Transcript: Sen. Jeff Sessions’s opening remarks on the CBO’s 2014 budget & economic outlook

Partial transcript of Sen. Jeff Sessions’s (R-Alabama) opening remarks on the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) 2014-2024 federal budget and economic outlook. The Senate Budget Committee hearing was held on Feb. 11, 2014:

…CBO’s latest budget and economic outlook is another sobering report on a number of sobering report since the 2007 to 2009 recession.

It’s been four years since that recession – long past the time we normally see in a more robust growth that we’re now recognizing.

And the CBO report indicates that in the 10th year, the amount of interests we would pay on our debt just that year is higher than you projected last year after 10 years. It’s not a good path.

So the nation’s policies after the recession ended in 2009 have not come close to producing the results, the growth that President promised.

CBO and many other organizations – the President’s own OMB [Office of Management and Budget] and the Federal Reserve – have also made forecast for economic growth that were far above what actually happened.

CBO’s report today is a recognition that the economy has failed to lift off after the recession has been declared over. Millions of Americans are hurting. This is not a healthy recovery. It’s just not.

United States economy typically reverts to the mean after a recession, but this time it has not.

The President has said his stimulus bill, the Affordable Care Act, increased taxes and regulations, and more government spending would result in a strong bounce-back.

But after President Obama signed the stimulus bill, and the Congressional Budget Office estimated that real GDP growth would be at 4.7% for each of the past two years as 2012 and 2013; we did not have that growth. It grew at a paltry 1.9% last year following from an anemic 2.8% the year before.

Only two years ago, after the Affordable Care Act was passed, CBO expected real growth this year – 2014 – to be 4.6%. Wouldn’t we like to have that? After these misses, CBO is now predicting we’d have only 2.7% growth this year.

Ominously, the percentage of people participating in the economy, working or looking for work, labor force participation rate has fallen to 1970s levels.

So, the policies that the nation has pursued to promote economic growth, they have not had the effect we’d hoped for. The growth that is needed to increase the number of Americans with jobs did not occur. The recovery today has seen corporate profits increase increase some and the wealthy to see their investments grow at least close to what they were before the recession, but working Americans have seen lower wages, more part-time jobs, and fewer full-time jobs.

It’s clear that growth at 2% is merely treading water. It must be sharply higher to increase the number of Americans actually working.

Certainly, we’ve learned in this recovery that GDP growth can occur without real benefits for the working people in our country.

And sadly, CBO’s report also recognizes that the President’s 2010 health care law is a hammer blow to lower-income workers.

Despite concerns raised at the time that the Affordable Care Act would reduce work opportunities, CBO did not think that effect would be significant when the law was signed into law in 2010.

CBO now estimates Obamacare will lead to Americans working fewer hours or dropping out and this will be the equivalent of 2.5 million productive Americans. In other words, four years after the health care law was enacted and just as it is beginning to be implemented, CBO has now tripled its estimate of the number of jobs that will be lost or equivalent jobs that will be lost as a result of the law.

So that means the average employed person’s wages will total $930 less over 10 years.

CBO has been criticized for this finding but the analysis you’ve made, Dr. Elmendorf, it seems to me just reflects what data is showing. Indeed, two-thirds of jobs created in 2013 were part-time jobs.

So, I look forward to receiving from CBO more information about how these conclusions were derived. We do know this compensation loss will fall more heavily on lower-income Americans. So this is another example of the policies with good intentions that are actually hurting working Americans, not helping them.

The end result is that CBO has reduced its estimate of the economy’s growth potential and the report finds the U.S. economy is not assumed to reach even that potential over the next 10 years under the current policies.

So, let’s pause a minute to consider an important point as stated by the free market-oriented National Review. They declared – rightly, I think – that we are a nation with an economy, not an economy with a nation. It is our duty to take principled achievable steps that will benefit the most of the Americans in our country, not just the fortunate few, and to do so without increasing our debt, which is already well into the danger zone.

So, I hope the CBO’s report and today’s discussion helps serve as a springboard for a more serious conversation about what’s going on in the U.S. economy and the people who have not prospered.

Spend, borrow, regulate, and tax have not worked as a jump-start to prosperity. Expanding government has not produced prosperity. Stimulus programs and quantitative easing have done little good. Indeed, these actions reality shows overall have produced far weaker growth than was predicted even just a few years ago in which we normally see after a recession.

So, working Americans should focus less on promises and good intentions. They need to focus more on results and what will actually happen. That’s what we in Congress should do. Good intentions are not sufficient. We need to enact sound policies that reduce the deficits and put us on a path to growth and prosperity…

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