WASHINGTON, D.C. | March 26, 2014
The purpose of today’s hearing is to examine the president’s fiscal year 2015 budget request for the Department of Labor. However, as is often the case, budget hearings are about more than dollars and cents. As the old saying goes, budgets are about priorities. Naturally, budget hearings provide Congress an opportunity to examine and discuss the policies an administration intends to pursue in the coming years.
The authority of the Department of Labor governs practically every private business and affects countless working families. It is a great responsibility and one I am sure you take seriously, Mr. Secretary. Since taking office, you’ve shown a willingness to work with the committee on a number of important issues, such as the department’s unprecedented enforcement of family farms and health care providers serving active and retired military personnel. We haven’t agreed on every detail, but we appreciate the efforts you’ve made to address our concerns.
It is my hope that we can build on this progress in the weeks and months ahead. Our nation faces significant challenges that can only be addressed if we work together in good faith, and we all know there is a great deal that demands our attention.
For example, more than 10 million Americans can’t find work and roughly 7 million are employed part-time but need a full-time job. The labor force participation rate has dropped to levels not seen since the Carter administration – a sign millions of workers are so discouraged with their job prospects that they’ve left the workforce entirely. We have a health care law that is discouraging and destroying full time work. More than one out of every 10 African-Americans can’t find a job and nearly 47 million individuals are living in poverty. In the Obama economy, stock prices on Wall Street reach record highs while the wages of working families on Main Street remain flat.
We are told time and again a strong recovery is just around the corner if the president is allowed to spend more, tax more, and borrow more. Yet after $17.6 trillion in total spending and $6.8 trillion in new debt, we are stuck in the slowest economic recovery in our nation’s history. Despite the obvious fact that the president’s policies aren’t working, he has once again put forward a budget that doubles down on the status quo.
This fundamentally flawed approach is evident in the president’s request for six new job training programs at a cost of more than $10 billion. That’s right, the president wants to pile more training programs onto the more than 50 duplicative and ineffective programs that already exist, making a confusing maze of programs even more difficult for workers to navigate. Taxpayers will be forced to invest in more bureaucracy instead of in the skills and education that will help workers succeed. Spending more money on a broken system will not provide the support vulnerable workers and families need.
The American people can no longer afford to invest in the president's failed agenda. We need to change course and adopt responsible reforms that will get this country working again; reforms that will help every individual who wants to enjoy the dignity of work find a job; reforms that will help ensure no one who works full time is forced to live in poverty; reforms that will help provide hope and prosperity for every working family. The policies embraced by the president during the last six years haven’t moved us toward these goals, and his current budget request won’t either.
Obviously there are stark differences on how best to move our nation forward. This committee will do its part to find common ground where we can and invest in real solutions that help grow our economy, create jobs, and expand opportunity for all who seek it. I urge the administration to be a partner in that effort. No executive order or unilateral action can put the country back on track and people back to work. Mr. Secretary, let’s stop recycling bad polices and start building on the small but encouraging progress we’ve made in recent months to work together on behalf of the American people.
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