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Louie G.
Republican TX 1

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  • An Important Time in American History

    by Representative Louie Gohmert

    Posted on 2014-01-08

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    GOHMERT. Mr. Speaker, I certainly want to thank my colleagues for bringing such an important issue to the floor for discussion.

    This is an important time in American history for so many reasons. Foreign policy is just in terrible shambles right now. But today is January 8, and it is generally recognized that 50 years ago, on January 8, 1964, President Lyndon Baines Johnson declared a war on poverty.

    There is an article today from The Washington Times entitled: ``That's rich: Poverty level under Obama breaks 50-year record,'' by Dave Boyer.

    It says: Fifty years after President Johnson started a $20 trillion taxpayer-funded war on poverty, the overall percentage of impoverished people in the United States has declined only slightly and the poor have lost ground under President Obama.

    Aides said Mr. Obama doesn't plan to commemorate the anniversary Wednesday of Johnson's speech in 1964, which gave rise to Medicaid, Head Start, and a broad range of other Federal antipoverty programs. The President's only public event Tuesday was a plea for Congress to approve extended benefits for the long-term unemployed, another reminder of the persistent economic troubles during Mr. Obama's 5 years in office.

    ``What I think the American people are really looking for in 2014 is just a little bit of stability,'' Mr. Obama said.

    Although the President often rails against income inequality in America, his policies have had little impact overall on poverty. A record 47 million Americans receive food stamps, about 13 million more Americans than when he took office.

    The poverty rate has stood at 15 percent for 3 consecutive years, the first time that has happened since the mid-1960s. The poverty rate in 1965 was 17.3 percent; it was 12.5 percent in 2007, before the Great Recession.

    About 50 million Americans live below the poverty line, which the Federal Government defined in 2012 as an annual income of $23,492 for a family of four.

    President Obama's antipoverty efforts ``are basically to give more people more free stuff,'' said Robert Rector, a specialist on welfare and poverty at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

    ``That's exactly the opposite of what Johnson said,'' Mr. Rector said. ``Johnson's goal was to make people prosperous and self-sufficient.'' The President's advisers defend his policies by saying they rescued the Nation from the deep recession in 2009, saved the auto industry and reduced the jobless rate to 7 percent from a high of 10 percent 4 years ago.

    Further: The President last month declared the widening gap between the rich and poor as ``the defining challenge of our time,'' and Democratic candidates are expected to pick up that theme on the campaign trail rather than debate deficits or the complications of ObamaCare.

    In spite of the administration's antipoverty efforts, however, the government reported this week that poverty, by some measures, has been worse under President Obama than it was under President George W. Bush. The U.S. Census Bureau reported that 31.6 percent of Americans were in poverty for at least 2 months from 2009 to 2011, a 4.5 percentage point increase over the prerecession period of 2005 to 2007.

    Of the 37.6 million people who were poor at the beginning of 2009, 26.4 percent remained in poverty throughout the next 34 months, the report said. Another 12.6 million people escaped poverty during that time, but 13.5 million more fell into poverty.

    Mr. Rector said the war on poverty has been a failure when measured by the overall amount of money spent and the poverty rates that haven't changed significantly since Johnson gave his speech.

    ``We've spent $20.7 trillion on means-tested aid since that time, and the poverty rate is pretty much exactly where it was in the mid-1960s,'' he said.

    The liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said in a report that some trends have helped reduce poverty since the 1960s, including more Americans completing high school and more women working outside the home. But the group said other factors have contributed to persistent poverty, including a tripling in the number of households led by single parents.

    Mr. Rector said too many government antipoverty programs still discourage marriage, factoring into statistics that show more than 4 in 10 children are born to unmarried parents.

    ``When the war on poverty started, about 6 percent of children were born outside of marriage, he said. Today, that's 42 percent.'' A catastrophe.

    So it is rather interesting. Fifty years after the war on poverty was declared as an actual war, $20.7 trillion, according to Mr. Rector, has been spent on means-tested aid since that time, and basically we haven't changed anything except we have got more children being born in broken, single-parent homes.

    It is certainly noteworthy that, since the beginning of 2009, we have had 12.6 million people escape poverty, but 13.5 million fall into poverty. That means we have had just under a million people worse off, falling into poverty, than were there when this President started with all the giveaway programs--$900 billion in so-called stimulus that turned out to be nothing more than crony capitalism, spending money on so-called ``green'' programs that turned brown rather quickly after millions and hundreds of millions and billions of dollars were spent.

    He claims he saved the auto industry. Actually, there was a proposal by many economists, led by an FDIC former Chairman named Isaac, who made a proposal in late 2008, an alternative to TARP, and it could have been used to do a more effective job of getting the auto industry on its feet.

    The proposal was, instead of nationalizing Wall Street, having the government buy private assets, which is nationalizing, government takeover, by another means rather than the government nationalizing the auto industry, taking a big hunk of the auto industry, telling dealers which ones had to close their doors without due process of law. They were an unconstitutional taking. And to the embarrassment of this country and the great Justices--those who were great on the Supreme Court and the ones that are great on there now--to their total humiliation, this Court stood by and watched unconstitutional takings and did nothing.

    {time} 1930 Now, it is true that, during the unconstitutional, illegal turning of the Bankruptcy Code upside down during the so-called saving of the auto industry, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, to her credit, put a 24-hour stay on an auto deal that was proposed, but the stay lapsed and the Court did nothing, which should have been to their incredible embarrassment.

    They knew that bankruptcy laws had been completely eviscerated, completely ignored, turned upside down. There were no proposed plans by creditors. Secured creditors were treated as unsecured and, against the law, they were made unsecured. They had their security taken away. The government gave security, illegally, under the law, to unsecured creditors, and the Supreme Court didn't do anything but a 24-hour stay.

    I had hope for the Court. I had hoped that they would do the right thing, do the constitutional, the legal thing, and they sat by. Some say it was because they were privately scared by the administration, that if they put longer than a 24-hour stay on the auto bailout, the auto plan, that everybody in any way connected to the auto industry would lose their job, and it would all be the Supreme Court's fault.

    So what did they do? Nothing. They should be humiliated that they did nothing. Violation of the law, violation of the Constitution by unconstitutional takings of dealers, auto dealers, sounded like the bankruptcy court was used, weaponized a bit, as the IRS has been.

    We had an auto task force with a czar. What a lovely name, coming from old Russian days of dictators. We had an auto task force czar and an auto task force.

    At one time, I believe, as I recall, no one in the auto task force had ever been involved in auto manufacturing, the auto business, and as I recall, it may have been a majority of them, a big majority didn't even own cars.

    Regardless of whether they did or didn't, though Congress, some here, asked for transcripts of the meetings, who decided what dealers would lose their dealerships, we were never provided any transcripts, and that should be to the embarrassment of Congress.

    We should have demanded, we should have defunded White House activity until they came forward and produced what Federal money that Congress appropriated, had produced. What had they done? We have the power to do that. We should have.

    The American people were owed answers, and especially, those car dealers who lost their dealerships.

    Save the auto industry.

    If we went back to the proposal that Isaacs and other economists made, it was rather interesting. You had a number of us in Congress that thought it was the best idea we had heard proposed; basically, that we knew there was at least $700 billion, now some say [[Page H70]] clearly more than $1 trillion, owned by American citizens, American companies, that was earned in foreign countries and put in foreign banks.

    Taxes were fully paid in those countries where it was earned, where it was banked, but they knew if they brought it into the United States that a greedy Federal Government was going to yank another 30, 40 percent, plus penalty and interest out of them, and they would lose most, much of the money, if not most of the money that they had earned and paid taxes on where it was earned. So the money was sitting on the sidelines in foreign countries.

    So basically, the proposal was, instead of nationalizing, socializing, whatever you want to call it when the Federal Government buys private assets and becomes the boss of private industries, instead of doing that, basically, in essence, the proposal was, why don't we have Congress just say, if you bring that money, if you are an American citizen or an American company, and you bring money in a foreign bank that would otherwise never come into the United States, bring it in here and invest, whether it is in Wall Street, whatever Congress decided, or the President suggested was a troubled entity, if you will invest in that troubled industry, particularly the auto industry, then, obviously, you get ownership of stock.

    You become a player in that corporation, and the government gets to stay as a referee, not as a player and coach and referee. We would stay as referee, and American citizens would bring their money in and bail out the auto industry. They would also own stock, which means they would change the directors, change the officers, in all probability, and you would get a change of direction in those companies.

    If they needed to go through bankruptcy, they would go through legitimately, so that secured creditors remained secured, unsecured creditors were treated as unsecured creditors, contracts that were destroying the automobile industry could be renegotiated in bankruptcy, and we really would have saved the auto industry, far better than this clumsy effort that was done.

    Now, I had a Fiat during the 4 years I was in the Army. But why couldn't we have an American manufacturer owned by Americans? How embarrassing. That is what this administration pushed. Let's turn over, let's push an American auto industry into foreign hands.

    Yeah, right. You saved an American auto industry, when, actually, under--we had Democrats in control of the House and Senate when the President took office, and he pretty much got anything he wanted.

    I would submit, the auto industry would be a lot stronger today if commonsense solutions like those that former FDIC Chairman Isaacs proposed and other economists--and this economy would be much better on its way.

    Then, instead of 12.6 million Americans climbing out of poverty, while another 13.5 million climbed into poverty, fell into poverty, because of this administration's policies, we should have been already on track.

    I know this administration loves to brag about how oil and gas production are up, but it is no thanks to them. They have used again, weaponized the EPA, OSHA, Department of Justice, the Interior Department, they have become as big an impediment as they possibly could to the oil and gas industry in America.

    What a lot of Americans don't understand, and frankly, I was a little surprised myself to find out that, in the Continental United States, 94 to 95 percent of the oil and gas wells are drilled or operated by independent oil and gas drillers, American companies.

    So when the President, for the last 5 years, has talked about how he is going after Big Oil, if you look at his proposals, he wants to eliminate tax deductions, the elimination of which would bankrupt most independent oil and gas operators.

    So what would that do? The 94 to 95 percent of the oil and gas wells in America would either cease, or they would fall into the hands of the big, major oil companies that the President decries.

    Well, isn't that strange? You bash and bad mouth Big Oil, and yet, everything you propose and try to do seems like it is making them richer and getting rid of their competition.

    We hear a President call Wall Street executives fat cats, and determined to do something about them, and yet, when you look at the real books and the real story, four out of five gave money to Democrats. About 80 percent of them, of Wall Street executives, donate to Democrats and the President over Republicans.

    Well, that's strange. Why would he call them fat cats? I don't know.

    Why have they gotten richer and richer and richer and expanded the gap between the ultra-rich and the ultra-poor during this administration's last 5 years? The distance, as this President has pointed out, has gotten worse. What he has failed to do is say, because of my proposals, the things I have pushed, the things I have done, the poor and the rich have grown further and further apart.

    My rich friends, my rich donors have gotten richer than they might have ever dreamed, and we have had more people fall into poverty than were able to climb out.

    That, 50 years after Johnson's speech.

    If it weren't for the policies in this war on poverty declared 50 years ago, it may well be that I would not have ever run for Congress, because what got me thinking about it first, as a State district judge back in Texas, was seeing more and more young women, single women, coming before me, single moms, charged with welfare fraud under State law, a felony, so they came before me as a felony judge.

    I heard the story over and over and over, how, as a young girl in high school, she was bored with high school, and someone suggested, well, why don't you just drop out of high school and have a baby? Then the government will send you a check, and they will send you a check for every baby you have out of wedlock.

    Drop out, have a baby out of wedlock, get the check from the government, and the ones that came before me would normally explain, it wasn't enough. So I thought, well, maybe if I have another baby and get another check it will help me get out of the hole. But it didn't.

    One woman had had 15 kids, didn't even know where they all were. That was the most that I ever dealt with.

    It began to really eat away with me that, in the sixties, the Federal Government, desiring to help poor moms who were dealing with deadbeat dads that weren't helping, decided, we will help. We will give a check for every child you can have out of wedlock, when the statistics made clear then, and make clear now, and every point in between, that a young man or a young woman has a better chance of a financially successful life if they finish high school.

    Normally, kids have a better chance of financial success if they finish college. That was until more recent days, and I am not sure what the statistics on that are now. We know that, clearly, people are better off if they learn to read, they finish high school, have a high school diploma, or at least a GED.

    That is why, with most of the women, I didn't send any of those women to prison. I put them on probation. I would normally give them a tremendous amount of, I think it was about 800 hours you could give as community service, and then give 750 hours credit if they got a GED or got a high school diploma, because I knew that was better for society if they finished high school, and if it was better for them, it would be better for society, and they could be more successful.

    {time} 1945 After Republicans took over the Congress in the 1994 election, sworn in in 1995, one of the things they did was welfare reform, and they started requiring people to work who were on welfare.

    And when I was a freshman at Harvard, we were given a presentation-- and I was shocked it was at Harvard--which showed that single moms' income since the war on poverty began, when adjusted for inflation from the mid-sixties until 1995, was flat-lined.

    That incredibly expensive war on poverty didn't help single moms one iota in the long run. Oh, sure, it helped them buy groceries and things at the time, but look at what happened. They were lured into ruts from which many of them could not extricate themselves [[Page H71]] successfully. But after there was a requirement for work that was put in after the Contract With America, it was a contract for America, the graph showed that over the last nearly 10 years, income for single moms had taken a sharp rise upward over that entire period.

    And what happened when President Obama came in? He wanted to waive, and did waive, the work requirement. Could he do that? No, not legally. Did he do that? Yes, he did. Could he rewrite immigration law and say, We will legalize these folks meeting these requirements? No, not legally. Did he do it? Yes, he did. And what did Congress do about it? A bunch of us complained. But the Senate was going to protect the President no matter what he did is the way it appeared and the way it continues to appear.

    So when the President brags about saving the auto industry, the auto industry would be a whole lot better off today if the bankruptcy had been done in accordance with bankruptcy law and the Constitution and dealers had not had dealerships jerked away from them. For heaven's sake, it is not like the dealerships were costing the manufacturers anything. Dealers have to pay for their own expenses. Yet he cost them royally.

    And now we know, because so many people have gotten desperate and have just given up hope of getting employment, we actually have more people not working now than ever. So we have those who are listed as unemployed and those that just have given up hope, and they are not even counted in the unemployed anymore.

    The war on poverty has been a disaster. The best thing for Americans is that they have a home that is a nuclear home, and there is at least one or two people in that home who have a job making money.

    America has always been about greatness. Give us your tired, your poor--but not so we can put them on welfare and lure them into a hole they can never get out of. It was so that they could get a job and earn a decent living and raise a family; and, instead, we incentivized single homes. So that after the war on poverty began, we went from just over 6 percent--between 6 and 7 percent of all children being born to single moms--to now over 40 percent, continuing to head toward 50 percent.

    Why do the children have to suffer for the ignorance and stupidity of the government and those who meant well but just did stupid things? It is tragic. It shouldn't have to be that way. We owe the people of America so much better. Nuclear family homes are a building block of this country that has made it successful; and by the grace of God, I hope and pray we can pass legislation that gets us back to strong homes and jobs and not more government giveaways.

    And I keep wondering, Mr. Speaker, wouldn't it have been better in the sixties to say, you know what, we realize you are dealing with a dead beat dad. We know you would be better off with a high school education. So instead of giving you a check for every child you can have out of wedlock, how about if we give you some day care for that child so you finish high school and you are on the right track to getting a job. That would have made a difference for more Americans.

    And with that, I yield back the balance of my time.


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