Katie Grant, 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC - Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) delivered a Morning Hour speech today regarding the current budget debate and how we must look at the entire budget, not just discretionary spending, to solve our budget challenge. See below for a link to the video and his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“In recent weeks, I’ve come to the floor to argue that the Republican spending plan does two extremely harmful things: it weakens our economy and fails to seriously reduce our debt. Democrats agree that cutting spending is part of the solution to our deficit problem—but we also believe that cuts should be smart and targeted, not reckless.
“Rather than cutting investments in growth—at the same time our international competitors are ramping up theirs—Democrats support the Make It In America agenda, a plan to invest in innovation, manufacturing jobs, and middle-class opportunity.
“Unfortunately, the consensus that the Republican spending plan will halt our economic recovery and cost jobs is widespread and nonpartisan. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, appointed by President Bush, tells us that that plan will cost ‘a couple hundred thousand’ jobs. Macroeconomic Advisors tells us that the Republican plan will wipe out approximately 450,000 jobs. Moody’s Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi, who advised Sen. McCain’s 2008 campaign, tells us that it will cost up to 700,000 jobs. The Economic Policy Institute puts the damage at 800,000 jobs. Among economists across the spectrum, it’s widely agreed that cutting investment in science, education, and infrastructure will destroy jobs and cripple our future growth.
“At the same time, I’ve argued that the Republican spending plan barely puts a dent in our debt.
“It’s reasonable to ask: how can this plan have such severe consequences for our economy, yet so little impact on our fiscal predicament?
“This chart helps us answer the question.
"All of the proposed cuts come from the category of our budget called non-security discretionary spending. But non-security discretionary spending represents a mere 14% of our budget. When you attempt to find $100 billion in savings—and when you insist on getting those savings from 14% of the budget—you have to cut deep indeed.
“You have to cut billions in funding into new medical cures and energy technologies; you have to kick 200,000 children out of Head Start; you even have to cut port and transit security by two-thirds, which the Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee calls ‘too dangerous.’
“As David Brooks recently argued, Congress should ‘never cut without an evaluation process.’ But instead, legislators ‘are simply cutting on the basis of what’s politically easy and what vaguely seems expendable.’
“It may be possible to portray taking on 14% of the budget as fiscally responsible—but only because doing so exploits Americans’ misunderstandings of the budget. A recent poll shows that 63% of Americans think we spend more on defense and foreign aid than we do on Medicare and Social Security—when, in fact we spend far more on Medicare and Social Security. When another poll asked Americans how much we spend on foreign aid, the average estimate was 27%—when the right answer is about 1%.
“It is entirely out of step with fiscal reality to attempt to tackle our deficit while ignoring 86% of the budget. ‘Fiscal responsibility’ is not synonymous with ‘cutting non-security discretionary spending.’ In truth, fiscal responsibility is much more difficult than that.
“As former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough put it this week, ‘The belief of some on the right that America can balance the budget by cutting education, infrastructure, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and home heating assistance to the poor is tantamount to budgetary witchcraft.’
“We have to start doing more. We have to address the defense spending that takes up more than a quarter of our budget. We have to make hard choices that can keep our entitlements strong for generations to come. And, with tax revenues at a 60-year low, we have to pass deficit-reducing tax reform.
“Unless we’re willing to take on that hard work, on a bipartisan basis, none of us deserve to call ourselves fiscally responsible.”