Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today on the floor of the U.S. Senate regarding Democrats’ budget, which strengthens the economy and reverses years of fiscal policies pursued by Bush Republicans that have put the burden of a looming recession on the back of middle-class families:
“This week marks the 75th anniversary of the first of Franklin Roosevelt’s legendary fireside chats. In his radio address on March 12, 1933, President Roosevelt reassured the nation that despite the fear and uncertainty of a banking crisis and a deeply troubled economy, working people – or in his words, ‘average citizens,’ would be just fine. He said:
‘You…must have faith; you must not be stampeded by rumors or guesses.’
‘Let us unite in banishing fear. We have provided the machinery to restore our financial system, and it is up to you to support and make it work. It is your problem, my friends, your problem no less than mine. Together we cannot fail.’
“And he was right. With President Roosevelt’s leadership and the grit and determination of the American people, our country not only survived the Great Depression, but embraced a new era of prosperity. That success was due in no small part to President Roosevelt’s understanding that working Americans built our country, and working Americans were critical to our continued prosperity.
“Seven years ago, George Bush inherited a budget surplus of more than $200 billion, the result of responsible Clinton Administration economic policy. These surpluses were projected to continue for the foreseeable future.
“Now, seven years into the Bush Administration, tax breaks for big business and the super-wealthy have combined with a $12 billion per month war in Iraq and cuts to investments in our work force and infrastructure to create a budget deficit of more than $400 billion and a national debt that has grown by $3 trillion. The result? An economy that is failing millions of American families.
“President Bush said last week that he does not believe America is headed toward a recession. For most economists, the question is no longer if we are headed for recession, but how long and deep it will be. For the second month in a row, the American economy lost jobs. 22,000 in January, 63,000 in February. Who bore the worst of this job loss? People in the manufacturing industry. People in construction, who build homes.
“In seven years of Bush economics, oil is up – to an all-time high of $107 a barrel today. Gas prices are up – double what they were when the President took office. The cost of college is up – 60 percent since President Bush took office. Health care costs are up – almost 80 percent since President Bush took office.
“Has anything gone down? Yes – annual household income is down about $1,000. Who has prospered from seven years of Bush economics? At parties and private meetings, President Bush’s CEO friends and oil buddies must be telling him that the economy is going great. It’s no wonder that the President doesn’t see a recession coming. CEOs are doing fine.
“Just look at the enormous compensation packages earned by the CEOs of Countrywide, Citigroup and Merrill Lynch – in the hundreds of millions of dollars – even as their industry has spiraled downward and the consumers they serve have suffered. Not so for the middle class. They have been forgotten. They have been left behind.
“After seven years of fiscal irresponsibility, consider what President Bush wants to do next: His budget calls for spending $51 billion to hand out tax breaks for Americans with incomes greater than $1 million. That works out to $125,000 per household – all to a fortunate few who need help the least.
“With such generosity for those doing the best, one would think the President would take care of those struggling the most. Far from it. The President pays for his tax giveaways to the wealthiest in part by proposing deep cuts to Medicare and Medicaid — while underfunding everything from terrorism prevention to veterans to education. That’s not just irresponsible fiscal policy – it’s immoral fiscal policy.
“This week, we are proposing a budget that abandons Bush economics, lowers taxes for the middle class, creates new jobs and turns our struggling economy around. This requires both immediate help and long-term solutions. In the short term, our budget calls for further steps to stimulate growth and address the housing crisis. It sets aside $35 billion for measures like extending unemployment insurance, providing home heating and nutrition assistance, and rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges. We help families avoid losing their homes to foreclosure, a measure that so far has been blocked by a Republican filibuster.
“For the long term, our budget calls for meaningful investments in energy, education, and infrastructure. These investments will create jobs, provide Americans with new tools to succeed, increase productivity, improve our environment, and help ensure a strong and growing economy. Our budget also rejects the Bush Administration’s deep cuts in Medicare and Medicaid and would expand health coverage for children. It would make America safer by embracing our troops and veterans and rejecting the Administration’s plans to underfund anti-terrorism and anti-crime initiatives.
“And in stark contrast to the President’s continued financial irresponsibly, our budget would restore fiscal discipline. It would maintain strong pay-as-you-go rules. And it would be fully balanced by 2012.
“Our bipartisan budget sets a path toward a stronger economic future. And we can make it even stronger by passing an amendment that will be offered by the distinguished Chairman of the Finance Committee, Senator Baucus, along with several of our colleagues. The Baucus Amendment would use projected surpluses to cut taxes on the middle class – extending marriage penalty relief, the child tax credit, and the 10 percent bracket. The amendment also reforms the estate tax to protect small businesses and family farms, and includes other tax cuts, as well.
“Democrats believe in cutting taxes – not for CEOs, not for oilmen, but for middle class families who need help most of all.
“As my colleagues all know, when it comes to the budget, Senator Kent Conrad is in a league of his own. He is the greatest budget expert I have ever known, bar none. The Senate and all Americans owe a debt of gratitude to Senator Conrad and his staff for their tremendous work. Now it is up to the full Senate to follow Senator Conrad’s lead.
“I look forward to an open, productive budget debate this week. I hope that with the kind of steely resolve that President Roosevelt showed, we can put the failed Bush economic policies behind us and pass a fair, responsible budget that makes America stronger, safer and more prosperous.”