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Middle Class Tax Cut Act--Motion to Proceed-Continued

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. CONRAD. Mr. President, before I talk about the matter at hand, I would like to remember Officer Chestnut and Detective Gibson. I did not have a chance to know Detective Gibson. I did have a chance to know J.J. and he was someone who lit up a room. He had a 1,000-watt smile.

I will never forget the time I was going to a meeting at the House of Representatives. I wasn't familiar with where the room was, and J.J. took me right to it. He was a delightful man, and it was tragic that his life was taken.

I will never forget the funeral. It was one of the most remarkable outpourings I have ever seen, and so we remember with enormous respect Officer Chestnut and Detective Gibson.


Mr. President, I have to respond to the Republican leader. What a fountain of misinformation. He repeats this canard that no budget action has been taken here for 4 years.

What about the Budget Control Act that was passed last year with more than 70 votes in the Senate? That was passed instead of a budget resolution. It was a law. Anybody who has had even a little bit of civics knows a law is stronger than a resolution.

Indeed, that law cut spending by $900 billion over 10 years and put in place this sequester we now face that cuts another $1.2 trillion over 10 years for a total spending cut of over $2 trillion. It was the biggest spending cut in the history of the United States, and the Republican leader acts as though he never heard of it; it never happened. Let's get real. We took action in the House and Senate, and it was signed into law by the President.

The last time our friends on the other side were in charge, their policies brought us to the brink of financial collapse. Have we forgotten that the economy was shrinking at a rate of 9 percent in the last quarter of the previous administration? In their last month in office we lost 800,000 jobs--in 1 month. That was their record.

This administration has turned things around. We are no longer losing jobs; we are gaining them. The economy is no longer shrinking; it is growing. Maybe it is not as strong as we would like, but it has been a remarkable turnaround after the other side and their policies led us to the brink of financial collapse.

Let's talk about the legislation before us. It assures 98 percent of the American people are not going to have a tax increase, extends expiring provisions on income taxes, and income tax relief for everyone making below $250,000 a year. It includes incentives to promote work and support families, and it provides relief from the individual alternative minimum tax for 1 year, a tax that is increasingly affecting the middle class.

Our friends on the other side say: Whoa. Wait a minute. That means those making more than $250,000 will have a top rate of 39.6 percent. That is true. What happened the last time we had a top rate of 39.6 percent? That was during the Clinton administration. What was the economic record then? It was 39 straight quarters of economic growth from 1991 until 2000. It was the longest period of uninterrupted growth in this Nation's history. There were 24 million jobs created. That is what happened the last time we had a top rate of 39.6 percent.

Why is it important we begin doing something about these growing deficits and debt? It is because we are on an unsustainable course. This is one place where the Republican leader and I would agree. We are on an unsustainable course; we have been since the previous administration.

Have they forgotten that they tripled foreign holdings of U.S. debt during that administration, and doubled the debt? We are on an unsustainable course. We are headed for a debt that will be 200 percent of our GDP if we don't act.

This is a spending and revenue problem. This chart shows spending and revenue as a share of the economy over the last 60 years. Spending is the red line, and the green line is revenue. As we can see, we are at or near a 60-year high in spending. We are at or near a 60-year low on revenue. It is true we have a spending problem. It is also true we have a revenue problem. Revenue is at or near a 60-year low.

Our friends on the other side want to just have the historic average for revenue. The problem with that is it is not a useful benchmark. This is spending going back to 1972, 40 years. The red line shows spending. The green line is the historic average for revenue. We can see that if we just had the historic average for revenue, we never would have balanced the budget in a single year over 40 years. That is what the other side wants to do.

The fact is the five times we have balanced the budget since 1969--in 44 years--the revenue was nearly 20 percent of GDP. It was 19.7 percent in 1969, 19.9 percent in 1998, 19.8 percent in 1999, 20.6 percent in 2000, and 19.5 percent in 2001. Facts are stubborn.

Former Republican Budget Committee Chairman Judd Gregg said this about revenue:

We also know revenues are going to have to go up, if you're going to maintain a stable economy and a productive economy, because of the simple fact that you're going to have to have this huge generation that has to be paid for.

It is the baby boom generation. That is not a forecast; that is not a projection. They have been born, they are alive today, and they are going to be eligible for Medicare and Social Security.

In 2010, we saw some wealthy people paying no Federal income tax--nothing. People with incomes of $500,000 to $1 million in 2010, 14,000 paid nothing, zero. Those earning over $1 million in 2010 who paid nothing were 4,000. Is that fair? It is outrageous that 4,000 people earning over $1 million paid absolutely nothing and 14,000 earning between $500,000 and $1 million of income paid absolutely nothing and our friends want to defend that system. Shocking.

Here is what is happening to so-called tax expenditures. We are now spending more money through the Tax Code than through all the appropriated accounts. Who are the big winners? The top 1 percent in income, on average, get a benefit of $255,000 a year by the so-called credits, deductions, exclusions, and preferences that are shot through the Tax Code. We have a little five-story building in the Cayman Islands that claims to be home to 18,000 companies. They all say they are doing business out of that little five-story building. Are they doing business out of that little building or are they doing monkey business out of that building? Eighteen thousand companies in a little five-story building in the Cayman Islands evading and avoiding the taxes due in the United States. Our friends on the other side say: No change. Shouldn't touch that. That is fair? I don't think so.

Let's get real. Let's get serious. Let's take on deficits and debt. Let's make certain everybody has a chance to contribute, including those who are at the top rungs who are now paying nothing.

I thank the Chair and yield the floor.


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