Feb 25 2014
“The centerpiece of the strategy should be a consuming national effort to reduce the welfare rolls and grow the employment rolls… Imagine how much could we could do if we redirected [our $750 billion yearly welfare budget] to focus on job training, job placing, and work preparation. Wouldn’t that be a better, more productive, and more compassionate plan? One that would work?”
WASHINGTON—U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee, delivered the following prepared remarks today at a Budget Committee hearing on “the economic and budget outlook for individuals, families, and communities”:
“CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf recently testified before this committee to share an alarming diagnosis of our fiscal path. Dr. Elmendorf declared our current debt trajectory to be unsustainable, one that “raises the risk of a fiscal crisis.” One of the clearest indicators of the danger we face is the extraordinary and rising interest that we owe on our massive federal debt.
Our debt today stands at more than $17 trillion and we will owe $233 billion in interest on that debt this year. In 10 years, as the debt continues to grow, we will owe a mind-boggling $880 billion in interest payments in a single year. This is money for which we get nothing. Interest is the fastest-growing item in our budget, and it crowds out other spending on valuable projects
I was therefore stunned to read that, according to the Washington Post, the White House has declared the President’s 2015 budget will mark “an end to the era of austerity.” Our debt has grown 67 percent in the last five years, and we’ve had four deficits above $1 trillion. As Charles Krauthammer said, such a characterization is an “assault on the dictionary.”
The Washington Post report also indicates that the President plans to bust the budget caps in Ryan-Murray that he signed into law only eight weeks ago. This is unbelievable. The ink isn’t even dry and he’s already proposing that we bust the new, higher spending caps. Do promises mean nothing?
I hope our distinguished Chairman will join me in opposing any plan from the President that spends more than we agreed to spend under Ryan-Murray.
We have a moral duty to take firm, principled steps that will actually help millions of struggling workers transition from joblessness and dependency to work and rising wages.
American workers are hurting. Wages are down, the workforce is shrinking, and the welfare rolls continue to grow.
Clearly, borrowing and spending more money is not the answer. Over the last five years, we’ve added a staggering $7 trillion to the debt. And what do we have to show for it?
- 20 million people are unemployed, underemployed, or have been discouraged from looking for jobs
- Nearly 1 in 2 recent college graduates is underemployed
- We have 800,000 fewer jobs since the recession began but the population has grown by more than 15 million
- The share of the population that is actually working has declined to its lowest level in nearly 40 years
- Wages for American workers are lower today than they were in 1999
- Total take-home pay has fallen each of the last five years
- 47.6 million people are now on food stamps
So the desperate need is for growth and job creation and higher wages. But what action is proposed by President Obama and Congressional Democrats? Let’s list them:
- Energy restrictions that will drive up costs for consumers and destroy good-paying jobs
- Unprecedented increases in federal regulations that make it harder for our factories to compete
- A health care law that the Congressional Budget Office confirms will result in the loss of another 2.5 million full-time workers over the next decade. That translates to more than a trillion dollars in lost personal income.
- Higher taxes that enrich a booming Washington D.C. while impoverishing our beleaguered middle class
- A weak trade stance that allows China to devalue its currency and foreign competitors to game the system, sending our jobs and wealth overseas
- An immigration plan that would double the flow of immigrant workers competing against unemployed Americans
- A new minimum wage that will reduce the number of available jobs by between 500,000 and 1 million, and harm the long-term unemployed
- A budget plan that would never balance, would add trillions to our long-term debt, and would result in weaker growth and a diminished future for our children
We can’t keep hurting our future to enjoy a sugar high today. A dramatic new strategy is needed. The centerpiece of the strategy should be a consuming national effort to reduce the welfare rolls and grow the employment rolls.
Currently, the federal government spends around $750 billion a year on means-tested welfare and poverty support. That’s more than Medicare, more than Social Security, and more than Defense.
Imagine how much could we could do if we redirected this spending to focus on job training, job placing, and work preparation. Wouldn’t that be a better, more productive, and more compassionate plan? One that would work?
Every Senate Democrat voted for an immigration bill that was said to be needed to fill jobs Americans are unqualified to take. Would it not be better to transition those hurting Americans now on welfare into open jobs, rather than bringing in more new workers from abroad?
We need a welfare-to-work program, not a doubling of guest workers. And it can be more than paid for with welfare savings.
Across the board, we need to reorient all of our policies in Washington towards helping the economy grow and getting Americans back to work and out of poverty. We cannot do this by expanding government—just look at the dramatic negatives consequences from Obamacare. And we can’t do it by borrowing more money. Instead, we must take steps that create growth and more good-paying jobs, at better wages, in the private sector. Here’s how:
- More American energy, which makes our manufacturing more competitive and lowers energy and gasoline prices for all.
- A streamlined tax code that allows U.S. companies to grow and U.S. workers to compete on a level global playing field
- Eliminate every unnecessary regulation that destroys jobs and closes factories and small businesses
- Saving American jobs and wages by repealing Obamacare—a huge job-killer
- A trade policy that increases U.S. exports, expands domestic manufacturing, and insists on fairness from our trading partners
- An immigration policy that serves the interests of the American people
- Converting the welfare office into a job training center
- Making government leaner and more efficient—doing more with less
- Restoring economic confidence by reducing spending and balancing the federal budget
All of these steps, every one of them, will create jobs and help grow the middle class—instead of growing Washington. All of these policies will strengthen, not imperil, our children’s future. None add to the debt.
No longer can we measure compassion by how much we spend on poverty. Instead, we must measure compassion by how many people we lift out of poverty. The economic agenda of the Left has failed struggling communities for generations; it will never work. It is long past time for a new approach.”