Lewis Statement at the FY 2011 Budget and Economic Outlook Hearing

Apr 12, 2011
Press Release

Statement by Appropriations Ranking Member Jerry Lewis at the
 FY 2011 Budget and Economic Outlook Hearing
“Thank you Mr. Chairman. 
“I’d like to begin this morning by expressing my thanks to Secretary Geithner, Director Orszag, and Dr. Romer for being here today for a wide-ranging discussion relating to the President’s Fiscal Year 2011 Budget and our national economy. 
“Even as Republicans and Democrats remain divided on many issues of the day, I believe we are all in agreement that the fiscal path we are currently on is unsustainable.  With an annual deficit of $1.6 trillion, a growing mountain of debt, unemployment hovering near ten percent and an economy showing only tepid signs of recovery—it’s clear that we must change course now or face catastrophic consequences in the very near future.
“My colleagues, the simple truth is that Uncle Sam needs a diet.  Our greatest challenge—and our greatest hope to achieving a lasting recovery—lies in curbing Uncle Sam’s appetite for spending.   It’s time to cut up the government credit card and live within our means.  
“Since 2007, the Appropriations Committee has overseen an unprecedented 28 percent increase in annual non-defense, discretionary spending.  Last year alone, non-defense and Veterans discretionary spending increased by almost 13 percent, and that’s excluding the $862 billion stimulus bill.  This stunning escalation of spending has led to sky-rocketing deficits. 
“But annual discretionary funding is only part of the equation.  Over the long-term, at current projections, spending on the three major, mandatory entitlement programs will one day consume our entire budget.  Changing course will require a level of political courage not often found in Washington.  Absent making tough choices—beginning today—we will continue inflicting lasting damage to our economy affecting not only our grandchildren but their grandchildren as well. 
“Earlier this year, the President announced with great fanfare that he would submit a fiscal year 2011 budget that freezes most non-defense, non-homeland discretionary spending.  However, that doesn’t appear to be the budget that he submitted.  I say that because the President’s budget actually increases spending across 8 of the 12 appropriations subcommittees.   “Where is your spending freeze, Mr. President?  Where is your freeze?”
“It’s disingenuous to suggest that this budget represents anything close to a freeze, particularly when it’s being applied to the budget after last year’s 13 percent increase in discretionary spending—and after last year’s stimulus package which was approved under the faulty premise of stimulating the economy and creating jobs—which it has failed to do. 
“In addition, the President’s plan relies on several accounting gimmicks—like transferring Pell Grants to mandatory spending—to skew the true totals.  Ultimately, this proposal will have very little, if any, positive effect on our overall budget picture.  There is not one Member in this room today who believes this budget will result in significant deficit reduction. 
“In my view, the President’s budget falls woefully short in reining in government spending.  It simply doesn’t go far enough given the scale of the fiscal challenges we face.  The Administration continues to ignore the explosive growth of entitlement programs and places its hope in a fiscal commission to address the tough issues this budget avoids.   Sadly, this commission is not accountable to Congress or the American public—and it won’t even begin to make recommendations until after the mid-term elections.
“The Administration’s own numbers paint an unflattering picture of the President’s budget:  Over the course of the next ten years—when the Administration assumes the economy to have recovered from the recession and the War in Iraq to have ended—our debt, deficits, and spending will remain out of control and continue to worsen.
“Assume for a moment that we fully implemented the President’s Budget:
  • The deficit would never drop below $700 billion and would start climbing above $1 trillion again by FY 2020.
  • Publicly held debt would nearly triple by the year 2020. 
  • The interest on this debt would quadruple over the same period and would become one of the largest single expenditures in the federal budget.  
“Ironically, the issue is not lack of revenue under the President’s budget.  This is because the President is proposing nearly $2 trillion in additional receipts over the next decade from various tax increases, fee increases, and other revenue raisers.  So, not only will Uncle Sam be spending more, but the President’s budget will aggressively take money out of the pockets of taxpayers—and out of the private economy.
“At this moment, for every available job in the United States, there are six people now seeking work.  The president has said that creating new jobs and reducing unemployment is, and I quote, “the single-most important thing we can do to rebuild the middle class."   The key to job growth lies not in more spending, more “stimulus,” or more “jobs” bills but in less spending, less taxation, and removing regulatory barriers that will hinder economic growth. 
“Putting it simply, this Administration is not only spending too much, it’s scaring the hell out of small business—the economic engine of our national economy.   It has done this through promoting cap  and trade legislation, new rules on greenhouse gases, and new taxes and fees from its health care reform bill—all of which will result in higher prices that will be passed on to consumers.  What small business is going to invest or rehire anyone in this uncertain environment? 
“We can agree to disagree on the cause of our economic troubles but the fact remains that we cannot spend our way to economic health.  Until this Congress and this Administration curbs its appetite for spending, our economy will continue to suffer.  
“I will close as I began, with this comment:  the simple truth is that Uncle Sam needs a diet. 
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”

112th Congress