Sessions Delivers Opening Statement At First Budget Hearing Of The Year

WASHINGTON—U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee, delivered the following prepared remarks today at the Budget Committee hearing on the economic outlook for 2014: 

“The recovery from the 2009 recession seemed to be solid at first, but it has not come close to meeting the projections of the Administration (OMB), the Federal Reserve, CBO, and others. For example, every year when OMB and others have made their two-year GDP projections, they have missed. Not just a little bit. And, these misses were not divided with some too high and some too low. Everyone projected markedly higher growth rates than actually occurred.

Specifically, the august forecast team at the Federal Reserve projected just two years ago, in 2011, that growth in 2013 would be 4.1 percent when, in fact, it came in at a very weak 1.9 percent. CBO’s estimate was for 3.5 percent growth. 

Some will say that is because we have a financial recession—but that is explained by the fact that it was a financial recession and recoveries will be slower. But, this fact was plainly known long before 2011 when these projections were made. The Federal Reserve as late as December 12, 2012, predicted an average growth rate for 2013 to be between 2.3 percent and 3 percent. But instead reports find, in reality, the GDP increased 1.9 percent. 

Further, the President’s team, OMB, also produced two-year growth projections that were higher than reality.         

I am not attacking OMB, CBO, or the Fed for incompetence or deception. My concern is deeper. My concern is why is our economy failing to achieve lift-off so many years after the recession hit?

The government and the Federal Reserve remain quite proud of themselves for their heroic response to our financial crisis.

I know business profits are still strong and the stock market did extraordinarily well last year. But it is time to face facts—all is not good. Especially for the middle class working Americans.

  1. Middle class family incomes have declined since 2000 and the decline has accelerated since 2010—since the recovery was declared.
  2. Approximately 13.5 million people have been added to our population since the recession began in December 2007 but two million fewer people are working today than they were in 2007.
  3. Nearly two-thirds of jobs created—and counted in surveys—in 2013 were part-time.
  4. We have the lowest workforce participation rate since 1974. And it’s not getting any better.
  5. The Labor Department reported last month that the economy produced only 74,000 jobs for December—shockingly low and well below the 200,000 jobs per month needed to actually increase the number of Americans working.
  6. It seems to me that the fiscal policies of our government and the monetary policies of the Federal Reserve have relied on bold stimulus initiatives—spending more, borrowing more, and dramatic and unprecedented purchases of government debt by the Federal Reserve. All to change this grim dynamic for the American people. President Obama pushes more government spending, more regulations, more investments, expansion of government and more welfare as the proper response to our crisis—especially to help the working poor. Specifically, the government would set wages and provides more support payments for those not working. A new government-directed health care system is created that, we are told, will reduce the cost of health care for all and help the economy.

But, is this a compassionate response that will actually work to help the millions of Americans who are hurting today? I’ve never thought so. Our debt margins have been eliminated. We can’t keep borrowing more. Taxes can’t keep going up. We still face a Medicare and Social Security crisis.

The Ryan-Murray spending agreement got Congress out of a political bind and avoided a conflict, but it did not change the debt course of our country. It taxed a little more and spent a little more. We have tried taxing, spending, and borrowing to jump start our way to prosperity. The President proposed more of the same in his State of the Union. It has not worked, it will not work, and we need a course correction.

I’m going to suggest some solutions that will help the American worker without adding to our debt. We need to promote more American energy; trade and immigration policies that advance the national interest; welfare and tax reform; a leaner, more productive government; the elimination of regulations that destroy jobs; and more growth created by the confidence that will come when our deficits are permanently reduced and we achieve a balanced budget. Those policies will produce over time the sustainable growth that we all want.”