Transcript: Super Committee Rep. Jim Clyburn’s Q&A on previous debt proposals

Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction Hearing: Overview of Previous Debt Proposals on Nov. 1, 2011

Transcript of Rep. Jim Clyburn’s (D-SC) Question and Answer Session: 

Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC), member of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. IMAGE SOURCE: DeficitReduction.gov

Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC):

“Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Let me add my voice of thank you to all four of our panelists here today and thank them so much for their service. “I want to start with a statement. I’ve asked – and it’s been put up – for a chart to be put up here looking at a bar graph that I suspect a lot of us have seen in the last week or so  when we talked about when [Doug] Elmendorf was before this committee. It shows the widening wealth gap that is existing in our country today. It covers basically the last 30 years.

“Now, we have 3,143 counties in the United States. Of those 3,143 counties, 474 of them – 15% of those counties – have more than 20% of their citizens have been living beneath the poverty level for the last 30 years. It’s kind of interesting because I didn’t think about this until the weekend. Because about several months ago, I joined with Congresswoman [Jo Ann] Emerson on trying to focus on these counties and trying to direct resources to these counties back when we did the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – the stimulus bill. In the rural development section of that bill, we were successful in getting that bill to focus on these counties by directing expenditures of at least 10% of those funds into those counties, where 30% or 20% or more have been beneath the poverty level for the last 30 years. So when this report came out from CBO a couple of weeks ago, it focused my attention once again to those communities.

CBO chart on income growth on post-tax income growth from 1979 to 2007. IMAGE SOURCE: DeficitReduction.gov

“Now when I first came on this panel, I said that I wanted to focus on the human side of this deficit. So what I would like to ask today is whether or not it is feasible to do $1.5 trillion reduction in deficit by cuts only? What will that do to that bottom 20% that’s seen only 18% growth in their income over the last 30 years and those communities where 20% or more of those population have been beneath the poverty level over the last 30 years? What will it do to those communities and those people if we were to reduce this deficit only by cuts that have been proposed? I would like to hear from all four of you on that.”

Erskine Bowles:

“I’m delighted to go first on that. As you know, Mr. Clyburn, if you go east of I-90 and you’re in North Carolina, we have more counties that fall into that category than any other place in the union. If that part of North Carolina was a state by itself, it would be the poorest state in the union. So as you know, I have many of our universities from Fayetteville State to Elizabeth City State that operated and serve the people in those communities.

“I think if you think about what you’ve already done, if you look at the continuing resolution, you took about $400 billion of cuts through the continuing resolution. I always think about what you all are working on now with the Budget Control Act in two parts. First part was $900 billion in cuts. So you had another $900 billion in cuts that have already been done. So you’ve done already about $1.3 trillion worth of cuts already before you guys start on what you’re doing.

“I’ve always thought it’s got to be some combination of revenue and cuts in order to get to the $4 trillion number that we focused on. I do think it’s important for all of you to think about the fact that these deficits are just eating the budget alive. They don’t leave any money left over for you to do any kind of the economic development work in these poor counties that you want to see done if these deficits continue to grow and interests on the deficits continue to occur.

“What we tried to do is to make sure in the analysis and the plan that we put forward that we didn’t make any cuts in the income support programs like SSI, food stamps, and workers’ compensation. In addition, we tried to make sure that on things like Social Security that we actually up the minimum payment to 125% of poverty to help those people who really needed it. We gave people a 1% bump up per year between 81 and 86 because that’s when every Democrat and Republican economist who came to see us said that’s when people need it the most. So we tried to be sensitive to those people who were most disadvantaged while we made the cuts that we had to make to put our fiscal house in order.”

Former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-WY):

“We have enjoyed our time with you during our work. You’ve been very cordial and listened to us. I appreciate that deeply.

“The irony to me is that if we don’t get there and the strike comes – the tipping point. Dick Durbin always asked ‘Where is the tipping point?’ I didn’t know where it was but I do know that it will come swiftly. It will come by the ratings and the markets. It won’t come by anything that any chart has disclosed before. At that point in time, interest rates will go up and inflation will go up. The very people who will be hurt the very worst in that procedure are the very people that you speak of with such passion. This is a tremendous irony to me. By doing little or nothing and the tipping point comes, the little guy is going to get hammered worse than ever he or she is now. That’s the irony. The strange, hideous irony.”

Rep. Jim Clyburn:

“Mr. Simpson, but you said that if we were to do, let’s do a $1.5 trillion deficit reduction and let’s do it on the backs of those same people. Then what happens to that chart in the next 30 years? Where we have a 275% increase in income for people in the 1%? If you’re in the upper quintile, you saw an increase in 56% and the lower quintile only 18%. So let’s just say, let’s do it. Let’s cut the deficit by $1.5 trillion. Let’s do it by cutting Medicare, Medicaid, cutting Pell grants, cutting education, cutting health care. We will have saved the markets, but what we’d have done to these 474 communities? That’s my question.”

Dr. Alice Rivlin:

“I think that’s not a question that we should answer, because you shouldn’t do that. There are points that we’re all making – the same two points. One is we need to cut the deficits but not by hurting vulnerable people. You should avoid doing that. Secondly, that the importance of avoiding a double-dip recession and a loss decade of growth is extreme and will hurt those people the most if you don’t avoid it.”

  Former Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM):

“I’m the last here, and you’ve heard almost anything humankind can think of. I would suggest to you that the answers that were given are really relevant and important. One of the reasons that our group did not do as big of reductions in appropriated accounts as other plans was because we came upon the idea that we were going to have to come up with some revenue. We ought to have a budget that was understanding in this area or it would quite properly be attacked with equal vigor to destroy it as we try to create a country that was strong again. So we did take care of the problem you talked about.

“I would tell you from my own experience as I leave the scene. One time I asked a very wise man what do we do to help poverty, and the person said ‘I can tell you in one word.’ I thought, ‘You must have direct ties with the Holy Spirit.’ He said, ‘Educate!’ That’s what he said is that people must get educated. Well, that won’t solve the bread on the table but any plan you have in mind should also obviously look at whether the poor people are getting educated or not. The first walk to step out has got to be that.

“Secondly, the country has to grow or there’s nothing to split – there’s nothing to give to our people. So whatever programs you’re talking about have to have growth in them. That’s why all of our tax plans – both tax plans – have growth tax plans. Theirs is, ours is. We call it that. We asked experts and they said, ‘Your tax plan will cause far better growth than the plan that we’re under now.’ That’s why we cut corporate taxes, and people shouldn’t immediately say, ‘Why did you cut the fat cats for?’ They aren’t making as much here to give to our people in wages, because they’re going elsewhere because our taxes are too high. So it’s not what people say. The reality is competition. We can’t force them to stay in America if our taxes are too high. So I think education and a fair tax for corporations belong on this litany – not first but somewhere.”

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3 Comments on “Transcript: Super Committee Rep. Jim Clyburn’s Q&A on previous debt proposals

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