Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) is the sole African-American Member of Congress serving on the Joint Select Commottee on Deficit Reduction. Rep. Clyburn issued the following statement at the first public hearing of the Committee on September 13, 2011.
Thank you, Madam Chairwoman and Mr. Chairman, and Dr. Elmendorf, thank you for taking the time to talk with us today.
I think it is appropriate that today’s hearing is entitled ‘The History and Drivers of our Nation’s Debt and Its Threats.’ If we want to solve the related problems of debt and joblessness, we need to know how these problems arose.
In 2000, we had a $236 billion surplus and had begun paying down our national debt. The economy was booming for all Americans, unemployment was at 4 percent, and the poverty rate dipped to its lowest level since 1979. Instead of building on the policies that had served us so well, we embarked upon two wars, one of which was dubious at best. Using credit cards, we instituted two tax cuts totaling $1.8 trillion which were tilted in favor of millionaires and billionaires, we created a new prescription drug benefit program which CBO estimates will cost $967 billion over the next ten years, and we allowed mortgage lenders to gamble away the economic prosperity of millions of Americans. And then it was declared that ‘deficits don’t matter.’ This special committee was created because deficits and debt do matter.
Now we find ourselves with painfully slow growth, unacceptably high unemployment, deficits as far as the eye can see, and a mounting long term debt burden.
As we work together to achieve significant deficit reduction, it is important to remember how we got here. Many factors got us into this situation, and many factors are needed to get us out. We must balance the budget with a balanced approach that includes job creation, revenue increases, and smart spending cuts. Shared sacrifice will be required. We cannot solve the problem on the backs of the most vulnerable in our society, who have had nothing to do with causing it.
I am willing to make tough compromises. I have said that if the distance between an opponent and me is five steps, I am willing to take three as long as the other side takes the other two.
Dr. Elmendorf, thank you again for being here, and I look forward to discussing these issues with you in the question and answer period.
The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction held its first public meeting on September 13, 2011.