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Chairman Yarmuth Floor Remarks on the State of the Economy

Jan 28, 2020

Washington, D.C.— Kentucky Congressman John Yarmuth, Chairman of the House Budget Committee, delivered remarks on the House Floor today during a Special Order Hour on the economy. Remarks as prepared are below:

Earlier today, the Congressional Budget Office released its updated budget and economic outlook for the next decade. This report once again confirms that despite the economic expansion he inherited, the fiscal outlook has worsened since President Trump took office.

Under President Trump, deficits have risen to heights not usually seen outside of recessions and major world wars. They have increased every year – an unusual trend given that deficits tend to fall with the unemployment rate. In fact, the deficit in 2019 was the highest since 2012, when we were recovering from the Great Recession and the unemployment rate was 8 percent – more than double the rate today. As a result of these deficits, the national debt has climbed higher and faster than CBO projected at the end of the Obama Administration.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. After all, this is the same President who proclaimed just last week, “Who the hell cares about the budget?” The record is clear that he does not.

Now, on their face, these fiscal facts might not be so concerning if one considers the multitude of deficits we face in the real economy. Crumbling infrastructure. Skyrocketing health care costs. Widening student achievement gaps. A warming climate. Lower life expectancy. In light of these and other problems, it’s difficult to escape the conclusion that we should be making bolder investments in American families and our nation’s future.

But President Trump did not use our fiscal space to repair the roads and bridges that support our economy. To reduce drug prices for working families. Or to bolster our environmental resilience in the face of the defining threat of a generation.

No: President Trump and Republicans in Congress ran up our tab with a $1.9 trillion tax cut that showered benefits on corporations and the wealthy. $1.9 trillion that had little meaningful impact on the economy, other than increasing our already shameful levels of income inequality. $1.9 trillion that could have been, but was not, put toward making childcare more affordable, a college education more accessible, and retirement security more achievable for American families.

Making this situation far worse, President Trump is once again suggesting that he will offset the deficits his signature policy exploded by cutting Social Security and Medicare – taking money right out of the pockets of America’s seniors and forcing them to foot his bill.

Our economy and budget face difficult times ahead. An aging population and rising health care costs mean economic growth is projected to be slower and deficits are expected to be larger going forward. Addressing this issue over the next several decades will require a balanced approach that includes a fair tax system. President Trump has taken us in precisely the wrong direction. By adding trillions to the debt for a tax giveaway for the rich that yielded little in return for everyone else, he is squandering the chance to lay the groundwork for a more productive and equitable economy.

Despite these challenges, we still have the opportunity to make responsible investments in the American people, our infrastructure, and the environment – investments that reflect our values, promote a stronger economic and fiscal outlook, and move our nation forward.

As Chairman of the Budget Committee, I have stressed that we need to think seriously about severe and persistent deficits in the real economy, not just deficits in the budget. That doesn’t mean that we can spend taxpayer dollars without thought or discretion. But it does require that we use our nation’s resources, including our deficits, more wisely than this Administration has. It means prioritizing policies that improve the living standards of current and future generations, that support those most in need, and that help mitigate the challenges American families are facing today and the challenges they may face tomorrow.