn't do something wrong. That is why this overregulation, this attendance to detail matters to nothing, except a gnat on the top of a pin. It is out there and is so costly, in terms of the cost of compliance, it makes no difference in terms of somebody's outcome. But, mainly, it is costing us jobs. It is costing us the very thing that built this country--the premise that you can put together an idea and build on that idea with hard work and minimal capital and make it a success.

The thing that is blocking that is the regulation coming from the Federal Government. This is a straightforward bill. Let's hold the bureaucrats accountable. If they will not be held accountable, you will have a way to hold them accountable.

I don't get it. I don't get why anybody would object to this because it is not stopping regulation; it is saying you have to figure out whether it is prudent. If you are not following the Regulatory Flexibility Act, then we are going to make you do it because, we will give you a basis in a court of law to be able to do that.

What is wrong with that? Nobody has addressed what is wrong with that. They have just said, no, we don't like it, we don't want it. So we are going to do everything we can to make sure an amendment, which will fix the problems in this country and start creating jobs, and will actually move money into investment to create new opportunities for jobs for Americans, when we have 17 million Americans who want to work but can't, we are going to defeat it. We are so disconnected with what is important in this country, and it is so frustrating. I am surprised I still have hair on my head.

Senator Snowe knows more about small business in this Senate than any other Senator. She has worked on it for years. She knows the problem. She has offered a solution that is common sense, that will work, that won't cost a lot of money, but will rein in the bureaucracy when they do the wrong thing or they don't follow the law.

For us to say, no, we are not going to do it because there may be a small amount of risk that something might go wrong, that is exactly the same way the bureaucracies work. Let me tell you how they work. They never do what is best for the country, they do what is safe for the bureaucracy. That is why we have so much regulation, because they don't want to be criticized. You can't walk through life without being criticized. Nobody is perfect. No action is perfect. So let's hold them accountable and help them be better. Let's be uplifters to them and put some tools there that will enable us to have a good regulatory framework that actually accomplishes the purpose of the regulations but doesn't destroy what small amount of manufacturing business we have left.

With that, I yield the floor.


Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I want to make a couple of comments. I said in my earlier comments there are some good things about the EDA. But the fact is, they are all self-reported. There is no data. There are no methods. Any time you send money to the State of Oklahoma, I guarantee you the people who are going to get the money are going to like it. But there isn't one metric, one set of metrics that measures the effectiveness of the money that has been spent through EDA in terms of job creation. Fully one-third of the dollars don't get through to completion over the history of the program.

The very idea we would defend the bureaucracy--the bureaucracy didn't help us on 9/11 because they were stovepiped and they didn't communicate. The bureaucracy failed to ensure the safety of the levees in New Orleans--this same bureaucracy that doesn't need to be controlled. The bureaucracy didn't protect us from the financial crisis of 2008 because we didn't do the oversight. The bureaucracy didn't protect the gulf from the Deepwater Horizon. We had a bureaucracy that was supposed to be in charge of that, but they didn't do their job.

The SBIR--you had my full support on SBIR; the Senator from Louisiana knows that. She had my support on that because that is one of the proven programs inside the SBA that actually has metrics on it that works. So the debate is whether we hold back the regulatory framework.

I find it ironic that you agree with us in principle but won't vote with us on this amendment because it didn't go through a committee. It is amazing.

Ms. LANDRIEU. Will the Senator yield for a question?

Mr. COBURN. I want to finish my points and then leave the floor because I have something else I have to do.

It is amazing the negative effects we all are hearing from all across the country. Every Senator is hearing how regulation is drowning out opportunity for investment that creates jobs in this country. Every program has some positive aspects to it. The question isn't whether they have positive aspects, it is what is our priority now that we are bankrupted. Where should we be spending the money so we get the best bang for the buck. How do we pull back the regulatory framework so that it is common-sense oriented rather than bureaucratic oriented? That is what Senator Snowe is trying to do and to give some type of power to the very people who are being regulated. Because we certainly won't do the oversight. We haven't done the oversight.

It is interesting that when the GAO put out this last report on duplication, they are right, they didn't say in these particular programs. But I put out a report 9 months before that detailed the duplication in these programs, and it was published, so you can find the duplication.

The important point is we are strangling business and job development--small and medium. The big guys can take all this regulation, and they are already staffed up. The small- and medium-sized businesses can't. We have to give them a way to force common sense onto the bureaucracy. That is all this does. Everybody hears it from all of their constituents, that regulation is killing business formation and job creation. Why would we not want to put in some balance? I don't understand it.

The real problem with the regulatory agencies is us, because we won't oversight them. There was no oversight hearing on the EDA. Nobody ever asked the question: Where are the metrics? We hear all this anecdotal evidence about how great it is when we give money to the States that they can do things, but where are the numbers that show the job creation for every thousand dollars that gets spent? It is self-reported, but there is nothing that looks at it that says statistically here is the proof.

If the EDA is the best way to create jobs in this country, I am all for it. But I want to see some data that says that right now. We have job training programs, 47 of them in this country, and we spend $18 billion a year on them. We have 104 science, technology, engineering, and math programs across nine different agencies we are spending $16 billion on a year. We have no data on any of those programs anywhere, but we have it out there. We have no idea what we are doing because we won't ask the hard questions and we won't study it. Nobody would have 104 science, technology, engineering, and math programs. We have 64 programs--and 20-some of them are outside the Department of Education--to improve teacher training quality.

The reason we are in trouble is because we haven't done our job on oversight. So anyone can claim anecdotal evidence that something is good, but you should know that when we spend $1,000 of the taxpayers' money--money we don't have today because we are borrowing it from China--we ought to be certain that it is actually going to create something because our kids are paying the bill. The next generation is going to pay the bill, and they will pay that bill through a markedly lower standard of living.

With that, I yield the floor.


Mr. COBURN. Madam President, I want to discuss for a minute the modification to my amendment.

Corn prices today are at their highest level since 1974. Corn supply is at its lowest level since 1974. We have tremendous problems with food inflation in this country. What we put forward this afternoon is a modification to the blending tax credit, as well as the import tax fee on ethanol, and we look forward to that debate as we go forward.

The Federal Government now spends $6 billion a year paying over 40 cents a gallon to have ethanol blended, which is already mandated by law that they have to blend it anyway. So this, in essence, will save $3 billion this year for the Federal Government.

No. 2 is, it will take significant pressure off corn prices, which will lower food prices both here and abroad.

With that, I yield to the Senator from Oklahoma, who wishes to speak as in morning business.


Skip to top

Help us stay free for all your Fellow Americans

Just $5 from everyone reading this would do it.

Back to top