Speeches & Floor Statements

Floor Remarks of U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) -- Jobs, Economy, President's Speech

Posted on September 8, 2011

Mr. ALEXANDER.  Mr. President, tonight we welcome President Obama to the Congress to deliver a jobs address.  The President will be coming at a time when we have had persistent unemployment at a greater rate than at any time since the Great Depression.  No one should blame our President for problems with an economy that he inherited, but the President should take responsibility for making the economy worse.

Unemployment is up.  The debt is up.  Housing values are down.  The morning paper reports we may be on our way -- at least the chances are 50-50, the newspaper says this morning -- to a double-dip recession.  The number of unemployed Americans is up about 2 million since the President took office.  The amount of Federal debt is up about $4 trillion.

As I mentioned in discussing the proposals of the Senator from Nebraska, the President's policies, rather than helping over the last 2 1/2 years, have thrown a big wet blanket over private sector job creation.  They have made it more expensive and more difficult for the private sector to create jobs for Americans.

Let me be specific about that.  The President chose, 2 years ago, rather than to focus exclusively on jobs, to focus on health care.  His proposal was to expand a health care delivery system that already cost too much, that was already too expensive.  So we have new health care taxes and mandates that make the economy worse.

Why do I say that?  I met, for example, with the chief executive officers of several of the nation's largest restaurant companies.  They reminded me that restaurants and hospitality organizations in the United States are the largest employers, outside of government, and that their employees are mostly young and mostly low income.  One of the chief executives said because of the mandates of the health care law it would take all of his profits from last year to pay the costs, when it is fully implemented, so he will not be investing in any new restaurants in the United States.  Another said they operate with 90 employees per store, but as a result of the mandates and taxes in the health care law, their goal will be to operate with 70 employees per store.  One of the largest employers is saying instead of having 90 employees per store, we are going to have 70.  That doesn't help create new jobs in the United States.

Let's take the debt.  The President inherited the debt but he has made it worse.  The economists who look at debt say we are heading toward a level that will cost us, in the United States, 1 million jobs every year.

Undermining the right-to-work law -- the President's appointees to the National Labor Relations Board have told the Nation's largest manufacturer of large airplanes that they cannot build a plant in South Carolina.  It is the first new plant to build large airplanes in 40 years in this country.  The Boeing Company sells those airplanes everywhere in the world.  It could build them anywhere in the world.  We want them to build them in the United States.  Those kinds of actions by the National Labor Relations Board make it worse.

Regulations that put a big wet blanket over job creation, such as the one the Senator from Nebraska talks about, make it worse.  The President's refusal to send trade agreements to Congress makes it worse.  Let's be clear about this.  Since the day the President took office, he has had on his desk three trade agreements, already signed by both countries.  They simply need approval by Congress -- one with Panama, one with South Korea, one with Colombia.  We are ready to approve them in a bipartisan way if he will send them here.  What will that mean in Tennessee?  We make a lot of auto parts in Tennessee.  We can sell them to South Korea.  At the present time, Europeans sell them to South Korea at a lower price because of the tariff situation, because the President has not sent the three trade agreements to Congress.  So all these steps have made the economy worse.  Of course, with a bad economy home values have stayed down.  That is making it worse, too. 

So what can we do about this?  What are the kinds of things the President could talk about tonight and that we could work on together to make it easier and cheaper to create private sector jobs?  We could change the tax structure in a permanent way, not short-term fixes but long-term lowering of tax rates for everyone, closing loopholes, creating a situation where our businesses are more competitive in the world marketplace.  That is one thing we could do.

We could stop the avalanche of regulations that is throwing the big wet blanket over job growth.  The Senator from Nebraska suggested a few -- a moratorium on new regulations; avoiding guidance, as he suggested, that circumvents the rules or regulations; stopping wacky ideas such as regulating farm dust, as if everybody did not know that all farms create dust.

More exports -- the President could send, today, the three trade agreements to Congress.  We could ratify them and then crops grown in Tennessee and Nebraska and every other State in this country, and auto parts, and medical devices, could be sold around the world.  Our State alone has $23 billion and tens of thousands of jobs tied up in exports.  This could add to that.

In addition to that, we could agree on advanced research.  The President's recommendations have been good on that.  But we should agree on that and move ahead with appropriations bills and a fiscal situation that permits us to do the kind of advanced research we need to do to create jobs. 

We need to fix No Child Left Behind.  Better schools mean better jobs.  We need a long-term highway bill.  We need roads and bridges in order to have the kind of country we want.  We need to find more American energy and use less.  We should be able to agree on that.

There is an agenda, not of more spending, not of more taxes, not of more regulation, but an agenda that would make it easier and cheaper to create private sector jobs and get the economy moving again.

In another time a President named Eisenhower said "I should go to Korea" and he was elected President.  He went to Korea before he was inaugurated and then he said "I shall focus my time on this single objective until I see it all the way through to the end."  The country felt good about that, they had confidence in him, he did that, and the Korean war was ended.

President Obama chose, instead of focusing on jobs 2 1/2 years ago in the same sort of Presidential way, to expand a health care delivery system that already was too expensive and in fact makes the problem worse.  Tonight is an opportunity to make it better and we are ready to join with him in doing that, especially if he were to recommend lower tax rates, fewer loopholes on a permanent basis, fewer regulations, and if he were to send the three trade agreements to us to ratify.