A picture of Senator Sherrod Brown
Sherrod B.
Democrat OH

About Sen. Sherrod
  • The Fiscal Cliff

    by Senator Sherrod Brown

    Posted on 2013-01-01

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    BROWN of Ohio. I thank the senior Senator from Illinois, the assistant majority leader.

    I concur in the remarks Senator Durbin just made, especially about the vote last night. The primary thing we did was we spared that $2,000 tax increase for so many families in California, Illinois, Ohio, and across this country. I remember the Presiding Officer telling a group of us last night how many hundreds of thousands of Californians would have lost their unemployment insurance if we had not acted last night the way we did.

    My fundamental criteria on voting on this issue and voting for this issue was we were able successfully to stop cuts in Social Security to pay for some of this plan or raising the retirement age for Medicare or not doing the unemployment insurance in the way we did. So all those were victories last night.

    I also concur with Senator Durbin that while adding 5 years to the earned-income tax credit, locking in one of the best poverty-fighting programs to be begun by Ronald Reagan, suggested, I believe, by Milton Friedman--supported by both parties for [[Page S8615]] many years--we are not seeing that the way we used to with the earned- income tax credit. It rewards families that work, a family making $30,000 a year. This is not a whole lot more than the minimum wage, $3 or $4 more, maybe, than the minimum wage but not a livable wage, and they get significant tax credits. This is sort of what Friedman called a negative income tax, and this works so well for encouraging work in this country.

    We did that only for 5 years, while bringing the estate tax up to a $5 million exemption, which I thought was far too generous because it is only paid by far fewer than 1 percent of the American people. That was made permanent while the earned-income tax credit was only made for 5 years.

    The tax credit for college students, for families, was so important in this legislation too. Much of what we did was simply ask the wealthy to pay a little bit more, to bring tax rates, as the Presiding Officer knows, back to the levels of the 1990s.

    I think it is important to put this in a little historical perspective. In the 1990s, tax rates were a little bit higher for upper income people. We saw in those 8 years in the 1990s, from 1993 to 2000--the Presiding Officer's first year in the Senate, 1993, my first year in the House--we saw incredible economic growth. Wages went up for the average American, average Ohioan, average Californian, average American. We saw 21 million private sector net jobs created, and President Clinton left office with the largest budget surplus in American history.

    We know what happened the next 8 years, where we saw very little economic growth, only about 1 million--being generous--only about 1 million private sector net jobs created in those 8 years.

    In what hit my State particularly hard, we saw a real decline in manufacturing. From 2000 to 2010, we lost, in this country, net, 5 million manufacturing jobs--manufacturing jobs. Maybe people who dress like this around here don't think much about that. I know the Presiding Officer does because her State is the No. 1 manufacturing State in the country.

    It is especially important in my State. We lost hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs. While we lost 5 million manufacturing jobs nationally, tens of thousands--I believe 60,000 is the number--of manufacturing plants closed in those 10 years.

    But the good news is that since the auto rescue, we have seen what is beginning to be significant manufacturing job growth, some 500,000 new manufacturing jobs since 2010. Almost every month--not quite every month but almost every month--an increase in manufacturing jobs. We know what a manufacturing job does in a community. For workers earning $20 or $25 an hour, that worker is spending money in that community. That worker is buying things, buying a home, buying a car, putting people to work creating jobs at restaurants and creating jobs at the hardware store. Those workers are paying property taxes to hire teachers and paying the local city income tax to hire firefighters and police. So we know what manufacturing jobs do as we see that increase.

    In fact, since the auto rescue, in my State, the unemployment rate went from 10.6 percent soon after the auto rescue sort of took effect, if you will, and now the unemployment rate is under 7 percent. It is not what it ought to be, but I think that is what last night's vote, ultimately, was a recognition of; that the people here with this 89-to- 8 vote--89 votes yes, 8 votes no, with strong bipartisan support, which I hope we see this afternoon in the House--I think it was a recognition that we don't grow the economy by tax cuts for the rich and trickle- down economics. We tried that in the last decade. It didn't work. We understand, historical evidence shows--and I think we recognized it last night--by focusing on the middle class, tax cuts for the middle class, investments in schools, and investments in infrastructure and unemployment insurance for people who have lost their job, keeping Social Security and Medicare strong, investing in college credits, and rewarding work through the earned-income tax credit, we grow the economy from the middle class out. That succeeded in the 1990s. There were 20 million-plus new manufacturing jobs. Trickle down didn't do so well the 10 years after.

    Now we are coming back and recognizing, with this overwhelming vote last night, both parties are recognizing we grow the economy from the middle class out.

    I think that is why last night was a huge victory, surely, politically for the President. But what it was a victory for, truly, was a victory for the middle class and a victory for those who want to join, aspire to the middle class, and a victory for this country, for our economy, for our economic growth and for our future.

    I yield the floor.

    The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Senator from Wyoming.


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