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Tax Loopholes, Exemptions, and Deductions

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. DUFFY. I appreciate the gentleman from Arkansas yielding.

I think you make very powerful arguments as to why our friends on the other side of the aisle were unwilling to get rid of these horrible tax loopholes, because when the two of us got to this House in January, they were here. They were here in a Democrat-controlled House, Senate, and with a Democratic President; and they did nothing to do away with these loopholes. When we got to this House, we said, No more crony capitalism, no more corporate welfare. Let's do away with all of these loopholes, all of these nooks and crannies where some big business will hide their money and not pay their fair share. And we'll restructure our Tax Code to make us more competitive in this global marketplace.

And when we did that, the Democrats said, no, they didn't want to participate in reforming the Tax Code. But then they have no problem standing here today and making arguments that we're the ones that want to keep these loopholes in place. Absolutely false.

I've had a chance to sit in and listen to the debate that's going on in this House. I continually hear my friends across the aisle talk about jobs that are getting shipped overseas. And I've got to tell you, that is a great concern for me. They missed the disconnect, however, between jobs leaving America and the regulation and tax rates that we have in America.

You know, this isn't 1960. It's not 1980. It's not 1990. We are in a new global marketplace. In days gone by, America was the only place really to do business. But now our capital, it can go anywhere in the world. It can go to Thailand, India, Vietnam, Canada, Mexico. It can go anywhere. And when you start raising taxes on our job creators, and then you sit and scratch your head and wonder why they're leaving, it's pretty obvious.

We see it on a smaller level in our States. When we see more regulation, more taxes in our States, like California, all of a sudden businesses pack up, and they go to another State that has better rules, regulations, and taxes. That happens on a broader scale right here in America. You raise the cost of doing business; you kill jobs in America. And you know what, in the end, does it hurt these businesses? No. The people that it hurts are our constituents, our families, our people in our districts that are yearning for opportunities, yearning for a job. It's those people that this hurts.

Mr. GRIFFIN of Arkansas. I just want to ask the gentleman, what will it take for folks here to start wondering why businesses are leaving the country? It seems as if they always want to point the finger to someone else or some third party, some external cause. Maybe we should think about the fact that the policies adopted by the Federal Government have an impact. Businesses react to policies passed in this Congress, in the Senate, and particularly to regulations drafted, promulgated by the administration.

At some point we have to say wait a minute. Businesses are leaving, taking their jobs elsewhere. Maybe, just maybe, they're doing it because we're running them off. We need to ask that question.

Back in my district, in the Second District of Arkansas, in Little Rock and the surrounding area, I like to say, we've got big job creators and small job creators, but the common denominator is they're job creators.

I don't ask that people like business or be in business or whatever. I just ask that they acknowledge that businesses create jobs. And if we run businesses off, if we adopt policies that curtail economic growth and chase businesses away to other countries, we're going to lose jobs. That's not hard to figure out.

Mr. DUFFY. I would agree with the gentleman. And I think it's interesting, as a guy who's come here from central and northern Wisconsin, Wisconsin's Seventh Congressional District, I see that this is a House that will continually talk about political spin and political positioning instead of actual policies that are going to work for American families and American businesses.

I think it's interesting the President likes to talk about corporate jet loopholes. For me, I think it's important that we're clear. The tax increases that the President and my friends across the aisle in the Democrat Party are talking about, these are tax increases on the small job creators in my district, the ones, the same ones that we are asking to expand and grow and create jobs and put our hardworking families of Wisconsin back to work. It's those people that they're asking to raise taxes on, and I think that's absolutely wrong.

I always hear my friends across the aisle talk about the nineties and how great things were in the nineties. They were great. And they talk about the tax rates of the nineties.

I think it's important to note that even Bill Clinton has said, listen, this isn't 1990 anymore. He has looked at our proposal and basically said, listen, let's make our top rates more competitive in this global marketplace. If we make it more competitive, in the end we are going to be more competitive.

And I just think it's so important that we take a hard look at the regulations and the taxes that come from this town because, in the end, if we engage, if we have policies that allow our people to do what they do best, which is innovate and grow and expand and reap the benefits of their hard work, I think we're going to see America great again and create jobs. But if we stifle that, I think we're going to have a new America that I think none of us would recognize.

Mr. GRIFFIN of Arkansas. I think ultimately the standard for me is: Am I doing things that make the United States more attractive to job creators or less attractive?

We want to be a country where job creators around the world and here say, America is where I want to do business. America is where I want to innovate. America is where I want to create. America is where I want to pursue technological advancement and create jobs. America is the only place to do business. America is the only place to create jobs. That's the America that I want to help create. I don't want to create an America that punishes job creators in such a way that they flee the country. And that's exactly, on many fronts, what we're doing.

I yield to the gentleman.

Mr. DUFFY. Thank you. I appreciate the gentleman for yielding.

When I talk to my job creators back in Wisconsin, never do they say, We're leaving because of the quality of workers we have in this area. Actually, they say we have the hardest working, most productive, smartest workers right here in Wisconsin, right here in America. We don't leave because of the work force. We leave because of the regulations that come from this town, the taxes that come from this town. And I think it's important, again, that we continue to look at that, because, in the end, this doesn't hurt businesses. It hurts families.

We want to make sure we keep our families strong in America with plenty of opportunity. It makes me think to the conversation that happened earlier about Medicare, and we've heard a lot today, with our friends across the aisle demagoguing this Medicare issue, that the Republican Party wants to take away Medicare from our seniors. That's absolutely incorrect. We want to save Medicare. We want to make sure that we preserve it, that we make sure that our seniors, that they get everything that they bargained for, and that we make sure we have a Medicare plan that's in place for future generations. And when I hear my friends across the aisle talk about Medicare, I scratch my head because they're the only ones who ever cut it. In PPACA, the health care reform bill, ObamaCare, they take $500 billion out of Medicare.

As I talk to seniors around my district, one of the things that makes them so angry is that their Social Security trust fund has been raided for decades, and now the President and the Democrats have raided the Medicare fund as well. I find that to be absolutely unacceptable.

Then you add on top of that the IPAB board, the Independent Payment Advisory Board. This is a board that is going to look at Medicare reimbursement rates, and what they're going to do is lower reimbursements on certain procedures. And Medicare reimbursements are already so low, you reduce them even further, you are going to start to see doctors and hospitals stop providing those services to our seniors. And so, in the end, this IPAB board is going to impact access to care for our current seniors. That is absolutely unacceptable.

We have to keep the promise to our current seniors but also make sure we reform it for future generations so it's saved.

I mean, the President has come out and said we need to reform it. Well, okay, Mr. President, let's reform it, but let's make sure we do it in a way that preserves the benefits for our current retirees and those who are about to retire, and make sure those who might have a different program have enough time to plan their retirement around the new changes. That's exactly what we do.

But they demagogue this issue and our party for trying to fix this great program. I struggle with that. I think it's misrepresenting to the American people about where we stand.

Mr. GRIFFIN of Arkansas. I appreciate the gentleman raising the issue of Medicare. I'd like to take a few minutes to talk about some of the things I've heard here on the floor tonight.

First of all, if you're just joining us, I can just tell you that a little earlier tonight here on the floor there was a poster being used and the poster showed a tombstone. It showed a tombstone, and it said, ``Medicare.'' And the implication was that Medicare was going to be killed; Medicare was going to be eliminated. And nothing could be further from the truth if we take action to save Medicare. If we allow Medicare to continue as it currently is with no changes, it goes bankrupt in anywhere from 5 to 10 years, if we do nothing.

Now, some of us have done something to save Medicare. What did we do? Well, we came up with a plan as part of our budget in the House to save Medicare for future generations.

Now, what other plans are out there? Right now, none. The Senate doesn't have a budget. The Senate doesn't have a plan to save Medicare. The President's budget doubles the debt in 5 years, triples it in 10 years, doesn't even deal with entitlements.

It got zero votes in the U.S. Senate and does nothing to save Medicare. In fact, it was so silent on Medicare and entitlements that the President had to come and give a Mulligan speech after we proposed our budget in the House. He gave a speech saying, Well, what I really meant was, and he laid out some ideas, not enough specifics--so few specifics, in fact, that the Congressional Budget Office said, We can't analyze that speech; we can't score that speech, not enough specifics.

So the Senate doesn't have a plan to save it. The President doesn't have a plan to save Medicare. We have a plan to save Medicare.

So what has happened? What has happened is the folks on the other side of the aisle made a conscious decision to attack our plan to save Medicare, and by doing so they engaged in a fiscal fantasy. What does that mean? Well, it means that they compare our reform with the way things are now with Medicare. They say, You're ending Medicare as we know it. Well, the problem with that is Medicare as we know it, on the path that it's currently on, goes bankrupt.

It would be one thing if they were comparing their reform plan to save Medicare with our reform plan to save Medicare, but they're not because they don't have a plan. So they prefer to compare our plan with the way things are now, even though they know the way things are now is going away. In fact, I'd like to read just a couple of quick quotes here.

President Obama has said: ``If you look at the numbers, Medicare in particular will run out of money and we will not be able to sustain that program no matter how much taxes go up. I mean, it's not an option for us to just sit by and do nothing.''

Now, that's President Obama acknowledging that Medicare is going bankrupt, acknowledging that we must do something to save it, yet he hasn't proposed a plan to save it.

And another quick quote, Senator Lieberman, former Vice Presidential candidate nominee for the Democrat Party, now an Independent, he said: ``The truth is that we cannot save Medicare as we know it. We can save Medicare only if we change it.''

That is the hard reality, and that is what we are trying to do is save Medicare. And that is precisely what we did in our budget that we adopted this year. If you're 55 or over, there's no change. If you're under 55, you would be in the new program, as Medicare would be constituted, what we call Premium Support. If you're 55 and over, as the gentleman said, there are no changes to you. We give folks time to transition to a new way of living under Medicare, a different kind of Medicare, but what we think would be more effective at reducing cost by putting in some market forces and saving Medicare for future generations.

I yield to the gentleman.

Mr. DUFFY. I appreciate the gentleman yielding, and I agree with most everything that you have said here, and very well said.

The one point I disagree with is the President has no other plan, no doubt. With the PPACA bill, the health care reform bill, he does deal with Medicare, make no mistake. That is the Independent Payment Advisory Board, the IPAB board, that is going to systematically reduce reimbursements for seniors.

I think the gentleman said it very well when the President acknowledged that these programs can't sustain themselves on their current course, and so he has addressed it, and my friends across the aisle voted for it. And basically, this is a form of reducing reimbursement, which is a form of reducing access to care for current seniors to reduce the outlays of Medicare. It's a disingenuous, I think, way of basically coming around the corner and saying, You know what? We're going to ration care for our seniors. And I find that to be absolutely unacceptable.

Mr. GRIFFIN of Arkansas. Just real quickly I wanted to point out, just to clarify, I totally agree that he has a plan. Unfortunately, he doesn't have a plan to save Medicare. He only has the plan that he passed in his health care law. And as you pointed out, with the cuts that were in the President's health care law, President Obama's health care law ended Medicare as we know it, because it took $500 billion out and introduced this unelected board, the IPAB that you so eloquently describe.

So I just wanted to clarify, he has a plan. He doesn't have a plan to save Medicare.

Mr. DUFFY. That's right. And there is but only one plan that saves Medicare, and that is ours. And I should have explained that better. I would agree with you.

But just to reiterate, it's not just us and the President saying that Medicare is going broke. The CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, a nonpartisan group, has said that in 9 years the Medicare trust fund is going bankrupt. The Medicare trustees have come out and said the Medicare trust fund will be broke in 10 years.

So make no mistake, we have to fix it. We have to address Medicare. Let's not sit in this House and demagogue this issue. Let's not throw stones at those who want to fix it. Actually engage in the debate or at least take responsibility for cutting $500 billion, taking money out of a program that people paid into, and using it for a whole different set of people who didn't pay into that program. We're robbing this fund, robbing Peter to pay Paul. Let's save Medicare. And you don't save it by robbing it. Let's not rob Medicare.

You know, I think we got in this situation as Americans because all the time our politicians, they come back to their States and their districts and they make promises to their people. They tell them, Listen, I'm going to give you the Sun and the Moon and the stars. Don't worry, we can pay for it, not a big deal. I'm going to keep this promise to you.

And that's how they get elected year after year by making promises. Well, the time has come to say these promises can't be kept. And you know what? I think this freshman class of Republicans have come in and said, We're not going to lie to you anymore. We're going to tell you the truth. The truth is we can't continue on this course. We're going to level with you and say we have to reform it to save it. We can't continue to borrow $1.5 trillion a year and not have substantial economic consequences for the next generation. We have to fix it. You might not want to hear it, but it's the truth. We're going to give you the truth. We're not going to lie to you anymore.

And I think once we all know where we are at as a country, we can then come together and go as a country, How do we fix the problems that face us as a country? But when we have one party that doesn't want to acknowledge the problems that we face and they want to mislead the American people about those problems, it's hard to have an honest conversation.

Well, I didn't come here to misrepresent to the American people. I've come here to be honest and to level with the American people and say, This is where we're at. Let's find solutions that work for the American people.

There is a chart here that I know so many people have seen, Mr. Speaker; but if you look at it, this is a chart that shows gross domestic product in our years out and our debt to GDP, our debt to the size of our economy. In World War II, our debt was about 100 percent of the size of our economy in a year, but we were at war. It was World War II. That went down. But if you look out, look to our future.

This is a sea of red. This is a sea of debt that we are going to leave to the next generation. Our economy will collapse well before we get to the crest of that wave. But that is our future, make no mistake, unless we change course.

I think it is important to note where does this debt come from. Who is financing this debt, because in World War II, American citizens bought war bonds and paid for this debt. Not today, because in 1970, 5 percent of the debt was held by foreign entities. In 1990, 19 percent of our debt was held by foreign entities. And today, 47 percent of our debt is held by foreign entities. And guess what country owns the largest share of that foreign debt? That's right, China. China owns about 30 percent of that foreign debt. We are mortgaging our children's future. We are giving the Chinese Government an economic nuclear bomb because we can't get our fiscal house in order in this House.

It is time that we come together and fix the problems that face this country. Let's not kick the can down the road. Let's not let this be the future that our children inherit. But to prevent it, we have to act. And we are here to act.

Mr. GRIFFIN of Arkansas. When I look at those charts, I ask myself: How big does our debt have to get before the other side of the aisle joins us in getting our fiscal house in order? How big? It is $14 trillion now--$16 trillion, $20 trillion, $50 trillion? How big does it have to get before the other side of the aisle admits that we are spending too much money?

I will tell you, I have been studying some of the details of our budget and how we got into this mess. I would be remiss if I did not comment on something I heard earlier today. Someone said: Well, the Bush tax cuts created our debt. That's how we got into debt.

Completely untrue. I took a chart that showed our revenue year by year as a percentage of the economy. And after 9/11, certainly the economy slowed down and our revenues, our tax receipts decreased significantly. But I can tell you that by 2007, our tax receipts were back up to about 18.5 percent of GDP. In 2007, and that was before the meltdown of the housing market in 2008, but that was while we had the Bush tax cuts in place--18.5 percent.

Now, what is interesting, if you go back and look at the mid-1990s, there were some years that had a higher percentage of GDP for revenue, but there are several years that are below that. My point is whatever contribution tax rates have had on revenue, the primary driver of how much revenue we get a particular year is whether we are having economic growth. That is the primary driver. That is the primary determining factor of how much money comes into the coffers of the United States Government.

The idea that we got in this mess because we are somehow as Americans not taxed enough is ludicrous. All you have to do is look at the spending pattern and the trajectory of the debt that you just put up there. It follows the same path, revenue relatively steady over the decade at an average of 18 percent of GDP. And expenditures--spending--off the charts, particularly in the last few years.

I just want to be real clear here, both parties are to blame. The Congress is to blame. The House is to blame, the Senate, the White House. There is plenty of blame to go around. There is plenty of blame to go around. That's not the issue. The issue is how we fix it. And we first have to recognize that we have a spending problem.

Mr. DUFFY. Well said to the gentleman from Arkansas.

You know, jobs have been a key component of the debates here in this House because there is a 9.2 percent unemployment rate, and the effective rate is far higher--those who have stopped looking for work or those who are underemployed. People are suffering in our States and districts. We have seen what proposals have come out from the other side of the aisle. Let's take a walk down memory lane.

They told us that ObamaCare was going to create jobs. Well, all it did was give us a health care reform bill that is not going to get the job done, and it is going to cost us an extra trillion dollars over the next 10 years. They gave us a trillion-dollar stimulus bill, and we weren't supposed to see unemployment over 8 percent if that passed. We just found out for every job created or saved, it cost the taxpayer over $250,000 per job. That is not a job-creating bill.

And now what has happened is they have come into this House and they want to tell the American people that we can create jobs in America if we raise taxes on the job creators. You ask any economist, or you just use common sense, to raise taxes on job creators, to take money away from them, and to think they are going to create jobs when they have less money doesn't make any economic sense.

You raise taxes on your job creators, you have less jobs. And if you have less jobs, then you have less people paying taxes. And if you have less people paying taxes, you have less money coming into the Federal coffers. Let's put America back to work. When America works, they get off the unemployment track and start getting paychecks. I want to see Americans and Wisconsinites getting paychecks.

But a lot of the circles around this debt that we face in this country, and I know in my own district, there are people who need help from the government. I want to make sure we have a safety net in place to help those people. I see them all the time, and they need help from the government. I want to make sure that we're there to provide that assistance that they need. Or for those who fall on hard times, I want to make sure that we have a safety net in place to help them.

But let me tell you what, if we continue to borrow and spend this way, there isn't going to be money for those who need the most help. Look to Greece. If you want to see America's future, if we stay on this current course, look to Greece. Look at the protests. When you make promises to people that you can't keep, what

happens? They take to the streets and they riot. Let's not lie to the American people. Let's tell them the truth. Let's not Greece be America's future. Let's make sure we have a great and prosperous country, the same that our Forefathers passed to us.

But to have that, we have to fight for it because the status quo is this: massive debt. And with that massive debt, you have Greece-like riots in the streets. That is unacceptable. Let's face this challenge head on and make sure that we leave an America that is prosperous, bright, and full of hope for the next generation.

Mr. GRIFFIN of Arkansas. I just want to close by mentioning the discussion of the debt ceiling. What I would say to the President tonight is that this House has put forth a plan. We have a plan in the form of our budget. But we also have a plan in the form of our Cut, Cap, and Balance where we cut spending and we cap spending in the future and we move toward a balanced budget. We passed that here in the House the tonight. That's a plan. That's a plan that we can debate. We can discuss. The President can criticize. But what we haven't seen from the President is a plan. A plan of his that we can look at and study and that the American people can consider.

I would just ask the President to put his ideas out there. Come out of those rooms and put his ideas in public and let us analyze them and discuss them and let the American people examine for themselves.

Mr. DUFFY. One point, we don't want to do a cabernet dance here. There is no doubt that the proposal that came out the House and passed, it is now going to go to the President. Most Americans know when you buy a house or a car, you make an offer. When you make an offer, the seller makes a counteroffer. We'll wait for the President's counterproposal, if he is going to lead, the leader of the free world. Let's see him put his ideas on paper. Let him show the American people what his ideas are, just as we have shown the American people what our ideas are. I encourage him to do that.

I thank the gentleman from Arkansas for hosting tonight's conversation.

Mr. GRIFFIN of Arkansas. Thank you, and I appreciate the gentleman joining me.


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