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Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. NADLER. Madam Chairman, I rise to disagree with the rhetoric and the mythology propounded here by the gentleman from Georgia.

The mythology is that we have a tremendous spending binge that we must reduce, that the country is broke, and it's broke because we're spending much too much money and we've got to reduce the spending. It's simply not true.

Twelve years ago, in 2000, we were looking at a $5.6 trillion surplus over the next 10 years. The Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, Alan Greenspan, testifying in favor of President Bush's tax reductions, said we have to reduce taxes, because if we don't, we will pay off the entire national debt by 2012 and that would be a bad thing, for some reason which I won't go into now. He thought it would be a bad thing if we paid off the entire national debt.

The entire debate between the two candidates, Bush and Gore, then was: What should we do with this $5.6 trillion surplus.

How did we change from a $5.6 trillion surplus to the budget deficits we have right now? Not by increasing spending. If you look at the spending amount other than military, if you look at the discretionary spending of the Federal Government other than military, adjusted for inflation and population growth, it has not increased by a nickel since 2001, not by a nickel.

What has changed? What has changed to create the deficit? Because if you want to solve the deficit, you have to know what created it to undo it. What has changed to create the deficit is several things:

One, 40 percent of the deficit is caused by the Bush tax cuts, which will expire at the end of the year unless we change that. Forty percent of the current and anticipated deficits were caused by the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003;

Second, two unfunded wars in Iraq and Afghanistan--the first time in American history we fought major wars without increasing taxes to pay for them;

Third, aside from the wars, completely aside from the wars, we have doubled Pentagon spending since 2001 in real terms; and

Finally, we have a depression, or a recession. When you have a recession that started in 2007 or 2008, tax receipts go down. Expenses on things like food stamps and unemployment insurance goes up. That's when you should run a deficit. You should run a surplus in good times; you should run a deficit during a depression or recession in order to stimulate the economy and get it back up.

If we want to deal with the deficit--and we should deal with the deficit--we shouldn't reduce necessary government spending and certainly not nickel-and-dime step pay increases for Federal employees. If we want to reduce the deficit, we should undo most of the Bush tax cuts for the rich, because most of the Bush tax cuts went to rich people and to very large corporations. We are only collecting about 14 or 15 percent of GDP in taxes this year.

The normal range is between 19 and 21 percent. And I say ``normal,'' meaning the entire post-World War II period ranges between 18 or 19 and 22 percent. We're collecting 14 or 15 percent in the last couple of years because, one, the recession, and, two, because we greatly reduced effective taxes on multi-national corporations and on rich people.

We used to have in this country, under President Reagan, 25 different tax brackets. Someone making $5 million paid a higher tax rate than someone making $1 million, who paid a higher tax rate than someone making $250,000 and so forth. Now, the highest tax rate kicks in at below $250,000, and someone making $250 million pays no higher tax rate than someone making $175,000 or $200,000. There's something very wrong with that.

So if we want to deal with the deficit, deal not with the nonexistent problem, which is the huge nonexistent spending surge that didn't occur. And we have great needs in this country. We have to fix our highways, our roads, our bridges, our hospitals, our broadband. We have to invest so this country will be economically competitive, and our schools and our teachers and our cops and all of these things.

If you want to fix the deficit, don't shortchange what we should be doing to invest in this country. Get rid of the Bush tax cuts, or most of them, or get rid of those portions of the Bush taxes that went to rich people, high-income people and to big corporations. Make corporations, the large corporations, pay an effective tax rate again, instead of a large number of our top corporations paying zero dollars in taxes.

Reduce the Pentagon budget, which we can do. We no longer need all those troops in Germany to protect against a Soviet tank invasion, which is not likely to occur since the Soviets don't exist anymore. That's what we ought to be doing.

But the key thing is don't have this mythology that we have greatly expanded Federal spending over the last 10 years, or even over the last 3 years, which is simply not the case.

I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. NADLER. Madam Chairman, we spend a lot of time talking about how we need to do more with less. The reality is that, all too often, we do less with less. This is the unfortunate reality facing our rental assistance programs if the House-proposed funding levels are enacted.

The Housing Choice Voucher program, more commonly known as section 8, provides rental assistance to over 2 million households with very low incomes. Half of these households are of seniors or people with disabilities. Most of the rest are of families with children.

Experts agree with HUD's assessment of section 8. It is a cost-effective means of delivering decent, safe, and affordable housing to low-income families in the private market. Because of the widely accepted success of the program, section 8 has enjoyed bipartisan support for many years.

Despite agreement among policy experts and politicians, section 8 funding levels continue to come up short of the actual need. The National Low Income Housing Coalition found that, according to the latest census data, for every 100 households with extremely low incomes, only 30 rental units are affordable and available. Three-quarters of renters with extremely low incomes pay housing costs that exceed half of their incomes, placing them at a high risk of housing instability and homelessness. Yet, because of limited funds, only one in four eligible families receives rental assistance.

Without increasing funds beyond what is included in this bill for the section 8 program, an estimated 58,000 low-income families will lose their existing rental assistance next year, putting these families at risk of homelessness. Even the more conservative estimate of the section 8 budget shortfall by the OMB finds that 30,000 low-income families will be at risk of losing their current vouchers and, therefore, of losing their homes.

With housing instability and homelessness comes the destabilizing of families and the possible long-term negative impacts on kids. That's why I'm offering this amendment.

This amendment would increase funding for section 8 voucher renewals by $460 million to cover the actual costs of ensuring that existing vouchers will continue and that no family will lose an existing section 8 voucher. This does not increase the number of vouchers, though I would love to do that, but it does ensure that no families would lose their currently existing section 8 vouchers.

Additionally, by funding section 8 at the figures necessary to continue existing vouchers, we can make sure that it would be unnecessary for HUD to implement its proposal for $75 minimum rent even if that $75 exceeds the normal section 8 rental limit of 30 percent of income. To most of us here, $75 may not seem like a lot of money as it's a meal for two in many Washington and New York City restaurants, but for 500,000 of the poorest HUD-assisted families, families who have annual incomes of less than $3,000--that's around $250 a month--$75 is a lot of money. For 400,000 HUD-assisted families, $75 minimum would be a 50 percent rent increase from what they're paying now, leaving these families with less money for food, transportation, and other basic necessities. We're talking about families with annual incomes of $2,000 or $2,500 annually.

Madam Chairman, our first objective must be to prevent further hardship to the poorest people in our country and to prevent additional potential homelessness among vulnerable low-income families. To do this, we must ensure that we do not lose current section 8 assistance and that we do not impose a new minimum rent that could be way beyond 30 percent of income for people earning $2,000 and $2,500. This amendment is necessary in order to do that, so I urge my colleagues to support my amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. NADLER. Madam Chairman, the necessity for this amendment is undeniable.

The hardship and the suffering this budget would cause without this amendment, by imposing minimum rentals way beyond 30 percent of income on people with incomes of $2,000 to $2,500 annually, is undeniable. That this Congress should do such a thing is regrettable, to put it mildly.

I understand the rule. The rule would require an offset of an equal amount of money; but in this overly restrictive bill to start with, there is no way of finding such an offset of that amount of money without hurting people in an equal fashion in other ways. So that says that we have a choice of really injuring ``these'' people or of really injuring ``those'' people. It's not an acceptable choice. I understand the rule. That is regrettable.

I hope that as we progress with this budget that we can find a way of finding the funds that we have in this amendment for this purpose so that we do not injure all of these thousands and thousands of very low-income people.


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