March 14,2019

Wyden Statement at Finance Committee Hearing on the President’s 2020 Budget with Treasury Secretary Mnuchin

The Finance Committee is back for Round Two on the budget, and we’re joined by Secretary Mnuchin. Since the Treasury budget is largely about taxes, and taxes pay for the bulk of federal programs, I want to start with a hard look at the overall picture.

This isn’t a budget as much as it’s an economic smash and grab perpetrated on the American people.

Get rid of the Washington lingo, and it’s obvious. Cuts to Medicare. Cuts to Medicaid. Cuts to Social Security. Cuts to education. Cuts to housing. Cuts to cancer research. Cuts to job training. Cuts to anti-hunger programs. Cuts to anti-poverty programs. I could go on. 

Then you have the impact of the Trump tax law. Hundreds of billions of dollars in tax handouts to corporations and billionaires. An overall price tag that will reach $2 trillion in a single decade. Secretary Mnuchin famously declared that the tax law would pay for itself and more. He was off by multiple trillions of dollars. 

The law kicked off a stock buyback bonanza. It’s been a nonstop joyride for corporate executives, who get a lot of their compensation in the form of corporate stock. So that makes two special breaks that are unavailable to cops and nurses. They can defer their taxes on their stock holdings, and they got a lower tax rate on their salaries and bonuses.

In addition, new data released by Syracuse University shows the effect of years of Republican austerity imposed on the IRS. With audits of corporations and high-earners steadily dropping year after year, enforcement of our tax laws is in the worst shape that it’s been in decades. Not in modern memory has there been a better time to be a wealthy tax cheat in America. 

So under Donald Trump, corporations and the wealthy don’t have to pay a fair share, and there’s a good chance they can get away with paying virtually nothing at all. It should come as no surprise that deficits crossed the trillion-dollar mark under unified Republican control of government.

Unveiling the budget at a press briefing on Monday, Acting OMB Director Russell Vought drummed up fears over what he called the “unsustainable national debt.”

He warned that, “annual deficits are continuing to rise…” without any recognition of what’s driven that increase.  Echoing so many Republican budget cutters before him, he declared that “Washington has a spending problem.”

Then it was off to the races, outlining exactly how the Trump administration wants to dismantle the system that created a vibrant middle class in America.

For too long, the full burden of Republican budget cuts has fallen on the middle class and working people trying to get there. Not on powerful special interests. Not on billionaires.

What the Trump administration put forward is not across-the-board belt tightening. It’s not a fair, even-handed reduction in spending. Middle class families lose, but the budget would send more taxpayer dollars to Defense contractors. It gives them even more than what the Pentagon asked for. 

The bottom line is, just about every warning that came from this side of the committee about the Republican tax bill and its aftermath is proving to be true. The $4,000 raises American workers were promised -- nowhere to be found. The tax handouts are not paying for themselves. New Fed data projects that the economy is growing this quarter at a rate of 0.2 percent.

The nonpartisan experts at CBO forecast that as the corporate tax-cut sugar high wears off, economic growth will slow to 1.7 percent in the years ahead. And as the public has seen this week, the deficits driven upward by the tax law are now the justification for draconian budget cuts.

This cycle has lasted for decades. It’s past time for it to end.