A picture of Representative Keith Ellison
Keith E.
Democrat MN 5

About Rep. Keith
  • Funding Bill is Reflection of Priorities

    by Representative Keith Ellison

    Posted on 2015-12-17

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    ELLISON. I thank the gentlewoman, who has done an awesome job holding down the Progressive Special Order Hour. It has been to the benefit of everyone who listens.

    Mr. Speaker, it is important for all of us involved in this debate and every American to understand a concept known as starve the beast. It is a conservative concept. And what it really means--and I would like everybody to be clear--is that the conservative wing in our country wants to shrink the size of government so that a big multinational oil company will never have to worry about an EPA regulator because the government will have so little money, they won't have an EPA regulator.

    The starve-the-beast concept means that a big bank won't ever have to worry about a bank regulator saying: Hey, Mr. Banker, you cannot do that with the American people's money. You have to be fair; you have to be proper and right with the people's money. Because we will shrink the government to be so small and so weak that there won't ever be that regulator who will say to the big banks: You cannot do that.

    Starve the beast means that the largest private sector elements in our country can escape the accountability the government provides through the people who inspect the water, the people who inspect the meat, the people who inspect the air quality. It is the people who inspect all these things. And when the public interest runs afoul of the private gain, the private gain will prevail because the public won't have the wherewithal and the resources to say no, or you have to readjust this, or you have to operate at a higher standard of quality, or anything like that.

    Now, how do you get this starve-the-beast strategy in play? Well, one thing that you do is you have unpaid-for tax cuts. You get these tax cuts in place and they are all good if you say: Isn't this great? Don't you want to escape paying taxes? Who likes paying taxes? Nobody.

    So people say: Okay. Good. We are going to get out of having to pay taxes. How nice. But then you don't pay for them. Then what happens to the budget? Well, you have got a big hole in the budget because the revenue you were counting on is not there. Then you use the public relations to say that raising taxes is just the worst thing anyone could ever do at any time in their life. They say this three-letter word of taxes--really, a four-letter word--and I will let your imagination go from there--and then, because they have made raising revenue utterly radioactive, all we can do is cut.

    And so what do we do? Well, we cut education funding. We cut Meals on Wheels. We cut the National Institutes of Health. We cut, cut, cut all this stuff that ordinary citizens rely on until we get to the next rounds of tax cuts.

    By the way, when it comes to tax cuts and conservatives, if the economy is doing really well, they need a tax cut. If it is doing really bad, the solution to that is what? A tax cut. And if we are just doing average, well, why not have a tax cut? It is almost always unpaid for.

    And if you look at it over time, there is this pattern of irresponsible tax cuts, deficits, cuts to fix it, more tax cuts, deficit, more cuts to fix it. Never do we raise the revenue we need in order to meet the needs of our society.

    Who gets hurt? Not the country club set. It is people who need the government to function on their behalf or people who drink water every day and who need an inspection of it, people who like to breathe clean air, people who might want to eat some meat that has been inspected, people suffering from a serious disease like Alzheimer's or Parkinson's who might need the National Institutes of Health to put forth a grant which will help.

    So what does that all have to do with this discussion? Well, today, we just passed a bill that gave $600-some billion worth of unpaid-for tax cuts and made them permanent. We created a structural deficit that is even worse.

    Now, they are going to give it back a little bit. A little bit. We give away $600 billion, they give us $30 billion, and voila, we are supposed to be happy about that.

    There is a concept known as Stockholm syndrome. Your captor holds you in control. After they have held you a little while, they give you a few little chits. Then they make you think that when they give you even a little drop of water, they are so benevolent.

    I will never forget that we never should have had sequester in the first place. We never should have had sequester. We had a hostage- taking situation where Republicans were literally threatening to default and renege on the full faith and credit of the United States by busting the debt ceiling. And if we did not give them back all kinds of cuts and concessions, they would bust the debt ceiling.

    So then we entered into this deal where we had some cuts in the beginning, and then they said: We are going to set up a special committee, three Republicans in the House, three Republicans in the Senate, three Democrats in the House, three Democrats in the Senate. And this committee was supposed to come up with some targeted cuts to reduce the deficit, which they said then was just the worst thing in the world, and that is to ever have a deficit.

    Then they got in that committee and instead of upholding their pledge to protect and defend the United States, they upheld their pledge to not raise taxes to certain political figures in our landscape. The whole committee failed. And it was contemplated that if this committee cannot come up with targeted cuts, then there will be across-the-board cuts on both sides, also known as sequester.

    You know what? That committee really never had a chance. I wish we would have known then that that committee was always a sucker deal, because they were clinking the champagne glasses when that committee failed because they knew it was going to be across-the-board cuts. They said: It is going to be domestic discretionary, which you liberals like, and there are going to be cuts to the military, which us conservatives like--which is a sort of a gross overgeneralization and not exactly accurate, but that was the rough approximation.

    What we never accounted for is that in 2001, the U.S. military budget was already about $290 billion. By the time we got to sequester, it was about $700 billion. They could stand some cuts, but the programs that the average citizen needed that were going to be ravaged could not.

    And so that you know, no sooner than the sequester went into effect, we had people saying: Oh, we can't do these military cuts. It can't happen. It won't happen. They had their friends and their advocates, even though they had been getting fat for years, but what about Meals on Wheels and education funding and environmental protection? That was attacked.

    So what does that mean about today? What it means about today is this: We have seen more taxes, more things given away. I definitely think that some of the things that were made permanent today are good tax treatments. I am for research and development. I am certainly for child credit and the EITC. But they should be paid for, because if they are not paid for, they are going to come out of another part of the budget next year.

    Oh, and by the way, how come tax extenders don't have to be paid for, but anything that regular people need must be paid for? Why do we have to find offsets for unemployment insurance, but not for things that Big Business needs? It is utter hypocrisy.

    I just want to tell you, Mr. Speaker, for the folks who are listening, that there is a very important thing that Speaker John Boehner said when the Republicans took over a few years ago. They came out with this big, ugly budget to cut all these things that Americans really rely on to prosper and grow, and we wouldn't pass their House bill. And so Speaker Boehner said: If they won't take it one big loaf at a time, they will take it one slice at [[Page H9683]] a time. And boy, if that promise has not been kept.

    We absolutely have to turn around and say no to this starve-the-beast philosophy. We have to turn it around and start meeting the needs of the American people.

    Taxes are the price we pay to live in a civilized society. If you don't like taxes, move to Somalia, where you won't have to pay any. Good luck. But in America, where we pay taxes that pay for schools, that pay for more clean water, highways, police, and fire, we have got to stop and stand against this false claim that there is something wrong with taxation.

    Let me just wrap up on one point. I know we have got to move on--we have got other great speakers who I actually want to hear from myself-- but I want to make one very quick comment as I listen to my colleagues and prepare to take my seat, and that is about one of the things we are going to be dealing with tomorrow.

    Now, we talk about this tax extender thing and the omnibus as if it is two different things. It is actually one big thing. That is the truth.

    One of the elements of the omnibus tomorrow--which is pretty ugly--is lifting the oil export ban on crude oil. According to the Energy Information Administration, lifting the ban will increase oil industry profits by more than $20 billion annually.

    Now, the big companies that make all these extra profits, I think they have their favorites in the House of Representatives. And not too many of them sit over here. Probably a lot of them sit over there.

    I will also say that it will cut refinery jobs, it will make us more dependent upon foreign oil, and it will increase more fossil fuel. This is absolutely the wrong thing. The only virtue of it is that a small, tiny, select number of people are going to get $20 billion. And I am disgusted by it.

    By the oil industry's own expectations, this action will lead to more than 7,600 additional wells being drilled each year and more fossil fuels. According to the report from the Center for America Progress, repealing the ban would result in an additional 515 metric tons of carbon pollution each year, roughly equal to 108 million more passenger cars or 135 coal-fired power plants. It will cost jobs in refineries. It will do real damage to Americans. And yet this is what is on the docket tomorrow.

    {time} 1545 Now, are there good things on the docket tomorrow? Yes, there are. I will leave it to other people to decide whether it is worth it to pass a monstrosity like this.

    So I will say: Always know that sometimes when you are in the game, somebody else playing has an overall long-term strategy, and if you are just playing minute to minute, you are going to be no match for them.

    Understand starve the beast. Don't play the game.

    Mrs. WATSON COLEMAN. I thank the gentleman very much for sharing his wisdom with us and his perspective on those issues that we are confronting in the very near future.

    Mr. Speaker, could you tell me how much time I have left? The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Kelly of Mississippi). The gentlewoman has 23 minutes remaining.

    Mrs. WATSON COLEMAN. Mr. Speaker, I yield to my colleague from Georgia (Mr. Johnson).

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