Co-chairmen Bowles and Simpson, fellow members of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform…
We’ve heard from a number of people this morning…the President, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, Director Orszag, former CBO directors, other members of the commission…and I know we will hear from more in the weeks and months ahead.
The problem is obvious: we simply cannot sustain the level of taxing and spending being pursued here in Washington, DC. Americans know it, and we know it as well.
- While tax revenues have dipped during the recession, spending has skyrocketed to nearly 25 percent of GDP and is forecasted to remain well above historic averages even after the economy recovers.
- This has created a record deficit of over $1.4 trillion.
- And, the debt now totals $12.9 trillion – nearly $42,000 for every man, woman and child in the nation.
These problems have been decades in the making and happened on both parties’ watch. Unfortunately, this situation has been made even more difficult to overcome. The Congressional Budget Office and the actuaries at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have confirmed what most Americans already believed – the health care law does not reduce health care costs.
In a similar fashion, the trillion-dollar stimulus bill has not created the jobs Americans were promised, but has worsened our debt and deficit.
I say these things not to stoke another partisan debate, but to point out this fact: we have not one deficit to close, but two – a budget deficit and a public trust deficit. We cannot solve the first without also addressing the second.
So, the questions before this commission are clear:
-Will we listen to the American people?
-Will we work together to get our country back on track?
-When we say “everything is on the table,” does that include the new health care law?
-And, are we willing to make the tough choices needed to restore our budget to past levels of spending and revenue that are consistent with robust economic growth?
I certainly hope the answer to each of these questions is “yes,” and I pledge to my fellow commissioners, my constituents and the American people that I am ready to listen and I am ready to find the solutions to our spending problems.
Let me close with one final thought: I am the only member from Michigan serving on this commission. For the last four years, my home state has led the nation in the worst possible way – we have the highest rate of unemployment. My district alone has five counties dangerously close to 20 percent unemployment.
So, while we are here to address our nation’s fiscal responsibilities, we must weigh any solution against our current and future economic conditions. I know the President has set up a separate task force, led by Paul Volcker, on tax policy and Mr. Volcker has hinted at adding a European-style value added tax to our system.
Given a national unemployment rate stuck at almost 10 percent and the precarious position of American families and employers, it is difficult to imagine asking them to pay – on top of everything else and when they can least afford it – what amounts to a national sales tax on everything they buy – including food, clothing, medicine and housing.
Washington has borrowed enough from the American taxpayer and future generations. It is time for us to prove that we can responsibly manage the people’s money by getting spending under control.
The problem before us is daunting and not one that lends itself to quick fixes. But I look forward to working with all of you to find pro-growth, pro-job solutions.