U.S. Congressman Paul Ryan Serving Wisconsin's 1st District

U.S. Congressman Paul Ryan Serving Wisconsin's 1st District

U.S. House of Representatives

Jobs & Economy

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Southern Wisconsin’s families continue to work hard to make ends meet in an uncertain economy. The unemployment rate in Wisconsin is high at 6.1 percent as of January 2014, while the national unemployment rate stands at 6.7 percent. The economy added 113,000 jobs in January, once again well below expectations.  Also telling, is that the labor force participation rate stands at 63.0 percent. The participation rate refers to the number of people who are either employed or are actively looking for work. The number of people who are no longer actively searching for work would not be included in the participation rate.  Therefore, during an economic recession, many workers often get discouraged and stop looking for employment, as a result, the participation rate decreases.  Another way of looking at this is the U-6 unemployment rate, which is a comprehensive measure of labor underutilization that takes into account persons marginally attached to the labor force as well as persons who would like to be employed full time but can only find part-time work – in other words, the unemployed, the underemployed and the discouraged who have given up on finding work.  The U-6 unemployment rate stands at 12.6 percent, up over 4 percent from the fourth quarter of 2007.

As the economy struggles, much focus has been on increasing taxes to address our deficit and our debt.  These tax increases would hit job creators, like those small manufacturers located in industrial parks in our communities, and hard-working families.  Our local manufacturers and families are already forced to live under the strains of the current difficult economy.  Asking them to pay more will hurt our local communities.  What the federal government needs to do is stop spending too much.  It simply can no longer afford to spend money that it doesn’t have and take out more loans to pay for that spending.

Economic growth comes when American families and small businesses work, save, and invest. Congress needs to prioritize legislation that encourages job creation by keeping taxes low, controlling government spending, and addressing the severe problems ahead if we do not reform critical government programs that are driving up our national debt. Left unchanged, these programs will continue to take up a larger portion of our budget each year, crowd out other government spending, and hurt our economy. As the Chairman of the House Budget Committee, I take seriously my responsibility to help improve accountability, monitor federal spending, and prevent government waste and abuse, while putting forward long-term solutions to our debt crisis.

A Down Payment on the Nation’s Debt

Five years ago, we had a financial crisis. It flared up suddenly, though the tinder had been building up over time. And the damage was severe. Four million families lost their homes. Nine million people lost their jobs. In some ways, Washington helped put out the flames. But much of what the government tried—more regulations, more spending—didn’t work. In fact, it may have delayed the recovery. Today, we face a crisis of another sort—one more predictable than the last and more dangerous than ever. We face the threat of a debt crisis.

Our national debt is growing faster than our economy. In other words, our obligations are growing faster than our ability to pay them. Debt held by the public is 73 percent of our economy. By 2024, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) expects it to hit 79 percent. And total national debt is already bigger than our economy.  One of the biggest threats to our country’s economic growth now and in the future, is our mounting debt.  Our debt is the product of massive spending increases that occurred under many presidents and many Congresses over many years, but we are reaching a tipping point and can no longer afford to kick the can down the road and expect that we can solve our fiscal problems in the future. 

A Responsible, Balanced Budget to Grow the Economy and Create Jobs:  On January 14, 2013, the White House announced that it would not meet the statutory deadline of submitting its budget proposal to Congress by February 4.  The President has only met this deadline once since taking office.  This, combined with the Senate’s refusal to comply with the statutory requirement to pass a budget for nearly 4 years is a true failure of leadership.  To bring these failures to an end, the House passed H.R. 325, the No Budget, No Pay Act of 2013 by a vote of 285 to 144 on January 23, 2013.  The legislation required both houses of Congress to pass a budget as stipulated by federal law.  Under this bill, if either the House or Senate failed to pass a budget, its members’ pay would be withheld.  This legislation also allowed the Treasury to borrow to only pay its bills coming due until May 18, 2013.  At the end of that period of time, the debt limit increased by the amount that was borrowed to pay the government’s bills until May 18, 2013 and the temporary suspension of the debt limit ceased.  H.R. 325 passed in the Senate on January 31, 2013 and was signed by the President.  I voted in favor of this bill because every family sets a budget to pay its bills.  Congress should do the same.

In response to this law, the Senate Budget Committee introduced and passed a budget resolution for FY2014, and I commend the Senate for finally taking action and introducing a plan so that Washington may return to a normal budgeting process instead of the recent trend of “budgeting by crisis.”  However, the budget passed by Senate Democrats still fails to propose serious solutions to our nation’s challenges.  Much like the budgets introduced by President Obama, this budget never balances – ever.  The Senate Democrats’ budget proposes raising taxes by as much as $1.5 trillion, simply taking more from hardworking families and successful small businesses in order to spend more in Washington.  It ignores the true drivers of our debt, continues the raid on Medicare, and imperils the health and retirement security that our seniors depend on.

My House colleagues and I passed our budget resolution for FY2014, “The Path to Prosperity:  A Responsible, Balanced Budget.”  This budget provides an exit ramp from the current unsustainable path – and an entry ramp to a better future.  The path to Prosperity will reduce our deficits by $4.6 trillion over ten years and will produce a surplus of $7 billion in 2023.  Under current law, spending will rise an annual average of 5.0 percent, resulting in $46 trillion in federal spending over the next ten years.  Alternatively, our budget will allow spending to increase annually by only 3.4 percent, reducing our spending over ten years to roughly $41 trillion.  Among other things, this budget will cut wasteful government spending, fix our broken tax code, protect and strengthen important priorities like Medicare and national security, and reform welfare programs like Medicaid to ensure that they can serve those in need.  By balancing the budget and tackling our debt, this budget will help grow our economy today and ensure the next generation inherits a stronger, more prosperous America.

A balanced budget is a reasonable goal because it returns government to its proper limits and focus.  By curbing government’s overreach, our budget will give families the space they need to thrive.  Yet the most important question isn’t how we balance the budget – it’s why.  A budget is a means to an end, and the end isn’t a neat and tidy spreadsheet.  It’s the well-being of all Americans.  Washington’s reckless spending drives the debt and this debt is hurting the economy today.  We’ll never get our debt under control unless we tackle its main driver:  spending money we don’t have.  Unless we get at the heart of the problem, Americans will face a debt crisis – one that will threaten our most vulnerable in particular – and it is our responsibility to prevent such a crisis.  By giving families stability and protecting them from tax hikes, our budget will promote a healthier economy and help create jobs.

The Bipartisan Budget Act:  The federal government, like any other business or household, must each year have a budget. In the absence of a year-long budget, the House and Senate must approve short-term spending bills known as "continuing resolutions" to keep the federal government operational.  On October 15, 2013, Senator Patty Murray and I stood up in our respective chambers to offer a motion to create a bicameral conference committee to negotiate a federal budget by December 13, 2013.  Rather than continuing the trend of budgeting by brinkmanship with short-term spending bills, Senator Murray and I recognized the need for long-term bipartisan solutions to our nation’s most pressing fiscal problems.  On October 16, 2013, the motion to go to conference was adopted by unanimous consent in the House and Senate.

When entering the negotiations, there were three criteria I used to evaluate all provisions of the deal.  First and foremost, the deal must not raise taxes.  The last thing already financially-strapped individuals and families need is another tax increase.  Second, the deal must not increase the deficit.  At a time when our national debt is greater than $17 trillion, Congress should not appropriate one dollar without vigorous and diligent oversight.  Third, the deal must stop Washington from lurching crisis to crisis.  Our economy needs stability that will build confidence, and that confidence will help spur job creation.

After nearly two months of deliberations among the members of the bicameral conference committee, Senator Patty Murray and I introduced the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 on December 10, 2013.  This is the first time since 1986 that a divided Congress has produced a bipartisan budget resolution.  The Bipartisan Budget Act will provide $63 billion in sequester relief—split evenly between defense programs and other domestic priorities—in exchange for over $80 billion in savings elsewhere in the budget, resulting in over $20 billion in deficit reduction, all without raising taxes.  Additionally, it preserves 92 percent of the Budget Control Act’s (BCA) sequester cuts, or approximately $770 billion of the original BCA sequester savings, but does so by cutting spending in a smarter way.  It eliminates waste by ending the distribution of government checks to criminals and the deceased, puts an end to favoritism by cutting corporate welfare, and it makes real reforms to some of the true problems of autopilot spending.  And, it will also prevent another government shutdown this year.

The Bipartisan Budget Act came before the House for a vote on December 12, 2013, and was passed by a vote of 332 to 94.  I was encouraged that my colleagues from both parties voted in favor of this budget agreement instead of continuing down the same unsustainable path and risking another federal government shutdown.

 In the past, I have introduced budgets that reform the tax code and help pay off the debt.  While I will continue to support these reforms, the fact is, we have divided government.  And in divided government, no one will get precisely what they want.  Although this agreement does not go far enough, it does represent a firm step in the right direction.  The Bipartisan Budget Agreement embraces the common ground shared between the budgets passed in the House and Senate.  This agreement implements commonsense ideas that both parties can support.  It cuts spending in smarter ways than the across-the-board approach.  It also makes clear that tax hikes are not an option.  Most importantly, it shows how Washington can live within its means and make divided government work.

Job Creation and Economic Growth

The economic growth that our country needs cannot come from Washington.  It originates from the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit of the American people.  This spirit can only thrive if the government creates an economic-friendly environment that allows businesses to grow and create jobs.  In the 112th Congress, the House Majority has pursued an agenda focused on job creation and economic growth.  As such, The House has passed 55 bills aimed at empowering small business owners and reducing regulatory burdens, fixing the tax code to help job creators, increasing competitiveness for American manufacturers, encouraging entrepreneurship and growth, maximizing domestic energy production, paying down America’s unsustainable debt burden and beginning to live within our means.  Unfortunately, 40 of these bills, despite most of them garnering bipartisan support in the House, died in the Democrat-controlled Senate.  Job creation and economic growth will remain a priority for House Republicans in the 113th Congress. 

Reforming our tax code, eliminating the broken policies of the past, training workers to meet 21st century needs, and approving the Keystone XL Pipeline and expanding oil production on federal lands are all areas where both parties can find common ground and bring positive changes that will allow businesses to grow and create jobs. I will continue to work to advance policies that address our economic challenges, foster innovation and investment, and help job creators without raising taxes on working families and small business owners. 

Reform the Tax Code:  America has an economic problem, in large part due to our outdated, broken tax code.  The combination of complexity, high tax rates on business income, and prevalence of double taxation of capital and investment suppresses innovation, job creation, and economic growth.  The House-passed FY2014 budget would simplify the tax code to make it fairer to American families and businesses.  Our plan would reduce the corporate tax rate and level the playing field between American businesses and their foreign competitors.  It is also important to remember that 9 out of 10 businesses in Wisconsin file their taxes as individuals, not as corporations, and these small businesses employ more than half of all private sector workers.  With two-thirds of the net new jobs in America being created by small businesses, raising taxes on these businesses would kill job creation.  The budget proposes lowering the top rate while broadening the tax base by eliminating loopholes and tax shelters.  By making the tax code more conducive to innovation, investment, and sustained job creation, we can safeguard the American Dream for generations to come by preventing jobs from moving overseas. 

Consolidate and Strengthen Job-Training Programs:  To keep pace with a technologically advanced and increasingly interconnected world, workers must develop new skills.  One estimate says 90 percent of jobs in a knowledge-based economy will require postsecondary education.  Higher education and job-training are crucial to this effort.  But the federal government is hindering workforce development with outmoded aid programs.  In January 2011, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report that found 47 overlapping federal job-training programs spent approximately $18 billion in 2009.  Since GAO issued that report, the Education and Workforce Committee has conducted extensive work in this area and identified more than 50 duplicative and overlapping programs.  Many of these job-training programs are uncoordinated, difficult to access, and not accountable for results.

The House passed the SKILLS Act on March 15, 2013, which reforms the workforce development system and streamlines duplicative and ineffective job training programs by consolidating 35 programs. It also creates a workforce investment fund to serve as single source of federal support for employers and strengthens role of state and local officials and job creators to tailor programs to meet local needs.  The Path to Prosperity FY2014 budget builds on these reforms.  It improves accountability by calling for the consolidation of duplicative federal job-training programs into more targeted career-scholarship programs and by tracking the type of training provided, cost per trainee, employment after training, and whether the trainee secures a job in his or her preferred field.  A streamlined approach with increased oversight and accountability will not only provide administrative savings, but improve access, choice, and flexibility to enable workers and job-seekers to respond quickly and effectively to whatever specific career challenges they face.  Moreover, the budget adopted a proposal from President Obama’s FY2013 budget to close chronically low-performing Job Corps centers.  Such a reform will allow those funds to be better invested in centers with proven track records. 

Additional Information

Washington, DC Office
  • 1233 Longworth House Office Bldg
  • Washington, DC 20515
  • Phone: (202) 225-3031
  • Fax: (202) 225-3393
Janesville Office
20 South Main Street
Phone: (608) 752-4050
Suite 10
Fax: (608) 752-4711
Janesville, WI 53545
Toll Free: (888) 909-RYAN (7926)
Kenosha Office
5031 7th Avenue
Phone: (262) 654-1901
Kenosha, WI 53140
Fax: (262) 654-2156
Racine Office
216 6th Street
Phone: (262) 637-0510
Racine, WI 53403
Fax: (262) 637-5689
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