Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today following President Bush’s remarks this morning:
“After running up $3 trillion in new debt – including more than half a trillion dollars for his flawed Iraq policy – it is astounding that the President is once again lecturing Congress about fiscal responsibility and fiscal priorities. Democrats are investing in the priorities of America’s middle class families, veterans and children, and are dedicated to fighting terror more effectively; President Bush wants to continue investing only in Iraq.
“Average Americans are struggling to make ends meet under the Bush economy, as more than 2 million Americans have lost health care in the last year and the economy lost jobs in August. Meanwhile, Osama bin Laden remains at large while brave Americans die in an Iraqi civil war. But as the President stubbornly refuses to fund basic necessities, Democrats have worked to cut taxes for middle class families, raise the minimum wage, make college more affordable, lower the cost of prescription drugs, and invest in America’s infrastructure – which would create many new jobs.
“The only things ‘harmful to our economy’ and ‘unfair for the taxpayers’ are President Bush’s misguided priorities – billions for Iraq and tax breaks for multi-millionaires. It is time for President Bush and Republicans in Congress to work with Democrats to put the middle class first.”
A Question of Priorities: President Bush and the Budget
In his speech today, President Bush lashed out at Democrats for working to support the priorities of middle class families and for investing in our nation’s future, despite having submitted a budget that shortchanged veterans’ health care, anti-terrorism initiatives, and restoration of our roads and bridges. While ignoring needs here at home, the President has already spent about half a trillion dollars to occupy Iraq, and spent billions more on tax breaks for multi-millionaires and special interests. These skewed priorities are only worsening the squeeze on middle class families, who face both lagging wages and rising prices for everything from health care to college to gasoline. It’s time for President Bush to work with Democrats to strengthen the middle class and ensure our economic competitiveness.
PRESIDENT BUSH’S PRIORITIES: BILLIONS FOR IRAQ AND TAX BREAKS FOR MULTI-MILLIONAIRES
$22 Billion Difference Between Bush Request and Congressional Spending Plan Difference Amounts to What We Spend in Iraq in 2 Months. According to a recent report from the Congressional Research Service, the U.S. is spending approximately $10 billion per month for the war in Iraq. The $22 billion difference amounts to a little over two months spending in Iraq. [CRS Report, 7/16/07]
22 Billion Difference Is Less Than Half of the Bush Tax Breaks Bush for Multi-Millionaires. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, those with incomes over $1 million will receive $49 billion in tax breaks in 2008 because of the Bush tax cuts. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 2/6/2007]
PRESIDENT BUSH HIS BUDGET “FULLY FUNDS OUR PRIORITIES,” BUT IT SHORTCHANGES CRUCIAL NEEDS
Democrats Restored Bush Administration Cuts to Critical Homeland Security Programs. Democrats rejected the Bush Administration’s proposed cuts to critical homeland security initiatives. The Senate provided more than $40 billion in funding for the Department of Homeland Security 2008 budget – more than an eight percent increase over last year’s funding levels. The bill includes $3 billion for emergency border security programs, including an additional 23,000 Border Patrol agents, 300 miles of vehicle barriers, 105 ground-based radar cameras in the southwestern desert and completion of the 700 miles of border fencing authorized by Congress last year. The bill also would increase investments for enhancing aviation and port security and to restore funding levels for first responder grants. [H.R. 2638, Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2008; CQ Today, 7/27/07; U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations Press Release, 7/27/07]
The Senate Military Construction/VA Spending Bill Addresses the Needs of America’s Vets. Overall, the measure provides $109.2 billion in funding for military construction and the Veterans Administration, which is approximately $4 billion more than the President requested, with most of the additional money allocated to veterans’ programs. Of the $109.2 billion, $64.7 billion is discretionary funding. Under the Senate bill, the Veterans Affairs Department would get $87 billion, or $3.6 billion more than sought by President Bush. Military construction accounts would receive $21.6 billion, $391 million more than Bush requested and $3.6 billion more than the amount appropriated for fiscal 2007. [CQ Today, 8/31/07]
- VA’s Claims Backlog is About 600,000. “[VA] Had a claims backlog of roughly 600,000.” [AP, 3/13/07]
- Takes VA Between 127 to 177 Days, or Four to Five Months to Process Benefit Claims. “Took between 127 to 177 days to process an initial claim and an average of 657 days to process an appeal, resulting in significant hardship to veterans. In contrast, the private sector industry takes about 89.5 days to process a claim.” [AP, 3/13/07]
- Iraq War Veterans Continue to Face Long Delays in Receiving Disability Compensation. “Outgoing Secretary Jim Nicholson acknowledged yesterday that the Department of Veterans Affairs is struggling to reduce backlogs in disability claims from Iraq war veterans. Delays in processing disability payments reach up to 177 days, and Nicholson, in addressing Congress for a final time before stepping down Oct. 1, said the department has hired 1,100 new processors to cut that waiting time. Even with the new staffing, Nicholson told the House Veterans Affairs Committee, VA can hope to reduce delays only to about 145 to 150 days — assuming that the level of compensation and pension claims does not spike higher.” [Associated Press, 9/19/07]
The Senate Transportation Bill Fully Funds The Highway Programs. The measure would provide $65.7 billion for the Department of Transportation (DOT), which is $2.57 billion above the Fiscal Year 2007 level and $1.24 billion more than the Bush Administration’s request. [CQ Committee Coverage, 7/12/07]
- The Senate Transportation Bill Provides $1 Billion in Aid to Repair and Maintain America’s Bridges. Senator Patty Murray offered an amendment to the Senate Transportation-Housing measure, calling for an additional $1 billion for activities authorized under the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Bridge Replacement and Rehabilitation program. The amendment requires that the additional funds be used for each state’s most critical bridge activities. The increase in funding represents a 25 percent increase in total bridge funding and still falls within the constraints of the budget resolution. [Amdt.2792 to HR 3047]
THE REALITY OF THE BUSH ECONOMY: SLOW JOB GROWTH, FALLING INCOME AND A STAGNATING ECONOMY
Job Creation Has Stagnated On Bush’s Watch. Since January of 2001, total nonfarm employment has increased just 4.2 percent. Average annual job growth rate has averaged just 0.5 percent per year. During President Clinton’s tenure, total nonfarm employment increased 20.7 percent. [Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Employment Statistics available at www.bls.gov]
- Jobs Created Under President Bush Is Just One Quarter of the Jobs Created Under President Clinton. Only 5.6 million new jobs have been created during Bush’s tenure in office. In contrast, on President Clinton’s watch, 22.7 million jobs were created – a 20.7 percent increase. [Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Employment Statistics available at www.bls.gov]
U.S. Lost 4,000 Jobs in August. “The U.S. economy unexpectedly lost jobs in August for the first time in four years, increasing speculation that the Federal Reserve will have to reduce interest rates to counter an economic slowdown. Employers cut 4,000 workers from payrolls, compared with a revised gain of 68,000 in July that was smaller than previously reported, the Labor Department said today in Washington.” [Bloomberg, 9/7/07]
- Economist: “The Recession Risk Has Certainly Increased.” Reacting to the news of job losses in August, Zach Pandl, an economist at Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. in New York said, “The recession risk has certainly increased.” [Bloomberg, 9/7/07]
Americans Are Working Longer, But Wages Are Lagging. Americans have worked harder – and more productively – for their families, but are not receiving the proportionally increased rewards for their hard work. Real employment compensation has lagged behind productivity gains. In the business sector, real hourly compensation in the business sector has increased 8.1 percent between the first quarter of 2001 and the second quarter of 2007 while productivity increased 18.4 percent. [Bureau of Labor Statistics, Productivity and Cost Table]