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Balanced Budget Amendment

The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Oregon (Mr. DeFazio) for 5 minutes.

Rep. Peter A. DeFazio

legislator photo

Well, yesterday the House resoundingly rejected a so-called ``clean'' increase in the debt limit, as it should have. But different people are going to draw different conclusions from this vote. The Republicans will say this means unlimited spending cuts, that's how we'll balance the budget. And on my side of the aisle, there will be those who say this puts revenues back into play. Actually, both should be right.

There is no way, no way to deal with a $1.7 trillion deficit--I guess we're down to $1.4 trillion this year; money is coming in a little better than expected--to deal with that without dealing with both sides of the equation, that is, revenues and cuts in spending.

Now, unfortunately, around here it seems that coming together for the problems of the Nation is somewhat quaint and old fashioned. I've been here long enough to remember when we used to do those things, when we had the surtax on millionaires back when Bush I was President and brought back some fiscal sanity, before my time when Ronald Reagan raised taxes three times because he realized that supply-side economics didn't work. Well, we're now back to supply-side economics over here. It doesn't work. And more tax cuts, they're proposing more tax cuts in the face of deficit. Absurd.

So how are we going to force that discussion? I believe we need a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. We actually passed one when I was here in 1995. I voted for it. It failed by one vote in the Senate. Now, just think, had that been in place when, in the last 2 years of the Clinton Presidency, we not only balanced the budget, we began to pay down debt for the first time since 1969. Then came Bush II, and he said we're going to give that money back to the people. And even when we went into deficit, he said, well, we need more tax cuts. That's what we need is more tax cuts, because we're running a deficit now and that's how you deal with deficits is to cut taxes because then people will--whatever. Somehow that creates more money. If we had had the balanced budget amendment to the Constitution in place, Bush couldn't have gotten away with that. He couldn't have launched an unnecessary war in Iraq and cut taxes at the same time; the first time our Nation has gone to war while cutting taxes. And he managed to double the debt in 8 short years, ending with the spectacular crash on Wall Street and the TARP bailout, which many forget was the Bush TARP bailout--I voted against that, too--not the Obama bailout; although Obama continued those same Wall Street friendly policies, to his discredit.

And then the Obama stimulus. Forty percent of that was Bush tax cuts. What is it? What is it we don't get that cutting taxes in the way that George Bush wanted to do and did do with trickle-down economics and piling up more debt does not put people back to work? It's not investment. It doesn't generate economic activity and jobs.

The theory is, oh, the rich people have so much money, they'll invest it in meaningful ways. Corporations are sitting on $2 trillion in cash. Wall Street billionaire hedge fund managers pay a 15 percent rate of tax, half that of an Army captain. Are they investing in a meaningful way to put people back to work? No. They're speculating and driving up the price of gas and screwing the American people and depressing the economy.

It's time to get real around here. I believe a balanced budget amendment would focus the minds and deal with this deficit and debt in a way that is serious, both with dealing with revenues and dealing with spending cuts. I voted against extending all the Bush cuts in December--not just the ones on the rich people, all of them, a little bit of shared sacrifice. That would have cut the deficit in half--by $5 trillion--over 10 years. Then we wouldn't have been screaming in January after everybody--many people on that side of the aisle--voted for extending the Bush tax cuts. They were shocked, shocked, shocked that we had a record deficit this year. Huh? You just voted to reduce revenues by $400 billion and you're shocked that that increased the deficit? And has it been putting people back to work? Not much that I've seen in my district, I'll tell you that.

Then comes the Ryan budget. A serious budget. Destroys Medicare. Ends Medicare as we know it. Cuts Medicaid. Most people just think that's for poor people. Well, actually, most of the money goes to either kids or seniors in nursing homes. So that's going to be kind of a tough one. So, huge, devastating cuts. More tax cuts. More of the joke economic policies. Let's cut taxes and that will help us deal with the deficit. More tax cuts for rich people and big corporations. And he doesn't balance the budget--even under his rosy scenario written by the Heritage Foundation--until 2040. That's a serious attempt at dealing with our debt and deficit? That's the Ryan budget. The Obama budget is even worse. I don't know if it gets there by 2050.

Neither side is dealing seriously with these issues. We need to focus people's minds, and a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution is the best way to do that.