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Chairman Smith Opening Statement – Field Hearing on the State of the American Economy: The South

April 21, 2023

As prepared for delivery.

“Good morning, and welcome to the third field hearing of the House Ways and Means Committee in the new Republican majority. Thank you to NAECO for hosting us here today.


“Small businesses across Georgia and the United States have been battling on the front lines of the Biden economy for two years.


“Historic inflation, higher interest rates, and Help Wanted signs have come to define life in America for millions of people and businesses. For a lot of folks in this room, it feels like Washington has forgotten about them. We need to prioritize the families, farmers, and small businesses who build, feed, and power our nation.


“Since President Biden took office, the average American household has lost $10,000 due to higher prices on everything from food, to gas, to clothes. Real wages are down 3.5 percent. For working-class families, it means choosing between gas in your car and food on your table. Here in Georgia, gas prices alone have increased by over 50 percent, rising from just $2.16 in January 2021 to over $3.38 today.


“Sixty-four percent of Americans are now living paycheck to paycheck. For a record 24 straight months, inflation-adjusted wages are down. Labor force participation still has not caught up to where it was before the pandemic. High interest rates are making it harder for small businesses to expand, invest, and create jobs.


“President Biden’s proposed $4.7 trillion in new taxes is not the solution. Welfare for the wealthy and job-killing green energy regulations are not the solution either. The best investment Congress can make is in the American worker and small businesses. And that is where Republicans are focused.


“Our witnesses joining us today are Allison Couch, a mother of two and the owner of Ignite Accounting and Business Advisors; David Bergman, President of NAECO and our host today; Lisa Winton, CEO of Winton Machine Company whose products have been used in the manufacturing of everything from refrigerators to the Mars Rover; Matt Livingston, a community leader and owner of Coach’s Bar and Grill; and Rachel Shanklin, Georgia Director and National Women’s Entrepreneurship Director for Small Business Majority and an advocate on behalf of communities here in Georgia. These individuals know firsthand the problems America is facing – and more importantly, can help us find solutions.


“We have seen here in Georgia how good policies deliver good-paying jobs. In 2017, after Republicans passed middle- and low-income tax relief along with pro-growth tax policies in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, Georgia Power was able to pass along $1.2 billion in benefits to its customers, lowering energy costs for millions of Georgians. Businesses of all sizes were able to hire new employees, expand, raise employee pay, and in some cases double their benefits. Every income group in Georgia received a tax cut, with your average family of four saving at least $2,000.


“Now, some of the very provisions of that law which helped the businesses in front of us today expand, invest, hire and grow, are facing threat of expiration. Letting that happen would make the current pain of the Biden economy for workers, families, and small businesses that much worse.


“These field hearings are meant to be as inclusive for everyone who wants to participate. For those of you here who are not formal witnesses, this committee wants to hear from you about what we can do to make life easier for families and businesses like yours. We have provided a notebook for everyone in the audience that will be inserted into the record for this hearing. We ask you to share your insights.


“Thank you all for being here today and especially thanks to our witnesses for taking time away from work and their families to share their stories and help reignite our great American economy.”