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How to Grow the American Economy

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. WOODALL. Madam Speaker, I very much appreciate the time and your staying with me late on a Thursday afternoon to do this. Is it Thursday afternoon, Madam Speaker, or Friday afternoon? It's Thursday afternoon. I'm losing track of my days because I'm on the Budget Committee, Madam Speaker, I'm on the Budget Committee, and this is budget season, and we are going nonstop meeting after meeting after meeting after meeting to try to find that budget that not only guarantees that our safety net programs like Medicare and Social Security will be there for generations to come, but that also guarantees that America will be here for generations to come. Because if you've looked at the deficits that we're running, if you've looked at the economic circumstances that we're in, if you've looked at the $15 trillion--now $16 trillion--that we've passed on to our children and our grandchildren, you know that our economic future is at risk.

We talk so much, Madam Speaker, about the things that divide us in Washington. I sometimes think that's unfortunate. There's really a lot that unites us. And I brought with me today some quotes from President Obama in the State of the Union speeches that he's given right here between where you and I stand today, Madam Speaker, when he has come to the Joint Session of Congress to deliver.

This is what he said in 2010. The President said:

We should start where most new jobs do, in small businesses, companies that begin when an entrepreneur takes a chance on a dream or a worker decides it's time that she became her own boss. Through sheer grit and determination, these companies have weathered the recession and they are ready to grow.

Wow. Who is that talking, Madam Speaker? Is that a Republican? Is that a Democrat? That's an American. That's an American talking about the American Dream of being your own boss and growing a business, employing your neighbors and growing the American economy. The President understood that when he gave his State of the Union speech in 2010.

In 2011, Madam Speaker, the President returned right here to this very same room, and he said this:

At stake right now is not who wins the next election. At stake is whether new jobs and industries take root in this country or somewhere else.

He was exactly right. He's exactly right about the grit that it takes for entrepreneurs to grow jobs in this country, and he is right that the question is not who wins the next election; the question is how do we ensure that new jobs and new industries take place in America instead of somewhere else around the globe.

Again, in 2011, Madam Speaker, the President said this in the State of the Union speech:

We measure progress by the success of our people, by the jobs they can find and the quality of life those jobs offer; by the prospects of a small business owner who dreams of turning a good idea into a thriving enterprise, and by the opportunities for a better life that we pass on to our children.

Madam Speaker, we see so much in the newspaper about what divides us in this country. These are words that unite us, words that Republicans, Democrats--Americans from north and south, east and west--can all get behind. They don't stop in 2011.

Here he is in 2012, just 2 months ago, Madam Speaker, right here in this Chamber:

To reduce barriers to growth and investment, I've ordered a review of government regulations. When we find rules that are unnecessary, that put an unnecessary burden on business, we will fix them.

He said that two months ago, right here in this Chamber.

Madam Speaker, you know, as I know, that business in this country is under assault. And when business in this country is under assault, American families in this country are under assault, entrepreneurship in this country is under assault, the very basis of the American Dream, of being able to put in a hard day's work for a hard day's wage, to be able to change your station in life by the power of your ideas and the sweat of your brow, is at risk. And why?

I have here, Madam Speaker, a chart that shows the regulatory burden in this Nation. What it actually charts is those regulations that come out of Washington, D.C., where implementation costs alone are $100 million a year--the implementation costs alone. Not what it burdens businesses with in terms of lost revenues, not the number of jobs that it kills, not how many jobs it pushes overseas to China, to India and elsewhere instead of keeping those jobs in America, but just what it costs out of someone's wallet to actually implement that regulation, and this is what we see.

In 1995, of course, there was a Republican Congress with Newt Gingrich leading as Speaker and a Democratic President with Bill Clinton. You see this kind of level line at about 80 regulations a year--80 regulations a year. It goes along and along, through the Clinton administration, through the Bush administration. And then we get to 2006, when America decided they could tell no difference between Republicans and Democrats, and they threw the Republicans out of control of the Congress--as well they should have, as well they should have--but what happened--elections have consequences--when they threw Republicans out of the leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives, the number of regulations began to skyrocket. Even with President Bush in the White House, this Congress is where that legislation begins, the number of regulations on small business begins to skyrocket. Then we get to 2008, when President Obama is sworn in to the White House, when Democrats rule both the House and the Senate, and you see regulations and the burden they cause rise right to the top.

Madam Speaker, the decisions we make in this Chamber have consequences. It's not nothing to tell a small business that there's a new rule or regulation that that small business has to comply with because it takes money and it takes time to comply with those regulations. They need to be important, and we need to take a look at it. The President says all the right things. I just couldn't agree with him more.

To reduce barriers to growth and investment, I've ordered a review of government regulations. When we find rules that are an unnecessary burden on business, we will fix them.

The speech says all the right things, Madam Speaker. But the evidence suggests that we are on a regulatory spending spree the likes of which this country has never seen. And if you think for a minute we cannot destroy the entrepreneurial spirit in this country, you're mistaken.

Do you know that entrepreneurial activity, Madam Speaker, is at a historic low in America today? I'm not talking about the number of businesses that succeed. I'm talking about the number of Americans who dare to try.

Economic good times come, and economic bad times come. The economy will always ebb and flow. But when Americans are afraid to try, when the regulatory burden is such that Americans do not dare to try, we are threatening the future of this Nation and the economic success of our children and our grandchildren.

They published an editorial in The Wall Street Journal, Madam Speaker. It was written by one of the four founders of Home Depot. Now, Madam Speaker, as you know, I'm a freshman Congressman from the great State of Georgia, birthplace of Home Depot. I hope folks have an opportunity to go and shop there. I hope you've had an opportunity to take your kids over and do some of the morning craft projects that they do there at the Home Depot and wear the orange apron.

But this is what that founder said:

If we got together today--the four of them who got together to found Home Depot--if we got together today with our same idea, our same intellect, our same capital, if we gathered together today, we could not make Home Depot succeed. Why? Because the regulatory burden in America is too great to allow for business growth.

Madam Speaker, these challenges that we face are not global challenges about which we have no control. They are domestic challenges about which we have complete control. We choose, Madam Speaker, which regulations we pass and which ones we say no to. I'm proud to say, Madam Speaker, since this new Congress was sworn in, we have not implemented one more regulation on this line. We are trying to turn back. We had the JOBS Act this week to turn back the clock on that regulatory burden to allow folks with energy and creativity to begin to grow jobs again, but it's a team sport.

Let me take you back to the rhetoric, Madam Speaker. You know, rhetoric has a pejorative term to it. I shouldn't say rhetoric, Madam Speaker. Let me take you back to the State of the Union speech that the President gave right here in this Chamber. Again, I listened to those State of the Union speeches. And I confess, I may be a rock-solid conservative Republican from the Deep South, but those speeches move me from time to time. They move me because I agree with the words that the President says. I just disagree with the actions that he does.

Here we go, 2009. State of the Union speech again, Madam Speaker, right here in this Chamber. The President said this:

Given these realities, everyone in this Chamber, Democrats and Republicans, will have to sacrifice some worthy priorities for which there are no dollars, and that includes me.

He says leadership begins with him, and he's absolutely right. You know, Madam Speaker, we don't have control over the whole government in this Chamber, but we do have control over the budget of this Chamber. The budget that you've allocated to my office, to the Seventh District of Georgia, is lower this year than the budget that the Seventh District of Georgia had in 2008. These things about which we have control, Madam Speaker--we know leadership begins at home, and we are starting with the tough budget cuts right here in the House Chamber.

The President said the same thing in 2009. He said there has to be some sacrifice of worthy priorities for which there are no dollars. And when we have a $16 trillion deficit, Madam Speaker, we know that there are no dollars.

This is 2010--same President, same State of the Union speech right here in this Chamber, and the President says this:

Families across the country are tightening their belts and making tough decisions. The Federal Government should do the same.

He's absolutely right. He is absolutely right, Madam Speaker. Families across this country are absolutely making changes, absolutely doing what it takes to balance their budgets. The Federal Government can and must do the same. He said it in 2009. He said it in 2010. Madam Speaker, here we are in 2011, same State of the Union speech, he says this:

Every day, families sacrifice to live within their means. They deserve a government that does the same.

Madam Speaker, again, he's absolutely right. He was right when he said it in 2009, he was right when he said it in 2010, he was right when he said it in 2011. But, Madam Speaker, he hasn't done anything about it. That's the challenge. It's an election year, and folks like to say all the right things, Madam Speaker. But I didn't come to this Chamber as a freshman to say the right things. I came to this Chamber to do the right things.

What I have here is a chart of the President's budget that he submitted this year. Now, let me first say, Madam Speaker, that as you know, the United States Senate has ignored the laws of the United States of America and has not submitted a budget to this Congress in 1,044 days, and they have said they're not going to do it again this year. Harry Reid said it would be foolish, foolish to do a budget. It just so happens the law requires them to do a budget, but foolish he said. The President, to his credit, did put forward a budget.

I say ``to his credit'' because it's hard. A budget is a moral document. I didn't bring a copy of the President's budget with me today, Madam Speaker, but it's about 12 inches tall. You have to go line by line by line and talk about what's important to you. Is there enough money to go around for everything? No, there's not. So, what's important to you? Where are you going to put your dollars? The President, to his credit, went through that very hard process and sent a budget to Capitol Hill.

What I have here is a visual representation of the budget that he sent, Madam Speaker. As you can see, I have a white dotted line here that represents current law. This white dotted line that runs right through here is the current law. If we do nothing, Madam Speaker, if we do absolutely nothing, this is the trajectory on which American debt will grow--if we do nothing.

The President submitted his budget in February. I've represented the President's budget by this large red line, by this large red triangle. The red line is what the President proposes that the deficit be. I mean, we can go back to his 2011 State of the Union address where he said, ``Every day, families sacrifice to live within their means.

The government must do the same.'' We can go back to 2010 when he said the same thing. We can go back to 2009 when he said the same thing. But in 2012, when he submits his budget, he actually runs the deficit up in 2012, up in 2013, up in 2014, up in 2015--and '16 and '17 and '18 and '19 and '20 and '21.

What I've done, Madam Speaker, is I've blown up a little circle way out there at 2022, this little green space right here. Way out there in 2022 the President's budget begins to reduce the deficit that this country faces from what it is under current law today.

Madam Speaker, that's my frustration. How often is it in this body that we hear folks say all the right things: ``Families sacrifice to live within their means,'' said the President. ``They deserve a government that does the same.'' 2011. 2010: ``Families across the country are tightening their belts and making tough decisions. The Federal Government must do the same.'' 2009: ``Given these realities, Democrats and Republicans will have to sacrifice some worthy priorities for which there are no dollars, and that includes me.'' But, Madam Speaker, the evidence reveals exactly the opposite.

What folks may not know--and I encourage you to go and read the President's budget. Again, he did the right thing by submitting it, and I admire him for doing that. It's located at www.omb--Office of Management and It's got charts and graphs and all the numbers. But what happens in that budget, Madam Speaker, is taxes go up by $2 trillion; $2 trillion taxes go up on the American people.

Now listen, we're in deficit times, we have revenue issues here. We need to have that debate about taxation. But my question to the White House is: How can you raise taxes by $2 trillion on the American people and not reduce America's deficit by one penny for 9 years? The answer is that you raise those taxes by $2 trillion, and then you go and you spend it on other priorities.

The President knows and has said in State of the Union Address after State of the Union Address after State of the Union Address that we have to curb the appetite for spending in Washington. And yet here in the fourth budget, the last budget of his first term--and, candidly, the most serious budget of his administration--he still has not found those items that he is willing to be honest with the American people about and say, we can't afford this, this puts our children and our grandchildren--and, in fact, our entire Republic--at risk.

Now, there's a lot of blame that goes on in this town, Madam Speaker. I don't take any pride in pointing out the challenges of other people's ideas, but I do take pride in pointing out the merit of our own ideas. What I have here, Madam Speaker, is another graphical representation of the tough choices that we in this House, Madam Speaker, with your support and my support and the support of Members on both sides of the aisles, the tough choices that we agreed to make on behalf of America.

What I have here is a chart that shows America's debt as a percentage of GDP, as a percentage of the entire economy. Down here in black, Madam Speaker, is the historic debt. You see down here in the World War II era, the 1940s and coming down in the 1950s, this is the historic debt of America. During the global conflict that was World War II, we ran America's debt up to 100 percent of the size of the entire economy. Why? Because we were fighting a madman overseas and everything depended on us winning.

And so we borrowed to the hilt, Madam Speaker, 100 percent of GDP, to invest in the war effort that saved freedom around the globe.

Well, then we began to pay those debts down, Madam Speaker. Come forward to 2000, 2010. This red line is the current path of America. This red line--if, as the President dodged the tough decisions this year, if the Congress dodges those tough decisions, this red line represents where America is headed.

Here we have at 100, Madam Speaker, that level of debt during the largest conflict this world has ever seen, at which the freedom of the planet hung in the balance. We are headed to that level and higher, Madam Speaker, 100 percent higher, 200 percent higher, 300 percent higher, 400 percent higher, with absolutely no conflict of that size on the horizon. We're just spending it here. Not to fight a national emergency, not to rise to meet an international challenge, but just spending it here.

The green line here, Madam Speaker represents the plan that you and I and this House have passed. You know, it's the only budget that's passed anywhere in the city of Washington, D.C., in the last 3 years?

Only one budget has passed anywhere in the city of Washington, D.C., in 3 years, and it was this one, the one that we did right here, Madam Speaker, that changes the trajectory of America's economic path; that takes us from a path to ruin back to a path of possibility and opportunity, ultimately paying down our Federal debt.

Well, how did we do that?

We did that by making tough decisions. We did that by going into the budget and asking the question, how can we do better?

You know, Madam Speaker, in the great State of Georgia, if you talk to our Department of Transportation, they will tell you that we can build a Georgia road, same mile of pavement, same safety specifications, same everything, we can build a mile of Georgia highway for about 60 percent of the exact same mile of Federal highway?

Why? Because of the regulatory burden that begins in Washington, D.C., and flows downward. Because every agency that touches every dollar this town sends back to the people that it took those dollars from skims just a little bit off the top for administrative costs, just a little bit off the top.

We have to find ways to do better, and we have to find ways, Madam Speaker, to behave differently.

This is one example. How many town hall meetings, have you had, Madam Speaker, where folks have come up to you and said, dag gummit, Madam Speaker, I've paid into Medicare all my life. I need those benefits to be there for me when I retire. I hear that all the time.

Shoot, I've been paying into Medicare all my life. I need those benefits to be there too. I absolutely agree and understand why it is when folks have invested through their taxes, through their paychecks, in a promise that the government committed that would be there for them in their time of need, why it is that Americans believe the government should come through on that.

But there are things about Medicare we don't like to talk about, Madam Speaker. I have here a chart of Medicare revenue, where it is the dollars come in to pay for Medicare. Because if you haven't looked at the numbers recently, Madam Speaker, you know we're spending about 40 percent of every penny in the Federal Government, about 40 percent of every penny in Federal spending goes to Medicare and Medicaid. Medicare and Medicaid, just two programs, consume 40 percent of every dollar that we spend.

In 1964 there was no Medicare and Medicaid; didn't spend a penny in those directions. Now we spend 40 cents out of every dollar, and that number's growing.

Well, what you learn when you get to Congress, Madam Speaker, and you start going through all these committee hearings, is there's a lot that they didn't tell you back home. Medicare part A, that's the hospital program. That's the part for our parents and our grandparents when you go into the hospital. In fact, when we designed the Medicare program in 1965, as Americans, we said folks should not lose everything they have when they have a catastrophic illness and get hospitalized. We should have a support system to protect them in their time of need. And we did. We created Medicare part A. And that's what every working American, whether they started working at 15 or 16 or 17 or 18, they see that FICA line on their check, Madam Speaker, those dollars are coming out of every American's check, no matter how much they earn, all the way to the top of the income spectrum. Every paycheck has about 3 1/2 percent taken out to fund Medicare.

Now, what happens? That amount that's taken out of all the American paychecks is represented in this light blue line here. It covers about 84 percent of Medicare part A costs, Medicare part A, this hospital insurance that we're providing. Every penny that we've taken from every American covers about 84 cents of the cost of the program.

But you know, after we created Medicare part A, Madam Speaker, we created Medicare part B. Medicare part B is funded with zero dollars out of your and my paycheck, zero dollars out of any paycheck of anyone in America. Not one penny in Medicare taxes is taken out to fund Medicare part B.

Now, we charge Medicare part B premiums, Madam Speaker. Part B is what pays for your doctor visits and supplies, things like that.

We ask Medicare beneficiaries to write the government a check to cover 25 percent of those part B costs. But the other 75 percent--74 here because there's a little interest that gets picked up in there--74 percent of all of those costs are picked up by the American taxpayer, just out of general revenues.

You wonder where the money goes. Understand, we have told America that you pay into Medicare, and so you shall receive from Medicare. You've paid in all your life so it will be there in your time of need, and so we will ensure that it is there in your time of need. But that's just Medicare part A, about $200 billion.

Medicare part B is exactly the same size, at $200 billion, and we never paid a penny for it, but the government is pushing all those dollars out the door.

Move on to Medicare part D, Madam Speaker. Medicare part D, that largest expansion of entitlement programs in the history of the country since 1967, implemented by a Republican Congress and a Republican President.

Yes, we charge Americans. We ask Americans to pay some beneficiary premiums to get Medicare part D. About 11 percent of all Medicare part D revenue comes from beneficiaries' premiums. Eighty-three percent is picked up by the American taxpayer at large. No one ever paid a penny out of their pocket to deposit in a trust fund for that benefit. It's just a benefit that sprang up out of thin air, Madam Speaker, and 83 percent of it is subsidized by American taxpayers across this country.

Now, I bring up these numbers for two reasons, Madam Speaker. Number one, because folks just don't know. Folks just don't know. You're at home, and you're talking about Medicare. You're looking at your paycheck. You see that you're paying Medicare taxes. You think those taxes are going into the trust fund to fund the Medicare program. Well, they are. They're just going into the trust fund to fund the Medicare part A program. Medicare part B and Medicare part D have absolutely no trust funds at all. They never have. They get funded out of general revenues. We have made promises to people about benefits that they will receive for which they never paid a penny.

Madam Speaker, we have $16 trillion in debt that we're passing on to our children and our grandchildren. The days of being able to promise people something for nothing are long gone. We have to be able to have candid conversations with today's seniors, with tomorrow's seniors--I'm in my forties--with my generation, Madam Speaker, and we have to renegotiate the Medicare contract with folks my age and younger. We have to do it.

America cannot, Madam Speaker, sustain this path of debt. You know, I feel a little disingenuous putting this chart up here, Madam Speaker. This is the one of the current path of debt. The truth is, that if you're running the computer models, they really break down somewhere right about here. They really say that the laws of economics, what we know about the world banking system, what we know about commerce in this country, what they really say is right about here America's going to cease to exist anyway; that the numbers just don't work; that the economy just won't function; that America, as we know it, will be over here.

It's not going to get as bad as I've presented, Madam Speaker, because the Republic, as we know it, will have gone away.

You know, we talk so much about the debt limit on this floor, Madam Speaker, the debt limit, as if it's something that Congress passes. Every American knows a debt limit is not a law on a piece of paper. A debt limit is when you can't find anyone to lend you money anymore. The debt limit comes when the Chinese say, No, America, you're a bad credit risk, we're not going to give you anymore. When the Germans say, No, America, you're a bad credit risk, we're not going to give you anymore.

On the Budget Committee we had that hearing, Madam Speaker, and we brought in economists from the left and economists from the right, and we asked them all, folks, tell us how much longer do we have? When does the real debt limit get here, when the American economy can no longer find anyone willing to lend to them?

And this is what they said. Madam Speaker, the liberal economist that came to talk to us said we think you have 5 years, 5 years before that day comes. The conservative economists said we think you have 2 years before that day comes. So we have a window, Madam Speaker, between 2 and 5 years, when the entire economy is going to begin to come unraveled, when American jobs and businesses are going to be at risk, when our entire experiment as a Republic will be challenged.

The President in his budget this year introduced a $2 trillion tax increase and found a way to save us just a little bit of money 9 years from now. Madam Speaker, we don't have 9 years.

Every day that passes makes the problem harder to solve. Every day that passes removes arrows from our quiver of solutions. Every day that passes threatens the survival of our Republic, and that is why we presented the path to prosperity, Madam Speaker, as a solution.

Madam Speaker, I thank you for providing me the time today to talk a little bit about this budget. I hope folks will go to the Web and learn for themselves the truth of the challenges facing this country.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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