Video of Sen. Murray's Remarks
(Washington, D.C.) - Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash) spoke on the Senate floor to outline the economic challenges facing Washington state and our nation and to comment on the type of stimulus our economy needs.
Her remarks follow:
Mr. President, the people of Washington state are hurting. In every corner of my state, families are concerned about what the future will bring.
In the last two years alone we have faced – an earthquake, an energy crisis, the bursting of the hi-tech bubble, the departure of Boeing, the loss of thousands of jobs, and now we face a state budget deficit of $2.5 billion which could translate into major cuts in education, health care and infrastructure.
For much of the last two years, Washington state was ranked either first or second in the nation in unemployment rate. We have lost a staggering 74,000 jobs in the last 18 months.
These are sobering numbers. Behind every one of these statistics is a man or a woman who is trying to support a family, to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads.
Throughout the country, the economic picture is just as bleak. The U.S. has lost 2.1 million private sector jobs since January of 2001.
And despite the President's mammoth $1.7 trillion tax cut that year, the economy continues to sputter and Americans continue to lose jobs.
When the President signed that tax cut, he said it would – and I quote – "provide an important boost at an important time for our economy."
Mr. President, that was twenty months ago – May 26th, 2001. So where are the results?
In December alone, 101,000 more Americans lost their jobs. Through no fault of their own, these fellow citizens are now out of work, and many are now without health care.
That's the unmentioned, but painful reality of so much job loss. Since most Americans get health insurance through their employer, many Americans have also lost their health coverage.
In Washington state alone, 156,000 families have lost their health care in the last 2 years - an increase of 27.4 percent. 1 in 9 Washingtonians are without health insurance.
The glimmer of hope should be that we are providing good schools and learning opportunities to educate our young people for the jobs of the future. But unfortunately, this President has proposed cutting funds for education, at a time when these investments are more important than ever.
Everyone in my state would agree – we need to get this economy back on track. But Mr. President, we need to do it right.
And today, despite the fact that the President's last tax cut has yet to create any net new jobs, the Administration is pushing for another massive tax cut under the claim of "stimulus."
Except this time, the nation is back in deficit spending. According to private economists quoted in Friday's Washington Post, the U.S. could be facing deficits as high as $350 billion next year. We haven't seen deficits that high since the first Bush Administration posted a $290 billion deficit in 1992.
On top of that, we have incredible security needs at home and abroad. We have increased needs in spending for defense, for homeland security, for border security and health care.
But, Mr. President, this week the White House has proposed an economic plan that will blow a hole in the national debt, costing more than $670 billion over ten years. And the interest costs will add billions more.
I am deeply concerned that the President's plan is a disaster for the federal budget and for our long-term responsibilities to our country to promote national security, homeland security, and economic security.
Mr. President I thought the Bush plan was billed as an economic stimulus plan to get our economy moving. But when I look at this proposed plan I see it is heavily tilted toward the wealthiest Americans.
While giving very little to average Americans, the plan gives a $90,000 tax break to every millionaire, and these are the people least likely to need to spend an additional dollar of income and stimulate the economy.
Mr. President, I just don't see how the Bush plan will work. Eliminating the tax on dividends won't stimulate the economy in the short term. The total cost of the cuts is $670 billion, but less than $100 billion comes in the first year – which is when the economy needs it most.
It overwhelmingly benefits the wealthiest investors while providing little for most people in my state who are hurting. And it will do long-term fiscal damage with its $670 billion dollar.
As I see it, the only thing this plan will stimulate is our deficit. It will add to the mountain of debt that we are forcing on our children to pay back later. It is a trickle-down plan that our President's father once called "Voodoo Economics."
I believe that if Congress is going to pass a tax cut, then it should be a plan that actually helps the economy and should do four things:
First, it should actually help the economy get moving again. I agree with Senator Baucus's proposals to increase the amount of money small businesses can deduct for investment in new equipment, and to enhance the bonus depreciation provision in last year's stimulus bill. This will actually help businesses create new jobs.
Second, it should address unemployment benefits. The President and his allies finally reversed themselves last week and gave in to the urgent need to provide some relief to the folks who need help the most. This will help thousands in my state to keep paying the bills until jobs are available again.
Third, it should help Washington state -- and all states -- deal with huge budget problems. The states do not have the luxury of deficit spending – even if they are hit by - what the President calls - the "trifecta" of war, recession and national emergency.
Our states are dealing with $70 billion in deficits by cutting funding for education, health care, transportation and other critical needs.
The people in my state need a safety net now to help get them back on their feet, and that safety net relies on states having adequate funding. We need to help the states get through this critical time.
Last, it should not blow an even larger hole in the federal budget. Keeping our military strong, tracking down terrorists, defending our homeland, giving our young people a good education, making health care more affordable, and building infrastructure are the types of priorities that the Bush plan will crowd out.
I hope that my friends on the other side of the aisle and at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue will listen to the hardworking Americans outside the beltway. I hope that they will work with us to get a real, responsible and effective stimulus plan to get America's economy moving again.
When my father was called upon during the Second World War, he was proud to serve his country. He earned the Purple Heart as one of the first G.I.'s to land at Okinawa.
Today we are engaged in a war on terrorism and on the brink of another. But rather than being asked to sacrifice, we are asked how much we want our taxes cut.
I visited Fort Lewis, McChord Air Force Base, and Everett Naval Station during the recent break. These young men and women are serving our country are working so hard to protect our security. Their families are being asked to sacrifice, as these men and women prepare to deploy.
It is amazing that at the very time we are asking these troops to leave their families and head overseas to respond to a foreign crisis, we are asking for a tax cut at home that puts our budget in crisis.
It is hard for me to imagine how a Private First Class making $16,000 a year is going to benefit from this tax cut. Yet he – or she – is prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice to protect America's national security.
America's defense needs, our homeland security needs, our education and health care needs will be jeopardized by the massive new Bush tax cut.
What America needs now is not a plan to stimulate the deficit, but a real plan to stimulate our economy and put Americans back to work.