Mariah Wildgen (202) 224-4515
Wyden Statement at Finance Subcommittee Hearing on “Fiscal Outlook”
As Prepared for Delivery
Thank you, Chairman Cassidy and Ranking Member Hassan. I’m pleased to be joining you from my dining room table in Southeast Portland, Oregon today, and I hope everybody participating and watching the hearing is healthy and safe. I’ll have just a few key points during my time this afternoon.
I’d bet that a Congressional hearing billed as a “fiscal outlook” is not one of those events that gets people chattering down at the local coffee shops. But in my view, this hearing is a preview of the overall debate that’s going to dominate the Congress in the years ahead, as well as the result of nefarious Republican plans unfolding for years.
When you set aside all the old fiscal lingo, this is a debate about whether the Congress ought to quit prematurely on the pandemic recovery while locking in cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid down the road. That’s the Republican agenda behind all the vague fiscal buzzwords. It is a recipe for a middle-class nightmare, both in the near term and in the long run.
The country has only recovered half the jobs lost when the pandemic hit. The $600 enhanced unemployment benefit kept tens of millions of workers and our economy afloat during the spring, but it expired months ago. Republicans blocked an extension. Permanent job losses and corporate layoffs are stacking up. A patchwork of temporary policies is holding back an avalanche of evictions. Millions of Americans lost their health care when they lost their jobs. Over the month of September alone – in just 30 days – nearly a million women dropped out of the workforce.
This economy is still suffering from terrible, open wounds, but Republicans are saying it’s time to cut, cut, cut. They’re blocking another major economic rescue package that would restore enhanced unemployment benefits and save millions and millions of jobs. And at the same time, they’re pushing for policies that would lock in backdoor cuts to programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid
As I wrap up, just a few reasons why this is just the absolute wrong way to go.
First, the Republican president is a tax cheat, so it’s insulting and absurd for Republicans in Congress to tell working people that they’re the ones who have to sacrifice in order to clean up our finances.
Second, Americans have not forgotten that Republicans set a fiscal time bomb when they passed the Trump tax handouts to corporations and the wealthy. Those tax handouts had a deficit-financed price tag of $2 trillion, and you didn’t have to be Nostradamus to predict that it would lead to Republican attempts to slash Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security down the road.
Third, this is the same Republican playbook you saw when the last recession hit. They had spent freely on corporate goodies, defense contractors and tax handouts to the top under a Republican president, but once the recession arrived they inflicted harsh cuts on programs that matter to working people and the middle class. It prolonged our economic pain during the Great Recession. It might have been good politics, but millions of people were out of work a lot longer than they needed to be. It cannot happen again.
Right now the economy is stalling out, tens of millions of people are out of work, and Congress needs to help. The next Congress needs to keep Medicare out of insolvency and bring down prescription drug costs. And this country needs a massive infusion of good paying jobs in construction, roads, ports and clean energy infrastructure. None of those challenges can wait. It would be far more expensive in the long run to ignore them.
That’s where our focus as legislators ought to be. This country cannot afford another decade of Republican economic gamesmanship and sabotage. And in my view, it makes a lot more sense to crack down on tax cheats like Donald Trump rather than inflicting harsh cuts on working Americans.
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