Concurrent Resolution on the Budget Fiscal Year 2014by Senator Michael B. Enzi
Posted on 2013-03-20
ENZI. Mr. President, I rise today to share with the American
public exactly what they are getting with the majority's budget for the
coming year. I will be blunt. It is not good news. In fact, after 4
years of not bringing up a budget for consideration by the Senate, what
the majority has offered is a severe disappointment. We have to grow
the economy, not the government. But, unfortunately, the majority's
budget focuses on growing the government--more taxing, more spending,
During our last break, I had an opportunity to travel around Wyoming. I did about 2,000 miles, and I did a bunch of listening sessions. That is where I just take notes while people tell me what is on their mind. They are not going to be pleased with this budget. In fact, they think the best way to grow jobs is to cut government. And they were very adamant on making sure the sequester happened, which would be the first real cut in government we have had in forever. They recognize that what we usually call a cut is when an agency asks for a billion dollars, and they only get a half a billion dollars in new money. They call that a half billion dollar cut. It is not a cut, it is an increase of half a billion dollars. But around here that would be a [[Page S2006]] cut. So we do not really do cuts. Sometimes we slow the growth of government, but we do not do cuts.
They actually want to see some action to cut, to balance the budget, and eventually to pay down the debt. They recognize that if interest rates go up, $16 trillion is going to be tough to pay the interest on, let alone pay back any principal, let alone do any other function of government.
So this is a budget that looks out over the next 10 years. It provides for significant tax increases, upwards of $1.5 trillion. But it also provides for significant spending increases. It is not as though we are increasing the revenue so that we could decrease the deficit and eventually decrease the debt. It is so we can add to spending--$162 billion next year alone. It provides for spending increases of 62 percent from today's budget levels.
Any savings are being claimed after the first year--after the first year. We never get to the second year, so the savings never make it-- never pan out. It reminds me of a sign I saw on a restaurant. It said: Free drinks tomorrow. Of course, if you came in tomorrow, they said: No, no. Read the sign. It says: Free drinks tomorrow. That is the way we budget around here. We are always promising these things, but the real things do not happen.
Our problem is not that we tax too little but that we spend too much. A budget should serve as the blueprint to get the revenues and the spending aligned. Individuals have budgets. That is what they do. They see how much revenue they have coming in, and they see how much they can spend. They do not see how much they can spend and then see what the revenue is going to be. You cannot live in that kind of a world, but we do here.
Unfortunately, the majority's budget fails miserably in that respect. In fact, it does not balance the budget in any year over the next 10 years. The budget that was offered by the House Republicans, on the other hand, balances the budget in 2023. And, of course, the other side of the aisle talks about what a terrible budget that is. But they got it to balance. They have even introduced and passed budgets in the House for the last several years, and that takes a lot of courage when you know all that is going to happen over in this body is for it to get shot down by the majority. But those budgets have gotten some votes in favor of them.
The President has presented some budgets. The last 2 years, he has not gotten a single vote for his budget. I mean, he was not able to talk a single Democrat into voting for his budget--not one--let alone a Republican.
So the budget that was offered by the House Republicans balances in 2023. I have introduced a bill. It is called the Penny Plan. That cuts spending by 1 percent from every dollar for each of the next 3 years. If we could do that--true cuts--1 percent for each of the next 3 years, the budget would balance in 2016. I really think that is where we need to be--not 2023--2016. And, hopefully, we would not stop the cuts of 1 cent for every dollar. Families across America are having to cut more than that.
When I present this in Wyoming and other places, they say: Well, my wife just got laid off. We had to do a 20-percent cut, so why can't the Federal Government do a 1-penny-out-of-every-dollar cut? That would balance it by 2016. If we kept it going a little more, we would actually be paying down the debt--not just reducing the deficit but paying down the debt.
Our Nation owes $16 trillion, and no one is talking about reducing it. We have to get to balance--the sooner the better--and start paying down the debt. And do not get confused by the language the majority will use. They will say that their budget takes a ``balanced approach.'' But it does not balance. There is a big difference. ``Balanced approach'' to them means ``fair'' tax increases. I am not sure what that means, but that is what they mean by ``balance.'' And it is tax and spend, it is increasing deficits, and increasing debt as far as the eye can see. This is not the plan America needs to get its fiscal house in order. Next year alone, the majority wants to increase spending by nearly $162 billion, and the deficit next year is anticipated to be $152 billion above current projections. Over the next 10 years, deficits are expected to total $5.2 trillion. If we adopt the majority's budget, that is $5.2 trillion in addition to the $16 trillion we already owe. That is not balancing the budget. That is not a balanced approach.
None of this spending is associated with any kind of reforms to the drivers of our out-of-control deficits and debt that will bankrupt-- bankrupt--Social Security and Medicare. The majority's budget provides no path to save Social Security and Medicare. They are hoping the Republicans will do that and take all the flak that is involved for it. Well, if we do it soon enough, there is not as much flak as if we do it later.
It has been a shame that we have been years without a budget, and when the majority finally gets around to doing it they do not even address the biggest driver.
Earlier this evening, the majority leader commented that we can learn from the bipartisanship shown by Senators Mikulski and Shelby on their work on the bill that will fund the government for the rest of the year. I think it was a massive opportunity and expenditure of effort that they did. But what I want to point out is that they had the opportunity to work things out together--together. That is bipartisan. That means sitting down together and figuring out what both sides think are the priorities, and seeing if there is not some way to put those into a single budget. I know it has not been done in years, but it is something I imagine America dreams about. I wish the majority would have provided that same opportunity in the Budget Committee. Maybe then the majority would have brought a bipartisan budget to the Senate floor. This does not have to be a shooting match. It can be a realization of a way to match spending with the revenues we have.
I was disheartened last week when I finally received the majority's budget to see that it simply continues the mantra of ``tax and spend.'' We cannot tax the American people every time Congress screws up, every time we overspend. And there are a lot of ways we do overspend.
One of the favorite things around here is to propose a grand new idea, and since that grand new idea would have a huge pricetag on it, we reduce it by saying: We will just make it a demonstration project. We will just do it in five States to start with, with a very minimal budget, and that will prove the value of this project. And practically every one shows they are a valuable project.
Well, at that point the local governments or the States are supposed to take them over and sell it to the rest of the country so that everybody winds up with this tremendous project. That is not what happens. They come back the next year and they say: This worked phenomenally, so we need to expand it to all 50 States because everybody deserves a great program such as this.
Well, we increased it from 5 to 50, so we increased it tenfold, at least. And chances are pretty good that some of those projects are done in small States. So when you put them into big States, they are an even bigger blowup of the budget. That is the way we bust the budget around here--just one of many ways.
Rather than looking for waste and abuse and duplication in government spending--and we know there is some--the majority simply decided to ask the hard-working American public to send in more of their hard-earned dollars to Washington to pay for more spending. These tax increases the majority calls for will hit the middle class. They say it will not hit the middle class. But we did some of the rich, and I noticed, in the alternative minimum tax--that is a great phrase. That sounds like everybody ought to be paying tax, and that is kind of an American principle, but it is not something that happens around here. Over 50 percent of the people do not pay any tax now. But we had this alternative minimum tax so that the rich would pay more. Well, inflation changed it so that 34 million Americans are being hit by that in the middle class. Consequently, we changed it. That is what we do when we try and mess around with classes of people.
To my constituents back home in Wyoming and fellow citizens across the country, let me be clear: It is your money, not the government's money. That is what they were telling me as I traveled around Wyoming for 2,000 miles and did my listening sessions.
[[Page S2007]] They say it is our money. As legislators, we have to do a better job of taking care of the funds they provide us and ensuring that it is spent wisely.
The majority thinks it knows best how to spend the money the American people work hard to make. The budget they have offered seeks more than $1 trillion--let me repeat that: more than $1 trillion--in new taxes over the next 10 years. And debt will still grow by $7 trillion. That would be $23 trillion. That is a lot to pay interest on. Take and figure that out, if you can, with all those zeros that are out there, how much money that amounts to--at some moderate rate, say, 5 percent, because that is what it is anticipated to grow to in that same amount of time. And I think it could go well higher than that. Because if the rest of the world that is loaning us 40 percent of our money decides we are not the best place to put that money, the interest rates will have to go up dramatically in order to encourage the kind of money to keep borrowing $23 trillion--or $16 trillion; that is, if we can balance the budget quickly. In fact, the majority wants to set up a fast-track legislative process to get $975 billion from you as quickly as possible.
Now, we had the discussion earlier about taxes. We thought we had worked the tax problem for everybody and preserved people's taxes for 99 percent of the people. We thought there were going to be some spending cuts coming. Somebody sent me this little chart that I have to share.
This says ``Republican'' on it: OK. I will raise taxes if you promise to cut spending.
Well, Lucy says: It is a deal.
But we have been watching this cartoon for years and years. We know what happens. When we go to pick up the spending cuts, the football suddenly gets lifted out of the way and we end up on our back, the American public winds up on its back. Those are not the kinds of spending cuts we are looking for. We are looking for some real spending cuts, not just a decrease in the growth but some real spending cuts. There is a way to do those.
Wyoming has been faced with probably an 8-percent reduction in its income. How did they handle it? The Governor saw that coming, got a hold of every department and program and said: I need a plan from you for how you would cut 2 percent, how you would cut 4 percent, how you would cut 6 percent, and how you would cut 8 percent. When he got the four plans from every department, he took a look at them to see if they were cutting the worst first--you know, reducing the pain as much as possible. It worked that way. There was hardly a whimper and hardly anything noticeable to the customer; that is, the people who live in Wyoming. That is good management, not an e-mail that goes out that says: Make the cut as painful as possible. That is the sequester we are going through now. That should never happen in any kind of a managed business or a managed government. I guess that would be saying it is not a managed government.
When we took up the budget in committee last week, I offered an amendment to strike the language that provided for the fast-track tax increase process. My amendment was meant to ensure that the tax reform would be conducted in a bipartisan manner, to generate a more efficient, fairer, and simpler Tax Code and spur economic growth rather than raise revenues through legislation that can be passed with a simple majority here in the Senate.
A simple-majority vote would ensure that the minority party's views would receive little, if any, consideration. We would have no input. Debate time and the number of amendments that could be offered to improve the legislation would also be limited. We need to have an open process where all Members can have their voices heard. We simply need to stop dealmaking and start legislating.
We have had the system around here for a while where we work from contrived crises that have very specific dates at which the sky falls and the United States is demolished. Of course, that does generate a lot of publicity and all the media and everything leading up to that crunch. A group goes off and makes a deal. We find out about that deal in the last hour. Our choice at that point is take it or leave it. Well, if the sky is going to fall and America is going to be destroyed, what is the choice? That is not the way to do it. We have to quit dealmaking and start legislating. The way you legislate is to have the chairman and the ranking member and other interested people on the committee who have a very specific interest in an issue sit down together and see if they cannot work out a basic package. It only has to be a basic package. It does not have to be a comprehensive package. This basic package would then go to committee. That is where the people can turn in amendments and improve it from their viewpoint.
The reason we have so many people in the Senate and in the House is so that we can see as many unintended consequences as possible. But if it does not go through committee, we have turned those people off. We have said: Your views do not count; your amendments do not count. Consequently, we do not end up with a good piece of legislation coming out of committee. If you get it out of committee in good shape, you can get it to the floor in good shape. If you get it to the floor in good shape, you can take additional amendments and improve it maybe more. That has been my experience with this. Yes, there have to be some tough votes with that. That is what we do. That is what we get paid for-- legislating, voting.
We have spent the last week working on a continuing resolution. We got to vote three times. There were only requests for 11 more votes. We did not get to vote on those until tonight. So they had it arranged in a very fast process. Some of the people did not actually get their say.
We have to stop dealmaking and start legislating, particularly on big and important issues such as tax reform. We have to get back to a regular process so all Members can give input and improve the legislation.
Senator Gregg and Senator Wyden worked on income taxes for a long time. Then Senator Coats and Senator Wyden worked on income taxes for a long time. Now I am working with Senator Wyden and Senator Coats on income taxes. I think we can come up with something that will work. We can do both the individual and the corporate tax rates at the same time because they are very interrelated. We would not have that big of a tax code if it were not for all of the interrelationships. It is time that we made it simpler and fairer. It can be done, but it is not going to be done on a partisan basis in a very short period of time and get it right. So we have to get back to that regular process so all Members can give input and improve the legislation.
Unfortunately, my amendment was defeated. Every Member of the majority voted against it. But I will try here again on the Senate floor. Senator Grassley, who was a former chairman of the Finance Committee, and I have come together. We will offer an amendment to get rid of the fast-track process and provide for progrowth, revenue- neutral tax reform for corporate, business, and individual taxes.
I have a few other amendments I plan on filing as well to improve this budget. One would provide for a phase-in or transition for any changes to the Tax Code so that people and businesses can plan accordingly and we do not inadvertently put companies out of business or add people to the unemployment rolls.
Another amendment would require that each Federal agency identify and prioritize its programs, its projects, its activities so that they can cut the worst first, as I mentioned in the Wyoming example. That way we get what is the least harmful and least painful. There would be spending reductions. We might even get into duplication between agencies.
Senator Coburn and I did a little study of the health, education, labor, and pension programs. We found there was $9 billion--$9 billion of duplication. You cannot get rid of all of that, but you ought to be able to get rid of half of it. Well, Senator Coburn got so enthused by it that he went and took a look at the rest of government. He found $900 billion a year in duplication. Now, how is that possible? Well, my jurisdiction was rather limited, but what I have jurisdiction over is duplicated in almost every way. Almost every department, agency, and program has [[Page S2008]] something to do with financial literacy. Based on our budget process, I would say that is probably failing. Maybe we ought to get rid of all duplication.
I will also file an amendment that would provide for protecting and restoring monies in dedicated funds, such as the trust funds, so we will not steal money from other areas to make up for shortfalls, as the majority did with the abandoned mine land money for 10 years that was owed to Wyoming but instead was used to pay for a 2-year highway bill.
Finally, I will file an amendment reflecting the goals of the Marketplace Fairness Act so that we put all businesses, whether brick- and-mortar, online, or catalog, on a level playing field with respect to the collection of sales and use taxes.
The majority's budget would severely harm my home State of Wyoming. The more than $1 trillion in tax increases would mean losses in personal income, household disposable income, and job opportunities. Over the next 10 years, the tax increases would cut personal income in Wyoming over $4 billion. You have to remember, we are a small State. We finally got past the half-million mark in people. So $4 billion is a lot. It would cut household disposable income on an average of $26,000 per household. There would be an average of nearly 1,900 job losses. You have to remember, we only have half a million people. These tax increases clearly are not the recipe for fixing our ailing economy and certainly not the answer for the hard-working folks back home in Wyoming.
When you start with one party doing the drafting--and those who wrote the budget hold the majority on the Budget Committee--you can expect the bill to be one-sided. If you keep on doing what you have been doing, you can expect to get the same result. Unfortunately, I believe that is what we will see this week as we debate the budget on the Senate floor.
The majority kept us in the dark on the last budget until last Wednesday evening. We had to present our opening statements in the Budget Committee before we even saw the budget the majority would offer.
Now, I do have to say in the defense of the majority that is the way it has been for several years, both when the Republicans were in charge and when Democrats were in charge. That does not mean it is right. If you want a good budget, you have to share the information, and share it before people have to comment if you really want good comments.
Then we had to turn around and start voting on the amendments the next morning in the Budget Committee. We were not part of that process. It was on a partisan line.
I was particularly disheartened by one amendment that failed on a party-line vote that was offered by Senator Portman from Ohio. His amendment was simply asking the Congressional Budget Office to provide additional information with the cost estimates it provides on legislation affecting revenues. That is right--he was just asking for additional information. Every Member of the majority voted against it. How could a request for additional information be so partisan? We can and must do better for our constituents and our country.
Several weeks from now, we may see the President's budget proposal. Of course, he will be late to the game since the House and Senate will have already acted on the budget. That would be the first time in over 90 years that would be the case. By the way, his budget was due nearly 2 months ago. I anticipate it will include many of the same things we have here in the Senate majority's budget--more taxes, more spending, more government.
As we are learning all too well with the majority's drive to repeal the recent spending cuts called sequestration, taxes generally go on forever, but spending cuts seldom make it through the year. We were promised spending cuts, but the football is about to be jerked out. We have to grow the economy, not the government. Unfortunately, the majority's budget has it backward: It grows the government at the expense of the economy.
I look forward to the debate on this budget and filing amendments to improve it both for my constituents in Wyoming and my fellow citizens across the country. I know the debate around here has delayed the beginning of the budget process so that we are going to be under a crunch. Perhaps it will go into the weekend and give us an opportunity to do all of the amendments rather than just trying to fatigue us on Friday.