Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor Tuesday regarding the administration’s failed approach to job creation and economic recovery in advance of the President’s address to a Joint Session of Congress on Thursday:
“As lawmakers return to Washington this week, every one of us, I’m sure, is aware of the fact that many Americans are not only frustrated with the state of our economy, but also with the state of their government. I don’t think any one of us is under any illusion that the American people were particularly eager to see us come back.
“Who could blame them?
“After two and a half years of being told that Washington had the answer to everything from the high costs of health care to high unemployment, people have every reason to be skeptical.
“For more than two and a half years, under this administration, Americans have been hearing about the wonders that government spending would do for our economy, and about the dangerous consequences of failing to apply ‘bold’ solutions to big problems.
“And what’s it gotten them?
“As Washington has grown bigger and bigger, Americans have continued to lose jobs, the national debt has exploded out of sight, and for the first time in our history, America’s once-pristine credit rating has been downgraded by a major ratings agency.
“And just last week we learned that in the month of August not a single new job was created in this country — not one.
“But here’s the bottom line: in the two and half years since President Obama signed his signature jobs bill — the so-called ‘Stimulus’ — there are 1.7 million fewer jobs in this country.
“Statistics like these help us to understand the dimensions of the economic challenges so many Americans continue to face. But most people don’t need to read the morning papers or wait for the monthly jobs report to know they’re struggling. And no amount of speeches, however carefully crafted to appeal to the anxieties of the moment, will convince them that some politician in Washington, from the President on down, has the solution.
“The truth is, President Obama did more for jobs last week by reversing himself on a single government-imposed regulation than he’s done in every speech he’s given put together.
“At this point, I think most people have safely concluded that the problem with our economy isn’t that Washington is doing too little, but that Washington is doing too much already.
“And that’s why, in the coming weeks and months, many of us will continue to press for a new approach, one that puts individuals and businesses at the center of our recovery instead of Washington, one which clears away the red tape and the regulatory overreach, one that lifts the cloud of uncertainty that’s been holding job creators back, and enables the American people to move our economy in the direction they want, instead of having it dictated to them from above by the President.
“It’s time for an approach that’s based on the simple principle that if the American people are going to have control over their own destiny, they need to have more control of their economy.
“They’ve seen where consolidating every economic decision in Washington has gotten us.
“They see that folks in Washington seem to be doing just fine.
“Millions of Americans may have lost their homes over the past few years; millions more may owe more on their homes than those homes are worth, but home values here in Washington are going up. Countless Americans outside Washington may have seen their savings dry up or been forced to decide between making a car repair or a tuition payment. But you’d never know it here.
“As countless economic tragedies unfolded in homes across the country over the past few years, the Washington metropolitan area was working on a new distinction: highest median income in America. I assure you, these folks aren’t getting rich off farming.
“While most of the rest of the country continues to struggle, Washington’s booming.
“And that’s not the kind of change people voted for three years ago.
“So before we get into any details about what many of us believe will succeed in reigniting the economy outside of Washington, D.C., we need to be clear about what hasn’t.
“Because while I have no doubt the President will propose many things on Thursday that, when looked at individually, sound pretty good, or that he’ll call them all bipartisan, I’m equally certain that, taken as whole, they’ll represent more of the same failed approach that’s only made things worse over the past few years, and resulted in even fewer jobs than when he started.
“Over the weekend, the President tested a few of the lines I expect we’ll hear on Thursday. His central message, evidently, is that anyone who doesn’t rubber stamp his economic agenda is putting politics above country.
“With all due respect, Mr. President, there’s a much simpler reason for opposing your economic proposals that has nothing to do with politics: they don’t work.
“We can trace those failures to the President’s very first days in office.
“One of the first things he did upon assuming office was to direct Congress to send him the Stimulus. Here was one of the single most expensive pieces of legislation Congress has ever approved. The interest payments alone were projected to cost an average of $100 million a day.
“This was the President’s way of jumpstarting an agenda that, in his words, ‘began with jobs.’
“And he knew that some of us were skeptical it would work.
“That’s why, shortly after it became law, he asked if he could come up to Capitol Hill and use his very first speech to a joint session of Congress to explain exactly what it would achieve.
“And here’s what the President told us. The Stimulus, he said, would save or create 3.5 million jobs. And ultimately that’s how he’d measure its success — on whether or not it created jobs.
“To reassure those of us who thought government couldn’t be counted on to spend this kind of money wisely, he insisted that anyone who received it would be held strictly accountable. And then he said something some people may have forgotten. The Stimulus was just a first step. The primary purpose of the Stimulus, he said, was to help the economy in the short-term.
“But the only way to fully restore America’s economic strength, he told us, was through a 10-year budget that would reach into all the areas of the economy that the Stimulus didn’t.
“Just like the Stimulus, the unifying theme of the President’s budget was more government. And once again, he felt in selling it that he needed to speak to the skeptics first. And here’s what he said about that: the goal of the budget wasn’t to replace private enterprise but to catalyze it, not to stifle business, but to create the conditions for entrepreneurs and businesses to adapt and thrive.
“Well, how’d that work out?
“As government continued to grow, the economy sputtered. And it’s still sputtering. Yet the President wants to know why people are resistant to his economic proposals.
“He says they must be motivated by politics.
“A Stimulus bill aimed at creating jobs was followed by a period where we lost 1.7 million jobs.
“The Inspector General who was appointed to oversee distribution of the Stimulus funds reports that he’s received more than 7,000 complaints of wrongdoing. More than 1,500 of those complaints have triggered investigations.
“Just last week one of the companies that the President personally vouched for as a shining example of how Stimulus dollars would work announced it was laying off more than 1,000 workers and filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. And it wasn’t the first.
“But still, according to the President, anyone who opposes this agenda is playing partisan games.
“Well, the President can attempt to blame our economic problems all he wants on his political adversaries, or his predecessors, or on natural disasters. But at the end of the day, he’s the one, as he’s said himself, who’s responsible for what happens on his watch. And that includes the epic failure of a bill he himself touted as the key to our recovery.
“By any measure, including his own, the Stimulus, and the economic principles it was built on, have been a failure. And that’s the reason so many people are skeptical of this President’s economic proposals. They don’t work as advertised.
“The President, of course, doesn’t want to acknowledge it. I understand that. It’s hard to admit when you’ve been wrong. But in other, more subtle ways, the administration has acknowledged the fundamental flaws in its approach to the economy.
“The only reason the President agreed to keep taxes from going up last December, for instance, was that he knew it would lead to even more job loss.
“The only problem with this proposal and with others like it, of course, is that they’re temporary, which only perpetuates the uncertainty that’s kept so many businesses large and small from making investments in new products and new workers over the past few years.
“Businesses don’t want shots in the arm or quick-fixes. They want to know what the landscape will look like a few years down the road. And until now, that’s not something the President has been willing to do. He just hasn’t been able to bring himself to let go of government’s grip.
“Which brings me back to the different approach that some of us have been proposing for some time now, but which the White House continues to resist. Simply put, we think Washington should take a little break from the massive spending programs the President likes to refer to as ‘bold’ solutions.
“Quite frankly, we’re not very good at them. And anyone who thinks otherwise hasn’t been paying much attention to Washington over the past few years.
“No one believes government doesn’t have a role to play. Of course it does. But it’s not the center of the universe, and it should stop pretending to be.
“What we need is a shift in thinking when it comes to thinking about government’s role in the economy. We need to shift the center of gravity away from Washington and back to the innovators and entrepreneurs, the engineers and the shop-floor managers who will be at the heart of our recovery.
“And we need to be serious about it.
“The President is forever eager to embrace big proposals whenever government’s at the helm, but when it comes to doing the kinds of things job creators really want, he’s suddenly timid. He’ll agree to a tax cut as long as it’s temporary. He’ll agree to reverse a job-killing regulation, but only if he knows he’s gotten dozens of other doozies in the pipeline behind it.
“We need to do better than that.
“We need the President to be as bold about liberating job creators as he’s been about shackling them. I mean, you don’t lift a single regulation and suddenly claim to be Margaret Thatcher.
“The Environmental Protection Agency alone has dozens of other new rules in progress. The Labor Department has dozens of rules of its own in progress. The administration’s proposed utility standards would increase costs for every family and business in America. One of these new standards, for boiler emissions, would endanger tens of thousands of jobs.
“New rules for cement plants would strike a blow right at the heart of our manufacturing and building sector. New rules regulations coal ash would cost tens of thousands of jobs.
“And then there’s the Democrat health care bill, which has to be counted as one of the most far-reaching and comprehensive single sources of government regulation ever devised. Though this bill still hasn’t fully taken effect, the myriad rules it will impose on every American are being written as we speak. And so far, those regulations already run to nearly 10,000 pages.
“So Republicans will spend the next weeks and months arguing in favor of a robust legislative agenda aimed at blocking or repealing some of the most pernicious rules and regulations, so businesses can breathe again, and begin to hire.
“And the American worker, not Washington, can help get this economy moving again.
“Putting the American people back in charge of our economy also means reforming the tax code. And that’s why, over the next weeks and months, Republicans will also continue to make the case that Washington should get out of the business of picking winners and losers.
“We should strive to become more competitive by lowering the tax rate on American job creators that right now ranks as the second-highest in the developed world.
“And we should level the playing field with America’s competitors overseas by approving the three free-trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea that have been languishing on the President’s desk for nearly three years. The President himself acknowledges that these trade pacts would help create tens of thousands of jobs right here at home by vastly expanding the market for U.S. goods. He should send them to Congress today so we can finally ratify them.
“Another thing we can do is reform the budget process.
“There’s no good reason that nearly three-fourths of government spending is on auto-pilot, and that last year’s spending levels should automatically carry over into the next, regardless of whether they’re effective or affordable.
“And we need to continue to make the case for a balanced budget amendment.
“Budget reform is an essential part of getting Washington to live within its means.
“It needs to be a top priority.
“None of these ideas are groundbreaking and they certainly shouldn’t be controversial.
“They’re just common sense.
“Most importantly, they’re rooted in a respect for the independence, the wisdom, and the power, as another U.S. president once put it, ‘of a free people and the efficiency of free institutions.’
“The President who spoke those words did so during another period of sluggish growth and high unemployment. And the solution he proposed, not only for the sake of the domestic economy but also for the preservation of America’s influence in the wider world, focused, not unlike the one I’ve outlined here, on alleviating the heavy burdens that government had imposed on individuals and businesses.
`The final and best means of strengthening demand among consumers and business,’ he said, ‘is to reduce the burden on private income and the deterrents to private initiative which are imposed by [the] … tax system.’
‘Such an approach,’ he continued, ‘would lead to a new interest in taking risks, increased productivity, and the creation of new jobs and new products for long-term economic growth.’
“And I would only add that the same approach President Kennedy outlined with these words in 1962 is worth trying again today.
“We’ve tried this President’s approach. It’s failed.
“It’s time for something new.
“The new approach we’re suggesting isn’t aimed at pleasing any one party or constituency. It’s aimed at nothing more than giving back to the American people the tools they need to do the work Washington hasn’t been able to do on its own.
“And once we do that, once we come together and agree to turn the keys of this economy back over to the men and women who actually drive it, I have no doubt that much of the acrimony that’s marked our dealings here over the past several months will fade away.
“Even more importantly, though, we’ll have done something good for the country, and for the millions of Americans who are looking for Washington not so much to do more, but for the first time in a long time, to do less — so that they can finally do what it takes to get this economy moving again.”