Consider the debate over welfare reform. We now spend a trillion dollars annually on federal welfare programs. Converted to cash, spending on federal poverty programs would equal $60,000 for each household living in poverty. Almost 1 in 6 Americans are now on food stamps. The Administration is aggressively working to boost these figures even more, and labels any attempt at reform as uncaring and heartless. They even awarded a food stamp recruiter for overcoming a community’s “mountain pride.”
Yet what has all this spending produced? More people are living in poverty, wages are flat, millions have completely exited the labor force, and fraud and abuse remain rampant. We will make the case that the time has come for another 1996-style welfare reform that reduces poverty, strengthens family, and helps more Americans transition from dependency to self-sufficiency. This is not merely a financial imperative; it is a moral imperative. No longer can we measure compassion by how much we spend on poverty, but how many people we help to rise out of poverty. Adding endlessly to the debt is not compassionate—it is destructive.
Compassion demands reform. We will confront the Majority directly with this argument. They will have to defend the social and economic harm their policies have afflicted on cities and communities across the country. And we believe the American people will be with us.
We will also explain how excessive taxation and debt is weakening growth today. Weaker growth translates to fewer job openings, smaller paychecks, and more people dependent upon the federal government. Balancing the federal budget is the only way to replace a future of weak growth and high taxes with strong growth and high wages. We have a moral obligation to taxpayers, and to our children, to balance the budget of the United States.
We hope to have a productive and cooperative budget process with the Majority this year. I have already expressed to the Chairman my willingness to work with her and her staff in an effort to balance the federal budget.
But, as demonstrated by their refusal to do a budget for nearly four years, the Majority has viewed the fiscal debate not as an exercise in problem-solving but an exercise in political combat. Their strategy has been to issue expertly crafted sound bites from their comfortable station in Washington while happily offering nothing to help those Americans trapped in a cycle of poverty and joblessness. Meanwhile, repeated good-faith Republican efforts to reform government have been rhetorically savaged by a Majority that refuses to contribute with a solution of their own. This pattern must end.
If the Democrat Majority accuses us of the same fictions I have listed earlier, we will reply: your policies are creating poverty, dependency, and chronic unemployment. Your policies are responsible for lost wages and lost jobs. Your policies have denied people access to quality health care. Your policies have shut down factories, surged energy costs, and brought economic growth to a standstill. And your policies are responsible for a nearing debt crisis that threatens each and every American family.