Clyburn Opening Statement at the Opening Meeting of the Budget Conference Committee

Oct 30, 2013 Issues: Financial Services, Health

WASHINGTON --  U.S. House Assistant Democratic Leader James E. Clyburn delivered the following statement today at the Opening Meeting of the Budget Conference Committee:

"The principal task of this Committee is to agree on a budget for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2014. While it would have been prudent to have had these negotiations last summer, I am pleased that we are now beginning these important discussions about our nation’s fiscal priorities.

We must address the automatic spending cuts that are hurting our economy and undercutting important priorities like education, medical research and national security. And we must put our nation’s fiscal house in order and reduce our long term debt to a manageable level. But there are different ways to do this, and some are better than others.

On the graph you see on the screens, there are two lines. The red line charts the deficit over the past 65 years.            

The blue line charts the unemployment rate over the same period. The relationship is obvious: when unemployment goes down, the deficit goes down; when unemployment goes up, the deficit goes up.

The reasons for this are clear. When you don’t have a job, you don’t pay taxes. When you don’t have income, you’re not paying payroll taxes and you’re more likely to need government assistance. Unemployment is a double whammy for the federal budget. To lower the deficit, we have to lower unemployment.

Advocates for extracting deficit reduction from the most vulnerable by cutting benefits under Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, nutrition assistance, and other vital services, ignore the fact that when you cut essential benefits, you just shift the cost of these necessities onto senior citizens, parents, and low income hard working people.

These cost shifts take money out of the pockets of consumers that would otherwise be spent in other parts of the economy, helping businesses grow and creating jobs. Cutting benefits, cuts jobs; and cutting jobs is not the way to reduce the deficit.

Securing deficit reduction by cutting key investments in education, Pell Grants, infrastructure, job training, and research and development would hinder economic growth in the short and long term by depriving our nation of the physical and human capital we need to have a strong economy with a 21st century workforce. Cutting investment cuts jobs, and cutting jobs is not the way to reduce the deficit.

We Democrats have a different approach. We fully recognize the importance of fiscal responsibility. But we know from the chart that any budget cuts that destroy jobs will be counterproductive.

We know that cuts that fall disproportionately on our most vulnerable citizens make our economy more vulnerable as well. We know that a reasonable, balanced approach involving shared sacrifice is not only the fairest way to cut the deficit, it is the most effective.

We also believe that higher levels of revenue are fully compatible with strong economic growth. We have seen that tax cuts for the wealthy have increased the deficit and do not create jobs. We know that much of our national debt is the result of two wars.

And now that we have ended one and are winding down the other, significant savings have been generated which, I believe, should be used to eliminate the Sequester; and target funds to those communities that have been suffering disproportionately for the last thirty years. 

This would generate economic growth and begin closing the wealth gap that is threatening family security and our nation's stability. 

In a divided government, both sides have to make tough and sometimes uncomfortable choices.  I have long held that if there are five steps Between me and the other side, I do not mind taking three of them as long as the person on the other side will take the other two.

I was very pleased to read last week that our colleague Mr. Cole - who I consider to be a good friend - said, “The reality is, you’re going to have to have a deal here. And a deal means everybody gives something up.”

I agree with my friend and I look forward to working constructively towards a deal to grow our economy, protect our vulnerable and ensure that we remain on sound fiscal footing."