[Congressional Record Volume 163, Number 198 (Tuesday, December 5, 2017)]
From the Congressional Record Online through GPO
REPUBLICAN TAX BILL
Mr. CARPER. Next, Mr. President, I have a couple of charts here. I
don't know whether the Presiding Officer can see them from where he is
sitting. I can barely see them from right here.
The first chart we are going to take a look at deals with the--on
this side over here, we have median household income for Americans
since 1987. Over on this side, we have corporate profits in the
billions of dollars.
When we come back here to 1987, we look at the orange line here, and
that is median household income in 2016 dollars. The median household
income in 1987 was just a shade over $50,000. All of these years later,
in 2017, it is just a little bit higher. It has gone up a little bit
but not a whole lot--maybe close to $60,000, but I don't know that it
is any higher than that. It has gone up a little bit, really, over the
last few years.
The green line here on our chart is corporate profits. When we go
back to 1987, corporate profits were equal to about--it looks like
$30,000 billion, and if I am not mistaken, that would be maybe $30
trillion. I hope I have that right. That was 1987. If you look at what
has happened, it has gone up and down. This is during the great
recession when we fell off the cliff and almost fell off the world. In
2007, 2008, we started to climb back out of it. Today, the corporate
profits have roughly doubled in this country since 1987--roughly
doubled--while median household income is growing a tiny bit but
actually not that much.
Let's look at the next chart, and then I will not speak from the
charts. I guess the lesson here again is that corporate profits have
gone up rather nicely. There were some ups and downs because of the
great recession, but they are on an uptick now.
This is a look at the national deficit and debt. I know the Presiding
Officer has a great concern about this.
I came to the House I guess in 1983. I had been State treasurer for a
that had the worst deficit in the country. The State of Delaware tied
with Puerto Rico. We were a mess.
Finally, Pete du Pont, a Republican, did a wonderful job for 8 years
as Governor. I had the opportunity to serve with him in the State
treasury and later on to become the Governor of the State of Delaware,
when we went to a triple A credit rating for the first time in State
I came here in 1983 as a Congressman who was concerned about debts
and deficits. My sense is that here in the Senate and the House, we
don't have a lot of deficit hawks these days. If we do, their voices
are not heard very loudly. We are on a course that is unsustainable in
terms of our accumulation of more debt.
This is an interesting chart because it goes back to really the
beginning of World War II, the war my dad was in and my uncle served
in. There is a lot of red ink here, and it shows the deficit as a
percentage of gross domestic product, and it reached about 30 percent
right in the middle of World War II. After the war, we have the green
down here where we actually had some surpluses in the late 1940s and
the early 1950s. We actually had a surplus in 1968. Then we went from
1968 to about 1998 and never balanced the budget, all of those years at
one time. The last 4 years of the Clinton administration, we balanced
our budget four times. It was a bipartisan deal.
The chairman of the House Budget Committee, if I am not mistaken, was
a Republican from Ohio, John Kasich, who is now the Governor of Ohio.
John and I came to the House together in 1983. He came as a deficit
hawk as well. He and the Clinton administration obviously did a nice
job to help to balance four budgets. We haven't done so well since
then. Since then, we have shown, right from here up to the present,
which would be right around there, one deficit after the other--
deficits that peaked out over the last year of George W. Bush's
administration, when we were again falling into the great recession,
and we have spent a lot of money in stimulus to try to get us out of
The debt dropped from about $1.4 trillion per year down to about one-
third that much, and now it is starting to go up again. The debt last
year--the year that ended on September 30--the deficit had bounced back
up to $666 billion again in 1 year--a lot of money. The prospect going
forward is not encouraging; it is actually discouraging.
The tax cut bill that was passed in this Chamber just a few days
ago--last Saturday morning, in the middle of the night--called for tax
breaks, some for individuals for a while, some for corporations that
tend to be more permanent in nature. But for me, maybe the most
troubling aspect of the tax bill that was enacted last Saturday
morning, aside from the way it was pushed through, is the idea that we
got, right here on the Senate floor, I think sometime around the middle
of the evening last Friday night, a 400-page amendment, over 400 pages
that we had never read, never seen, with scribbling on the side of the
pages. The idea was that somehow we were supposed to read that and
understand it and then vote it up or down in an amendment in like 4 or
5 hours. Good luck. That just doesn't happen. That would be the triumph
of man's hope over experience.
I always ask these four questions when people ask about what we
should do in tax reform. I say, No. 1, it ought to be fair. What we
have actually passed is something where most of the benefits, the
lion's share, go to people who are, frankly, very wealthy. Folks who
are lower and lower middle income may realize some benefits in the
first few years following the implementation of the new tax cut, but
over time--say, by 2025--families with incomes up to $75,000 per family
are going to be realizing not a net gain from the tax cut but actually
a net loss, which is not good.
I always ask: Is it fair? I think it is not fair when you look at the
numbers and see how middle-income folks fare and those who happen to be
The second question I always ask is this: Will it foster economic
growth or diminish it? I focus a lot of my time and energy on economic
growth, job creation, and job preservation. Senators, Presidents, and
Governors don't create jobs. We create a nurturing environment for job
creation, job preservation, and workforce, transportation
infrastructure, protection of intellectual property rights, public
safety, access to water and wastewater. There are a lot of things that
contribute to economic growth and so forth. Tax policy is important.
Commonsense regulation is important as well.
But my second question is this: Does the tax reform bill that we
passed foster economic growth? Not really. To a modest extent, some,
but not really. One of the things it does is it suggests uncertainty
and the lack of predictability going forth, which I don't think
businesses really care for.
One area where we, frankly, decided not to spend any money this time
is the area where we could actually get the biggest bang for our buck
in terms of growing GDP. We have a transportation infrastructure that
is woefully inadequate these days, in terrible shape--roads, highways,
bridges, rail, ports, and airports. We have many broad areas in the
country that don't have access to the internet.
We just passed a tax bill that is going to increase the deficit by
$1.5 trillion. Unfortunately, none of that goes to pay for or to make
investments in things that would grow GDP by a lot and would provide
employment opportunities--not just for a couple hundred thousand people
but for millions of people, over the next decade or so. None of that is
The third question I always look at in terms of tax reform is this:
Does it simplify the Tax Code or make it more complex? The new
provision that was adopted is going to increase by this much the
thickness of the Tax Code, or by about another 15 or 20 percent--not
making it simpler or easier to understand, but actually more difficult.
The last piece I consider is this: What is the effect on the deficit?
Pumping up the deficit by another $1.5 trillion is making the situation
We are going to go to conference now, the House and Senate. My hope
is that it will be more bipartisan than what we saw here in the Senate.
It needs to be. I quoted last week and I quoted again today an old
African-American proverb: If you want to go fast, travel alone. If you
want to go far, travel together. Our Republican friends, at least on
this side of the Congress, for the most part have chosen to go fast and
to go alone. That is unfortunate. The last time we did tax reform, we
did it together. It took 3 years, but it was a more lasting and, I
think, a better outcome.