Spending Controlby Senator Mitch McConnell
Posted on 2013-02-04
McCONNELL. Mr. President, the American people are deeply unhappy
with the way Washington operates these days. They are tired of people
telling them what they want to hear instead of what they need to hear.
They are tired of all of the political games and gimmicks that
substitute for real action on the problems we face as a Nation. Given
what we have seen from the White House and Congressional Democrats,
frankly, it is hard to blame them. As I have said repeatedly in recent
weeks, we need to find a way to control runaway Federal spending and
debt. We need to do it quickly. This is absolutely essential if we are
to avoid a European-style catastrophe. It is what we need to do if we
are serious about removing government obstacles that stand in the way
of a robust recovery and new jobs.
Reducing the debt will throw off a wet blanket that has been weighing on our economy for entirely too long. This is a serious challenge. It demands serious spending reforms from both parties here in Washington. Yet if you were to listen to the Democrats, you would think all of our ills could be solved by raising taxes on private jets or energy companies.
These are not real solutions. They are poll-tested gimmicks. Just take the tax hike on so-called corporate jets. It would not raise enough revenue to offset more than 1 week--1 week--of the decade-long sequester--1 week. Of course, anytime you have a tax hike, there are going to be negative repercussions for growth and jobs. We do not have to look too far into the past to see how disruptive those consequences can be. In 1990, Washington politicians tried to enact a ``luxury tax'' on just about everything you could associate with the upper class, including yachts and aircraft. It was a total failure. Not only was it linked to the destruction of literally thousands of jobs in the boating industry, but, according to one study, the government actually--listen to this--spent more in unemployment benefits and in lost taxes than it was able to raise through the luxury tax itself. In other words, while the tax may have seemed to serve as a useful wedge issue for Democratic politicians, it made just about everyone worse off than they were before it passed. Workers, consumers, taxpayers, and the government were all worse off. That is why a number of Members of today's Senate Democratic caucus voted to repeal that particular tax a few years later in 1993. They even agreed to send refund checks to some of those impacted by it.
So why are they proposing to go down this same sorry road one more time? Well, in a variation of the old saying, you can conclude that they do not want the facts to get in the way of a good political talking point.
But the larger point is this: The challenge we face right now is the fact that government spending is completely and totally out of control. So to focus on a tax of any kind is to miss the point entirely. The amount of revenue we bring in as a percentage of GDP is set to return to the historical average of the past few decades. Spending, on the other hand, is way above historic norms, and spending is projected to actually get much worse in the years to come; that is, unless we do something about it today.
The American people elected a divided government. They expect it to work. That means both parties need to engage and offer serious solutions. Proposing a return to failed tax gimmicks of the past is not by any measure a serious solution. If White House officials want to replace the same sequester they themselves proposed in 2011, it is their responsibility to lay out what concrete spending cuts they would be willing to consider as potential offsets, as House Republicans already have. If they do, then we Republicans are happy to hear them out and to work collaboratively on effective reforms. But if this is just another opportunity to trot out the Democrats' focus-group- approved policy stunt, if this is another fake fight designed by the White House to push us to the brink, then Republicans are not interested in playing along. We are going to keep fighting for real spending reform, because that is what the American people expect us to do.
Every day spent talking about corporate jets is a day wasted. Given that the President again missed the deadline to submit a budget on time this year, there is not much time to spare. The clock is ticking. It is past time to get serious.
I yield the floor.