Commission on the Budget Deficit, Economic Crisis, and Wealth Creation Report Opening Remarks
For Immediate Release: February15, 2011
Communications Director: Stephanie L. Young o: c:
The Congressional Black Caucus Press Conference
Commission on the Budget Deficit, Economic Crisis, and Wealth Creation Report Opening Remarks
Washington, DC – Today, Chairman Emanuel Cleaver, II and the Congressional Black Caucus held a press conference to discuss the findings of the CBC’s first ever Commission on the Budget Deficit, Economic Crisis and Wealth Creation. Included are the prepared opening statements from Chairman Emanuel Cleaver, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, and Congressman Robert “Bobby” Scott. Also attached is the report on the CBC’s Commission on the Budget Deficit, Economic Crisis and Wealth Creation.
Chairman Emanuel Cleaver, II:
Thank you all for being here today. I want to acknowledge my colleagues of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Chairs of our Commission on the Budget Deficit, Economic Crisis, and Wealth Creation, Congressman Bobby Scott and Congresswoman Maxine Waters.
I’d also like to acknowledge Dr. Algernon Austin, one of the Members of our Budget Commission and thank him for being here today.
In January, the CBC hosted its first-ever Commission on the Budget Deficit, Economic Crisis, and Wealth Creation. It was my hope that we as the Congressional Black Caucus would have a thoughtful reaction to the Fiscal Year 2012 budget instead of an emotional reaction.
Our Budget Commission report provided us with the opportunity to give thoughtful input to the budget process.
For the past 17 years, the Congressional Black Caucus has presented a fiscally sound and responsible alternatives to the budgets offered by both Republican and Democratic majorities in Congress.
In light of the deficit reduction recommendations made by the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, we are concerned that draconian austerity measures will directly impact and harm our communities.
A glaring omission from various debt reports is a thoughtful analysis of how their recommendations will affect the nation’s most economically vulnerable populations.
Recognizing this, our Deficit Commission was formed to focus on the recession – particularly on communities of color – as well as approaches to deficit reduction and their implications for vulnerable populations and the nation at large.
For that reason, the Budget, Appropriations and Taxation Task Force Chair Bobby Scott, the Economic Security Task-Force Chair Maxine Waters and I convened this discussion.
Our “Commission on the Budget Deficit, Economic Crisis, and Wealth Creation” addresses the federal budget deficit while protecting important safety net programs needed by our communities. Top African American economists from around the country came and presented ideas including Dr. Algernon Austin who is here with us today.
My colleagues Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Congressman Bobby Scott, and I chaired the three discussions and Congresswoman Gwen Moore gave the closing remarks. Overall, what they found was that yes, we need to cut the deficit and spending but we cannot do it on the backs of the most vulnerable.
The programs that matter the most to them, whether it is workforce investment or unemployment insurance or community development block grants are all good because they train our workforce, stabilize our economy, and provide funding to our cities. I understand that now is the time for us as a Nation to sacrifice in order to protect our children from a mountain of debt; however, I struggle to understand how the Fiscal Year 2012 Budget helps us to best achieve this critical goal.
Cutting funding to programs that assist hard-working Americans, help families heat their homes, and expand access to graduate-level education seems to conflict with the notion of winning the future. We cannot win the future by leaving our most vulnerable behind. Our success as a Nation is interwoven in the success of everycommunity. Until we grasp that concept, as a Nation, we will never see the full potential of this country.
And now I’ll turn it over to Congresswoman Maxine Waters.
Congresswoman Maxine Waters
“Thank you very much. I want to thank Chairman Cleaver for convening this press conference today to follow up on the CBC Commission on the Budget Deficit, Economic Crisis, and Wealth Creation that we held on January 28th. And I’d like to thank Congressman Bobby Scott and my other colleagues here today for their work on these issues.
During my opening remarks at the Commission two weeks ago, I said that “The 112th Congress will be defined by the current $1.6 trillion deficit. Democrats, and Republican lawmakers, are concerned about what impact the deficit will have on the economy, on our ability to borrow funds, and on the continued financial viability of our country. However, even more concerning than the threats the deficit poses are certain proposals to address the deficit.”
And during my remarks I focused on the government’s important role in investing in and supporting organizations like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau & the Offices of Minority and Women Inclusion; programs like Section 8 and Community Development Block Grants; and initiatives like affordable housing and helping people avoid foreclosure.
Government investment in people, education, infrastructure, and innovation can create jobs, and these jobs pay for themselves and then some by allowing people to earn, spend, invest, and save.
Simply put, we need the investments now more than ever. One of the experts at my portion of the Debt Panel, Dr. Algernon Austin, had some sobering statistics to share, which are detailed in the CBC report:
- The U.S. ranked 20th out of 24 countries in providing early childhood education;
- The U.S. ranked 12th out of 36 countries in college completion rates;
- U.S. Schools need nearly $300 billion of required maintenance ;
- 29% of all U.S. transit assets are in poor or marginal condition; and
- The U.S. ranked 15th out of 30 nations in broadband penetration .
These facts should give all policymakers pause. But we can do something about it! Construction workers, technical and transportation experts, childcare providers, teachers, students – these kinds of populations can be supported through key government investments in jobs.
I want to take a minute to describe one concrete example of an initiative that requires government investment to strengthen communities, improve and upgrade infrastructure, and most importantly create and sustain jobs. Community Development Block Grants (CDBG):
- Helps homeowners rehabilitate their properties, including removing lead paint hazards;
- Empowers cities to pursue code enforcement, so that abandoned properties don’t become safe havens for illegal activity;
- Enables cities to improve their infrastructure;
- Allows cities to enforce fair housing laws; and most importantly
- CDBG is a job creator. It funds small business incubation programs; it funds job training and job placement services; and it allows cities to leverage private sector money for economic development.
If you look at the Recovery Act website you can see information on 824 CDBG grants issued since 2009. The data shows that CDBG is creating one job for every $7,000 of federal spending – a rate 8 times as effective as the rest of the job programs funded under the Act.
In the Republicans’ extreme budget plan, CDBG funding would be slashed to $1.5 billion from $4.45 billion annually. Of course, this is just one of their excessive and indiscriminate cuts to the federal budget, but it speaks volumes about their disconnect from what government actually does.
One of the few things they do believe in, however, is that government should cut taxes for the wealthiest among us. The tax-deal that was reached by Congressional Republicans and President Obama late last year is estimated to cost almost $900 billion over 10 years, as laid out in the CBC report and reported elsewhere. That deal, alone, is over half the projected deficit we’re currently facing.
So why can’t we talk more about that bad deal? Why can’t we seriously talk about fiscal reforms to our massive defense budget? Why can’t we say if we got rid of the tax cuts for the wealthiest and if we got serious about ending the war in Afghanistan, which currently costs about $2 billion a week, we could make serious inroads toward getting our fiscal house in order?
Well, I am saying it today. We are saying it together through this report and through our commitment to the American people to not balance budgets on the backs of the least of these.
Other solutions to deficit reduction and job creation exist. We only need to summon the courage to have an honest and open conversation about all of our options.
Congressman Robert “Bobby” Scott
Thank you Chairman Cleaver. The first meeting of the CBC Commission on the Budget Deficit provides an excellent frame work for the Congressional Black Caucus to develop our Fiscal Year 2012 Alternative Budget.
As we heard in our first Commission meeting, we face very difficult choices when it comes to balancing the federal budget and there is no silver bullet that will solve all our budget problems. But I’ve been here long enough to know what works and what doesn’t.
When I first came to Congress in 1993, we considered a budget that put an end to fiscal recklessness. We passed a budget that, by the end of the 8 years of the Clinton administration, had not only eliminated the deficit, but had a projected surplus large enough to have paid off the entire national debt held by the public by 2 years ago. That budget also lead to record job growth and record economic activity, as noted by the record increase in the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
Under the Bush administration, we passed two tax cuts without paying for them, a prescriptive drug benefit without paying for it, fought two wars in the middle of cutting taxes, and a $700 billion bailout, all of which put us in the economic ditch.
Now, in order to get these large deficits we now have under control, we’re going to have to make some tough choices. Unfortunately, last year we started off in the wrong direction. Congress considered a huge tax cut bill last year that went in the wrong direction at a total 2-year cost of $800 billion. And to put that in perspective, $800 billion is more than what was spent on the TARP program, about the same as the stimulus, about the same as what the health care bill spends in 10 years (which we paid for). Incredibly, $800 billion exceeds the general fund budgets of all 50 states. The total general fund budgets for all 50 states for 2010 was $650 billion, significantly less than the $800 billion tax cut bill.
And before that bill was passed, I and others in the Congressional Black Caucus asked, well, how are we going to pay for it?
Today, the House will begin debating a long list of spending cuts in the proposed Republican continuing resolution and it’s no surprise what they’re proposing to cut: Heating assistance for low income families; Job training programs; the National Institutes of Health; Community Health Centers; the Women Infant Children program; the National Science Foundation; and NASA.
Unfortunately, these are the things that are now being cut to pay for last year’s huge tax cut bill.
We should have been more honest with the American people last year. I don’t think Americans want cuts in Social Security, the social safety net, and investments in our future. We can do better, and that’s why the Congressional Black Caucus is going to be fighting against these draconian cuts in programs that are so important to so many people. We will take the recommendations from our first Deficit Commission meeting to present an honest and responsible budget on the House floor in the weeks ahead.