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Veterans Jobs Corps Act of 2012--Motion to Proceed--Continued

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mrs. BOXER. I wish to thank Senator Harkin because he and I were spending a little time together in the great State of our Presiding Officer, and he and I agreed that one of the issues that ought to be talked about a little bit more involves the stark choice we are facing in November in large part due to the budget of Paul Ryan, who is now the Vice Presidential nominee for the Republicans. And Governor Romney has endorsed and embraced the Ryan budget.

I think it was Senator Harkin's idea that we ought to explain that Ryan budget, so I am going to do my best to talk about it as the chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, which has the jurisdiction of highways, bridges, transportation systems, and the environment, and I will also make a couple of comments about Medicare. I know Senator Harkin is going to go into that in great depth.

I want to make sure everybody understands that what I am

talking about comes straight from the budget. So if you look at page 78 of the report accompanying the Ryan budget resolution, Mr. Ryan makes it clear he wants to make devastating cuts to transportation. What do I mean when I say that? I mean devastating. I mean a 50-percent cut, which means about 1 million jobs would be lost if the Ryan budget were to go into effect. We are talking about construction jobs--an area that has been hit so hard. We still haven't come back from this recession. And if there is one thing we learned when we were in the Presiding Officer's great State at that convention, it was the depth of this recession--the worst since the Great Depression. What a time Paul Ryan picks to bring devastating cuts to the construction industry. I am talking about businesses and jobs mostly in the private sector, not the public sector.

We have to think about the fact that 70,000 of our bridges are deficient and 50 percent of our roads are not in good condition. We know bridges fail. We have seen it happen. We are not only talking about devastating cuts to the construction industry and its workers but a devastating situation for people who use our bridges--the 70,000 of which are structurally deficient--and our roads, which need help. So no country can lead the world if we can't move people and goods, and we cannot be a world power when it comes to transportation.

The Ryan budget is a jobs killer. I am talking about 1 million jobs that would be lost--in the private sector mostly--and it would put our families at risk by neglecting our bridges, our highways and our transit systems. Now, President Obama, on the other hand--and, frankly, a lot of us here on both sides of the aisle--reject the notion that we can walk away from rebuilding our infrastructure. So this is a very key issue.

I said I wanted to speak as the chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, and I have talked a little bit about public works, but what does the Ryan budget do to the environment? What he does is he undermines the public health protections provided by the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and other landmark laws.

If we look at pages 13 to page 15 of his budget, we can see he cuts $62 billion for activities such as protecting our drinking water, protecting our air, and preserving our public lands. Let's face it: When kids get asthma, when people are too sick to go to work, when children are too sick to go to school, and when people die prematurely from heart attacks because of the air quality, there are no real savings. He says he is cutting $62 billion from the budget. Let me just say that for every dollar we spend on clean air protections, we know we get $30 worth of benefits. In 2010 alone, the Clean Air Act prevented 160,000 premature deaths. Ask a family who stands to lose the breadwinner in that family: Did we save money? No.

Let me cite some numbers: 1.7 million asthma attacks, 130,000 heart attacks, 86,000 emergency room visits, 13 million lost workdays, and 3.2 million lost schooldays. In 2010 the Clean Air Act prevented all that.

So what is the point, Mr. Ryan? What is the point? It will cost the American public dearly out of their pockets and out of their lives if they suffer more asthma attacks, emergency room visits, lost workdays, lost schooldays, and they have more heart attacks and premature deaths. That is shortsighted. The American Lung Association--and they are not Republican or Democratic--says that 40 percent of our population lives in areas with unhealthy levels of smog or toxic soot.

So let's remember that when we look at a budget, there is a set of values that accompany the numbers. And I don't think it is an American value to say to our people that we don't care if they get sick, they miss work, or they go to the emergency room.

Finally, I want to set the stage for Senator Harkin's very in-depth discussion about health care. I am just going to talk about Medicare and Medicaid as someone who is privileged to represent, along with Senator Feinstein, the largest State in the Union, with the most senior citizens. We have almost 38 million people. So whenever I talk about this Ryan budget and how many people get hurt, believe me, I speak from the heart when I say we can't let it happen.

The American people know Medicare, they like it, and they do not want to change it. Now, the Republicans tell us their plan saves Medicare. But just ask someone. Ask someone who is going to be the victim of the Paul Ryan plan if we don't stop it. That person will find they are getting a voucher; they are not getting Medicare. Medicare will be gone. They will get a voucher, and experts tell us and the studies show that voucher will be almost $6,000 a year short. Imagine an older person who really is struggling for a quality of life having to have the added worry of not knowing whether he or she will be able to find health insurance.

Look, putting Republicans in charge of Medicare is like putting the Cookie Monster in charge of your favorite bakery. And I am not overstating it. No one would put the Cookie Monster in charge of their favorite bakery. Well, we can't put the Republicans in charge of Medicare, and I will prove why. This isn't just rhetoric. Listen. In 1995 Newt Gingrich said he thought Medicare, in his words, should wither on the vine. In his 1996 Presidential campaign, Senate majority leader Bob Dole bragged:

I was there fighting the fight, voting against Medicare, because we knew it wouldn't work in 1965.

Really? Really. Medicare works. Why would we end it? We are not going to end it. But if Paul Ryan gets into power, he will have a good chance of ending it with his friend and Presidential candidate Mitt Romney who has endorsed the Ryan budget.

Listen to what Michael Steele, the head of the Republican National Committee, said in 2009:

I mean, the reality of it is this single-payer program known as Medicare is a good example of what we should not have happen.

The Ryan budget at page 53 shreds Medicare. As if he hasn't slammed Medicare enough, look what he does to Medicaid. He cuts it by more than $800 billion. Where are low-income families going to go?

Senator Harkin is the expert, but I can tell you this. So many of our elderly rely on Medicaid for nursing home costs. It is a disaster. We know that in addition to all these terrible cuts--and by the way, when Paul Ryan attacks President Obama for cutting money from Medicare, what he isn't telling us is the President has found savings from overpayments to providers. Do you know what he does with the money? He puts it right back into Medicare, extends the life of the program for 8 years, closes the doughnut hole to help seniors, and gives senior citizens preventive health care, well checkups, and the like.

To quote President Clinton, that ``takes a lot of brass.'' Because the fact is, President Obama has strengthened Medicare and has extended the life of Medicare. What Paul Ryan does is he takes those cuts and he gives tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires.

I yield to my friend.

Mr. HARKIN. I thank the Senator for yielding, and I thank the Senator for her keen eye on the Ryan budget and what it does.

I listened to the Senator's explanation of President Obama's goal to cut down overpayments, fraud and abuse, and to put that money back into helping beneficiaries. I ask the Senator, isn't it true that both Ryan budgets incorporate those very same cuts President Obama wants to do?

Mrs. BOXER. Absolutely. Both his budgets take the same amount. But instead of putting it back into Medicare, he robs Medicare, and Medicare will go broke--my understanding--in 2016 under the Ryan plan; whereas, President Obama puts the money back into Medicare, extends the life 8 years, and gives more benefits.

I am going to finish up and just say this. However you look at this, this Ryan budget is a roadmap for disaster for the American people. He cuts the heart out of things the American people like. The American people want clean air, they want safe drinking water, they want Medicare, they want to make sure our seniors can be safe in nursing homes. The American people want transportation--and they don't want to be worried if a car is on a bridge that is going to fall down into the water below. It has happened.

Here is the deal. If we were to say to Mr. Ryan: Are you cutting all this so you could balance the budget today, he would say: Oh, no; that is 25 years from now.

What is he doing with the ``savings''? He is giving these huge tax breaks. I will close with this. People earning more than $1 million a year are going to receive $400,000 more in tax breaks every year. So he cuts everything to give these tax breaks to the people who already have millions and billions, but it is still not enough. As President Obama has pointed out, he will then have to go after the middle class and take away middle-class tax deductions, such as the home mortgage deduction, because he doesn't even get enough money from these Draconian cuts. He has to go ahead and raise taxes on the middle class.

I watched Presidential nominee Romney be asked this question: What are you going to cut? He said: Well, we will discuss it later. Mr. Ryan, the Republican Vice Presidential nominee, said: We will work with Congress on it. Right.

Listen, they know they have to make Draconian tax increases on the middle class and the working poor. They have to cut the things America wants in order to pay for their tax cuts. No wonder Mr. Romney picked Mr. Ryan. Mr. Romney will be in the 1-percent tax bracket--that is what the experts say--can you imagine?--while his secretaries and everybody else pay through the nose.

These next 60 days or so is an important time for us. I wish to thank my friend from Iowa because I was very interested in laying out some of these issues and he encouraged me to do so. I am very delighted to be here with him.

I yield the floor.


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