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Mr. GARDNER. The gentlelady from Alabama is exactly right.
Thank you for your leadership on the economy, on getting this country turned around, and getting our businesses back in shape to hire once again.
Over the past couple of years since being elected, I've traveled over 65,000 miles to be in every nook and cranny of the district of eastern Colorado and northern Colorado. We've held 74 town meetings to make sure that we are listening to everybody's voices, to make sure that people have an opportunity to address their concerns, their ideas to make our government better, to make our economy grow and healthy once again.
The points that you talk about, I don't know that anything is more relevant in the conversations that we have today than the point that was made at a town meeting just last week in Julesburg, Colorado, up in northeastern Colorado. It's just a hop, skip, and a jump from the panhandle of Nebraska. A young lady raised her hand and said:
I'm a single mom. I have three kids at home. I've had two jobs. Now I only have one. I'm looking for a second one. I can't make ends meet because my job doesn't pay enough, and energy prices continue to increase.
She's trying to find health care for her children. Talk about somebody who is the front lines of our economy who is suffering because of the past 3 1/2 years of failed economic policies.
The Congressional Budget Office recently issued a review of what can happen at the end of this year if nothing is done to avoid the fiscal cliff to deal with sequestration and to deal with the looming tax increases. This is what the Congressional Budget Office has stated:
In particular, large budget deficits and growing debt would reduce national saving, leading to higher interest rates, more borrowing from abroad, and less domestic investment--which in turn would lower the growth of incomes in the United States.
While we talk about growing the economy, while we talk about economic growth and the need to get businesses and companies around this country hiring again, at the same time there's this negative pressure being placed on them because Congress can't do its job to control spending. We are $16 trillion in debt. You mentioned it was nearly $51,000 for every man, woman, and child. We've got a 10-month-old at home. Our 10-month-old owes $51,000 as his share of the Federal debt. That's $51,000 apiece.
That negative pressure, that mounting debt, deficits that are over a trillion dollars every year, makes it more and more difficult for businesses to have access to the capital that they need to grow. It makes it more and more difficult for companies to operate, because all of a sudden they find themselves competing with the Federal Government for those scarce resources.
The next thing we know, government is going to have to look at tax increases to try to finance what's already over $200 billion a year in interest payments. Our businesses are saying: Government, can you get out of the way so we can let America work, so that we can run our businesses the way that we want to, not the way Washington wants to?
At the same time, you've got a Congress, including the United States Senate, that hasn't passed a budget in the past 3 1/2 years, hasn't done the fundamental duty that it's required to do, and that's to make sure that this government knows where it's going to spend its money, to make sure this government knows how much money it has coming in and how much money is going out. But they refuse to pass a budget.
They refuse it, make no mistake, not because they think they need more time or because they need to study it more or come up with a different bill, no. They refuse it because they think it would be bad politically for them to vote on a budget. That's why the President's own budget received zero votes. The President's own budget not only received zero Republican votes, but zero Democrat votes.
There are so many people across this country who are unemployed, who are looking for work. In fact, most of the universities around the country just went back in a couple of weeks ago. Those students are all looking for jobs and expecting jobs to deal with their student loans. I know we've talked about it many times.
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Mr. GARDNER. Then add the fact that this generation that's graduating from college today is going to be left with a $16 trillion debt; and, by the way, that's just what it is today. It's growing each and every second. In just a few years, that number goes up dramatically to over $20 trillion if nothing is done to stop the runaway debt crisis that we have right now.
You mentioned the Associated Press article that talks about one out of every two graduates from college today being unemployed or underemployed, but that same Associated Press report talks about this, taking unemployment into consideration, the job prospects for bachelor's degree holders fell last year to the lowest level in more than a decade.
So we've seen this conversation take place about, you know, are we better off today than we were 4 years ago. Well, here's a statement from the Associated Press, when it comes to people who are graduating from college, that says, ``Taking underemployment into consideration, the jobs prospects for bachelor's degree holders fell last year to the lowest level in more than a decade.''
How are these families going to make ends meet? How are recent college graduates, some who come out of college with a family, going to pay back their student loans? We have seen Federal student loans soar 275 percent over the past decade. Over the past decade student loans have increased over 275 percent; yet job prospects are as bleak as they have been for 10 years or more.
You know, I've got some great universities in my district, the University of Northern Colorado, Colorado State University. We just visited Northeastern Junior College. We have been all over the community college system in our district talking about the challenges that they face trying to make sure that their students have the jobs that they need when they come out of school because what's happening, you see the higher debt load. Then because the economy is so tough, people are taking jobs that are lower paying just to try to make ends meet.
This country has prided itself on always making sure that for generation after generation we have greater opportunities, that we open more doors for our children. That's the same thing that ought to be, the same kind of idea that ought to be facing the recent graduates today.
This upcoming December, next May, they ought to be looking at job prospects that are even greater than their older brothers or sisters, even greater than their parents' generation. But the fact is those jobs don't exist because the policies of the last 4 years have made it more and more difficult for the country's businesses to grow and expand.
Mrs. ROBY. You mentioned your colleges in your district. Actually, there are some great colleges in or right nearby in Alabama's Second District: Alabama State University, Faulkner University, Troy University, and Huntingdon College. But let me just highlight real quickly Alabama's 2-year college system where we have incredible workforce development programs, honing skills in young people that can immediately go out into the workforce, and they deserve better than these lofty promises.
Did you know that since President Obama was inaugurated in January of 2009, the manufacturing sector has shed 590,000 jobs, 590,000 jobs?
Mr. GARDNER. When was that you said?
Mrs. ROBY. This was since President Obama was inaugurated in January of 2009.
The number of Americans receiving food stamps as of April 2012 was 46.1 million. I heard today one of our colleagues say one in seven, one out of every seven Americans is receiving some sort of nutritional assistance. That is astounding. That is astounding.
We've painted a picture here that is bleak, and we're telling the American people what they already know because so many of them are too aware of this because they're the ones that are suffering from this administration. I just want to say that we have solutions.
We have solutions where we can change things and the private sector can thrive, but that is going to mean getting the government out of the way. We need the leadership in the Senate to have the political courage to stand up and take up our jobs bills, our energy bills that reduce regulation and does just that, gets the government out of the way.
Mr. GARDNER. This past week I had an opportunity to visit a business in Colorado, a manufacturing business in Colorado. It's a multi-generation family business that was started by this gentleman's dad 50 years ago. He's actually retiring from the business, and his son is going to take over the business, third generation, a manufacturing business in Denver. They've got around 300 employees, spread out in the western United States region.
I asked him, I said, you know the past couple of years are you doing better now than you were then? His answer was no on any level. If you ask
him about what his bottom line is, his company's profits? No, they're not better off than they were. If you ask them about the number of employees he has? No, they're not better off. In fact, they've struggled to try to make sure that they are able to keep the employees that they have been able to keep.
This is something else that goes unreported, that work, that employee who is usually working a 40-hour work week or maybe a little bit more is now working a 30-hour work week or a 32-hour work week, because as an employer he feels the opportunity to try to do everything he can to keep these employees working, to keep their families with a job in the household. In order to do that, because their business is down, because their sales are down, they've actually now found themselves in situations where they are reducing hours, which means less take-home pay. In fact, if you look at the past 4 years, we've seen middle class pay, take-home pay, go down by about $4,000.
If employment is decreasing and, again, if you look at those employment numbers that just came out this past week, for every one person who found a job, four people quit looking. So you can see that this business isn't alone in trying to make ends meet, to try to build a better tomorrow.
We talked about the regulations that they face, and I talked about some of the recent changes that have been made, whether it's financial services legislation. In fact, one of the interesting points that we were talking about regulations, and I am sure you have heard a great deal about businesses in your district that are facing challenges with regulations and the ever-increasing cost of regulations, but this particular business, they were talking about how, because of the tough times that have hit their contracts, the people they contract with, the people who buy the goods from them, they are now actually having to float the cost of that business on their own books a lot longer. Because of the difficulties with some of the financial legislation we've seen, they're finding it even more difficult to do that.
Here you have a company that's trying to make it work with their customers so that they can buy their goods by holding their receivables a little bit longer; but they're finding pressure now from financial legislation that makes it more difficult to do that. So the government is getting them both ways. The government has failed to come up with the policies to get government out of the way so that our businesses can grow. Yet when you have somebody coming up with a solution to try to grow their business, government policies there are affecting that and impeding their ability to do that.
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Mr. GARDNER. And I think that's why we have to start talking about solutions for this country. We all have examples of regulations that have gone amok.
I was dealing with a business in the district just the other day that talked about a product that they were trying to handle. It was a very environmentally sensitive product that they were trying to remove and actually do some environmental mitigation from a cleanup site that they were working on. And this particular company was required to keep this product both wet and dry at the same time; a regulation that said you had to keep it wet until you moved it or stored it, and then you had to keep it dry. Well, you've got to dry it down in order to move it, but yet they faced the possibility of being fined because of this particular action.
Again, the solutions we need. This Congress has passed solutions, and I'll mention the REINS Act.
The REINS Act was a bill that we passed several months ago with strong support from both sides of the aisle. This is one of the bills that has passed the House and has moved over to the Senate, where it just sits stacking up like cordwood. Once again, here we have an opportunity to do something, a proactive solution.
The REINS Act simply says we're going to take a look at the cost of a regulation. We're going to get an idea of how much some regulation costs, and if it exceeds a certain threshold, then we're going to let that come back to Congress for review before it can go into effect. It's saying, hey, let's take a look at this. Let's create some kind of an opportunity for Congress to review a regulation that has a tremendous impact on the economy, taking over a hundred million dollars out of our economy to comply with the regulation. Let's take a look at it and make sure that the cost and benefits are in line to make sure that the benefits outweigh the cost, to make sure that doing it is actually worth it and it doesn't cost jobs that we so desperately need. And so the REINS Act passed and it's waiting over in the Senate.
Now, some people may say, well, that's just a partisan idea, that's just a Republican idea. Well, let's take a look at what some of the States do.
In my home State of Colorado, there's a process called the Rule Review Act, the Rule Review bill. This bill comes up every single year in the State legislature, and it's a chance for the State legislature to do exactly that, to review the rules that pass out of the executive branch agencies. Every year, the State legislature gives a thumbs up or a thumbs down to those regulations, because in Colorado we understand how important it is to make sure that government's not getting in the way, how important it is to make sure that we actually have responsible rules that move the ball down the field instead of creating penalties every time you turn around.
And so the Rules Review bill taken to the United States Congress becomes the REINS Act. And the REINS Act is a good way for us to check and provide that balance with the executive branch to make sure that we're not putting too much of a burden on our businesses.
Mrs. ROBY. Right. Let's just go back in time for a minute and talk about some of these other repeals.
We have the Boiler MACT provisions, the Cement MACT, net neutrality, the regulating farm jobs. We can go down the list one by one by one and talk about the efforts that we have taken here in the House. With the strength of the numbers here, some of these have been with bipartisan support that we've passed these measures. And yet again and again and again, it's just time after time after time it's sitting in the Senate without any action.
All you have to do is go look at the budget that the House has passed the past 2 years that Chairman Ryan put forth out of committee and came to the full floor. You mentioned the President's budget where there were zero votes--zero votes. We talk about offering solutions to the American people to look that small business owner in the eye and say, ``Yes, I am working for you; yes, I have a solution for you; yes, I have a way to get out of your way,'' which is what we've done, and our budget outlines very, very specifically what these solutions are.
Our spending is out of control, which in turn, like you already mentioned, just takes it a whole other step that this Congress is not doing their job, and therefore the jobs are not being created by the private sector, period. It all comes down to that.
Mr. GARDNER. And I know you serve on the Agriculture Committee Here in the House of Representatives, and I'm sure that you're hearing from some of your interests in agriculture about uncertainty.
Mrs. ROBY. Absolutely.
Mr. GARDNER. And one of the things that I've heard over the past several months--and, in fact, I held a series of farm bill roundtables earlier this spring, where one of the things we heard about so much, and this is part of the fiscal cliff that we're facing, is the death tax, the death tax that this Nation faces going back into the lower exclusion rates as of January 1.
Let me give you an example. I'm sure you've heard this time and again from the people that you represent.
One of the farm roundtables that we held, a young man from Eaton, Colorado, stood up and said: With the estate tax coming back in at the end of this year, beginning of next year, we'll be forced to pay for our farm for a third time, and we simply can't afford it.
This is a young man who wants to go on into life in agriculture. This is somebody who wants to be the next generation standing up to grow our food and fiber that this Nation depends on. But yet you've got a government policy that's going to say: We know you've invested, we know you've grown your business, you've made investments into the land that you need to make your operation successful, but because somebody died, we're going to tax them. And that's part of the fiscal cliff that this country faces at the end of this year.
There are farmers and ranchers around the State of Colorado, around this country, who are not trying to figure out how they're going to pass on their operation to the next generation, pass on their operation to the next generation because of a government policy that says: You know what? You've been too successful, and we're artificially going to place this barrier so that it's going to hurt you.
It's not just farmers and ranchers that it affects.
Mrs. ROBY. It's all businesses.
Mr. GARDNER. It's all businesses. That's right.
Mrs. ROBY. But the problem with our farming communities is that they are, in a lot of instances, they own a lot of land. So they have wealth when it comes to land ownership, but they may not have the cash. And so when the government comes along to tax the farm upon the death of a parent that wants to pass it down, they've got to sell the farm to pay the tax, and that's where our farmers lose out every time.
And there are numerous other businesses throughout this country where they may be cash poor. They may have some assets but they may be cash poor, and so they end up having to sell it off in order to pay the government for that company's success.
Mr. GARDNER. And you mentioned it, too. It's not just about cash in the bank. It's not just about how much money you have. It's about the assets that you have. And so your example where you may be cash poor but still hit this line, I think, is compelling to not only the farmers and ranchers, but you're right, to small businesses around the country who may own a restaurant, who may be trying to expand a sand and gravel operation, but they're going to be hit by this estate tax, which means they've got to sell, break it up, and not be able to pass it on.
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Mr. GARDNER. So you have got a government policy that actually is an impediment to job creation here. A company trying to bring jobs back in, but because of the cost of doing business here is so much higher than elsewhere, they had that unfair choice of how are they going to make things work, how are they going to be successful.
Mrs. ROBY. I was going to say in June for the first time in 44 months, small businesses cited taxes, taxes above poor sales as the single most important problem that they are facing today. Taxes.
Mr. GARDNER. We talked about solutions when it comes to regulations. We've talked about the REINS Act. But here again with taxes, we have come up with solutions. We have voted to make sure that the estate tax, the death tax, doesn't come back in at those lower exclusion numbers breaking small businesses around the country. We've made sure that we avoid the massive tax increases that loom, once again, at the end of this year on families, middle class families. Thousands of dollars for middle class families around this country increase in taxes if nothing is done, and that's why the House of Representatives has passed a measure to make sure that those taxes don't increase, to make sure that we are making it easier for people to keep more of their own money so they can invest it in their families, so they can invest it into job creation, in their businesses.
If this Congress adopts the President's plan, if this Congress does nothing, hundreds of thousands of small businesses around this country are going to see tax increases like we've never seen before. Tax increases will make it more difficult for them to make ends meet. And that's why the House has acted to make sure that we are dealing with the fiscal cliff to make sure that we are not making it more difficult in this country to succeed.
Mrs. ROBY. Absolutely. Again, by virtue of a comparison, with the President's proposed tax hike, deficits would still total 6.6 trillion over the next 10 years according to his own budget. But by comparison, our budget, the House Republican budget, would reduce deficits compared to his by 3.3 trillion while lowering taxes on small businesses and spurring economic growth. That's the difference.
Mr. GARDNER. Well, and I think that's the key, actually, as you mentioned, spurring economic growth. And we can talk about what happens to our economy with this policy or this legislation. But the bottom line is we've got to address that debt and deficit and only economic growth, long-term economic growth, is going to help us address our debt and deficit situation, but a high debt and deficit make it impossible for long-term economic growth.
So you have kind of got a circular problem here that for whatever reason the United States Senate, the President, hasn't taken seriously.
And just talk a little bit about the summer of recovery that was supposedly going to occur a couple of years ago after a trillion dollars was spent on the stimulus, money that went to companies like Solyndra that went bankrupt and the United States taxpayers are going to be out over half a billion dollars because they'll never get repaid.
You've got the stimulus bill that was supposed to lead to the summer of recovery, and yet here we are with 43 straight months of unemployment at or above 8 percent. Now, the American people know that even that number is not right because they know that maybe they have got a job that is only part time or maybe they are working full time but certainly not at the level that they know is to their full potential. It certainly makes it more difficult for them to meet the needs of their families. So that 8.3 percent number doesn't even count the people who've given up looking for work, doesn't even count the number of people who are underemployed.
So, the fiscal cliff, you've got millions and millions of Americans out there knowing what this Congress refuses to do, and that is if Congress will act to adopt these jobs bills that we've passed over to the Senate, if Congress will adopt the House budget that actually puts this country on a road and path to growing the economy, to preserving and protecting the promises that we have made to future generations, that number is going to come back down. It's not going to be 8.3, 8.1 percent. It's going to be lower. Millions of people will be back at work because of the bills and legislation that this body has passed, most with bipartisan support.
Mrs. ROBY. You know, to use the President's words again, because these are direct quotes, so let's look at a couple of things.
Last April, President Obama said, ``We have to live within our means, we have to reduce our deficit, and we have to get back on a path that will allow us to pay down our debt.'' That was the President just last April.
But also I want to make sure that there is no misunderstanding. This is the President's own words in February of 2009: ``I am pledging to cut the deficit by half by the end of my first term in office.'' And I know we are kind of circling back to how we began this hour tonight, but since the President has taken office, our national debt has increased by $5.3 trillion.
Mr. GARDNER. And 5.3 trillion, now, I think there's a statistic out there that shows that that's more money than the amounts of money spent by or the deficits between George Washington and Bill Clinton combined--or maybe it's George H.W. Bush. The fact is, we've never seen a period in our Nation's history where unemployment has been matched by a failure to recognize the needs of the American people, where debts are allowed to skyrocket, where you can say on TV one thing, pledge to the American people that you will cut the deficit in half, and then the next thing you know it's up by $5 trillion.
Maybe the question isn't are you better off today than you were 4 years ago, but maybe the question ought to be are you better off today than you were $5.3 trillion ago?
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Mr. GARDNER. You talk about those bills, the regulations that we've passed. You talk about the things that we have done to avoid the fiscal cliff, the things that we have done to avoid sequestration. There's a word that's been missing that we haven't used tonight: leadership. It takes leadership to address these issues. That's what we have provided through so many of these bills that we have talked about--leadership to make sure that hundreds of thousands of small businesses don't have their taxes increased; leadership to make sure that farmers and ranchers can continue their operations without worrying about a death tax that will prevent them from passing on their land to the next generation; leadership to make sure that the sequestration is carried forward. Yes, we reduce spending, but we do so in a more responsible fashion, a way to make sure that we don't jeopardize the ability of our men and women in uniform to defend our country and to protect themselves.
I want to talk a little bit about the issue of sequestration because that's something that we haven't met. And the issue of leadership, once again, crops up. It just keeps coming forward where the House has led and we hear crickets from the other side of town.
The American people, I don't know if they were following what happened with the White House just this past Friday. Last week, the White House announced that it will miss the legal deadline for delivering a report to Congress on the spending cuts from sequestration that will take effect in January. Now, we hear a lot of complaints about, well, the Congress hasn't done this and the Congress hasn't done that, but here's a law that says you've got a deadline to present your ideas for leadership to the American people. And I guess it must have been too tough because they're not going to comply with it--they didn't comply with it.
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Mr. GARDNER. And the gentleman from Kansas and I share a common, we share the border, eastern Colorado, western Kansas. And so many of the challenges that my farmers are facing your farmers are facing. And you're right, we won't get into water tonight. We'll save that for another day, another time. But the fact is we could both use more of it. And the way we can use more of it is we store more water. Yet we have policies that are keeping us from storing more water, adding yet to the uncertainty of our farmers and ranchers who desperately need it.
And so whether it's the tax increases that we see at the end of this year, if nothing is done, the estate tax, income tax rates, capital gains rates, and you mentioned that this isn't just a big tax increase. This isn't just a large one for the United States. This is the largest we've ever seen, not only in the United States, but around the globe.
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Mr. GARDNER. You mentioned optimism for the country, and I carry the same optimism, too, because the people that we work for believe that this continues to be the greatest Nation on the face of this Earth. If we have Congress, if we have Washington that's actually getting its job done, that will pass the regulations to make it easier to do business--excuse me, to repeal the regulations in this country to make it easier to do business, to make sure that we don't increase taxes to hurt their small businesses, better days are still ahead of us.
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