"We Need A Balanced Approach To Fix Our Economy"
WASHINGTON - On March 4, 2013, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries (NY-8) led a Congressional Black Caucus Special Order with Rep. Steven Horsford (NV-4) on the impact of sequestration. They were joined by CBC Chairwoman Rep. Marcia Fudge (OH-11), Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Donna Christensen (VI), Danny Davis (IL-7) and Donald Payne Jr. (NJ-10).
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries spoke on the House Floor about the potentially devastating impact sequestration cuts will have on families already struggling to stay afloat in this tough economy and finding a balanced approach to get America back on track. The video can be viewed by clicking here: CBC Special Order- Sequestration Impact. His remarks are below:
“I think what is important, as it relates to the moment we find ourselves in right now in America, is that there are some who make the argument that the reason why the sequestration cuts perhaps were acceptable is because we've got to do something to deal with our out-of-control spending problem--I believe that's the phraseology that is often used--that we have here in America. And certainly when you think about the debt number that we have, $16 trillion, it strikes you as an extremely troubling situation.
And then of course we've had debates back and forth as it relates to the debt ceiling and suggestions from some in this Chamber that the President's effort to raise the debt ceiling is evidence of his willingness to be irresponsible as it relates to the economy.
What's interesting, of course, is that the debt ceiling is not a forward-looking vehicle that's designed to give the administration the ability to spend more. The debt ceiling is a backward-looking vehicle designed to give President Obama at this moment the ability to pay for bills that this Congress has already incurred.
And so when we talk about the notion that there is a spending problem in America, let's be accurate with what really is at issue. And the reality is that many of the bills that we've already incurred, that Americans are forced to pay for and borrow in order to meet our obligations, these were debts incurred by the prior administration.
In fact, this chart illustrates the dynamic that we find ourselves in as it relates to where we really are in America and how we got here. Under the prior administration of George W. Bush, we had two significant tax cuts that were not paid for in 2001 and 2003 that disproportionately benefited the wealthy and the well off. We had an unjustified war in Iraq that cost Americans in lives and in treasure and that contributed significantly to the deficit and our need to raise and borrow additional debt.
And then, of course, we had the collapse of the economy. It cost America, by some estimates, $22 trillion in lost wealth, homeownership, and economic productivity. And as a result of the collapse of the economy, which took place under the prior administration--many argue they were sleeping at the switch and allowed some in Wall Street to engage in reckless behavior--we were forced to bail out some of the largest financial institutions in this country, which added to our financial burden here in America. And then when the administration came in, inherited a train wreck, in order to stimulate the economy we incurred some additional financial responsibility.
And so when you look at this chart, you can see what the projected debt is as a result of things that occurred in the prior administration as a proportion of GDP. This is a dangerously high number. But we are at this point where the debt has increased relative to our GDP because of things that happened in the prior administration. And, in fact, if you look at the bottom of the chart, you see what the debt would be, much lower, as a proportion of GDP, had those things not occurred.
So when you talk about the need to get spending under control, let's be intellectually honest. Because when we're not, you lay out a scenario: Well, it's because of Social Security that we're in this situation. That's not the case. Well, it's because of Medicare and entitlements that we're in this situation. That's not the case. Well, it's because of Medicaid, and we have all of these takers--so-called takers--in our economy. That's not the case.
Two wars, one of which was completely unjustified, the other of which it's not clear whether it was prosecuted in the manner it could have been because we were distracted in Iraq; two enormous tax cuts that benefited the wealthy and the well-off disproportionately; the collapse of the economy; a subsequent Wall Street bailout; and then the need for an economic stimulus package explains why we are where we are right now.
And so the sequestration is an irrational, irresponsible, illegitimate reaction to the reason why we are in this place. And that's why we are arguing for a balanced approach to our economic reality, the one that we confront right now.”