WASHINGTON— U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, spoke on the Senate floor tonight as the full Senate prepared to vote on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
A full transcript of Cassidy’s remarks is below.
CASSIDY: I’d like to comment on the positive aspects of the bill that we are about to vote on, and the most positive thing I can say about this is that working families and middle-income families across the nation will be better off. Families who over the last eight years have not done well will begin to do better.
Now, we’ve already discussed some of the folks, some of the things that others have discussed. Let me just briefly—we’ve doubled the standard deduction to make filing of income taxes simpler. For most Americans, that will be a tax cut, by doubling that standard deduction.
We have provisions in there to stimulate the economy, to create competition for workers so that workers will now have a choice of one job or the other and when that happens, of course, their wages rise and their benefits get better.
We incentivize companies that are right now moving overseas because the taxes are so much lower elsewhere, to stay in the United States and to create American jobs and to pay more American taxes. Those are all good things that my colleagues have discussed.
Let me discuss some other ways perhaps that this bill benefits working families and middle-income families. One thing I like, I’m from an energy state, Mr. President. Louisiana produces so much oil and gas, and the thing about energy jobs, it creates jobs for good families. They may not have a college education, but they’re good people. They care about their children, and these jobs, they can earn over $100,000 a year in certain aspects of it, and they employ Americans in the way that Americans have kind of forgotten can be that way.
It makes it meaningful to me. My family moved to Louisiana because someone called my father—we were in Illinois when I was born—and he said, you know, Jim, if you move to Louisiana, you can sell to the people working at Esso and you can make a good living. So even though my father didn’t work in the energy industry, he was one of those who benefited and made a living that allowed me to go to medical school. I was the first generation in our family to go to college, and to go to medical school and now I’m a U.S. Senator, what an incredible privilege. All created by energy jobs.
Now, one thing this bill does is it opens up a little bit more of Alaska for energy development, 2,000 acres. One of my colleagues has said smaller than the airport in Fargo, North Dakota. I’ve never been there, but 2,000 acres is not a whole lot of land. But on those 2,000 acres there’s a lot of oil beneath.
Why is that important? Well, we as a country can make a decision to be energy-secure or not. And if we’re going to be energy-secure, it means we’re going to produce our own energy. This is not to rule out renewables, but for the moment we are going to continue as a country to consume natural gas and oil.
We can buy it from countries such as in the Middle East whose environmental standards are not as strict as ours. But if you will, when we do that, not only are we sending our jobs, our revenue overseas, but we’re also, in effect, endorsing their lower environmental standards and that overall pollutes the environment.
On the other hand, if we buy from ourselves, using American workers, creating American jobs, using American environmental standards, not only do we get the benefit to the family, the benefits for the environment, but we have the national security benefit of being able to be energy-secure.
Now, this is powerful. I first became aware of it—I think I was in middle school or maybe even elementary school. And I went to St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and there was a guy there named Thor. What a great name for Thor. And he told me, Thor told me that his father was a pipe-fitter and was at that moment in Alaska working on the Alaska pipeline. Now that’s been 40 years ago so maybe my memory is a little bit fuzzy on everything but Thor’s name. But the point was that a fellow in Louisiana was going to Alaska, making great money, being able to provide for his family back home. That’s a good thing.
And as we develop our energy resources on the North Slope of Alaska, using American environmental standards, creating American jobs, we are changing the life of families like I—my family was, and perhaps for the family of the man who I remember going to middle school with long ago.
Now, it’s not just, though, by the way, when I mentioned Thor’s farther was a pipe-fitter, it’s not just on those 2,000 acres. There will be a way of transporting that oil that’s produced elsewhere. In South Louisiana we make boats, and boats that actually work off rigs and can create jobs both in the boatyard but then in the maritime industry. Thor’s father was a pipe-fitter, so you pipe out your oil. You create jobs in that way.
That comes to mind because when I was first elected to the Senate, I was going to a committee hearing and some union fellows from Ohio came up to me to ask that I would endorse the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Of course I had always been in favor of it so they had my vote, but they made the point, we’re union laborers. We work on the job. And when we say there’s $40,000 created in a building of a pipeline, sure, we may only be on the job for six weeks, but then we go to a another job for six more weeks and another job for six more weeks and I was struck that these working families benefit not from the actual production of America’s natural resources but from the transportation of America’s natural resources.
So the economic benefit to working families and middle-income families doesn’t just stop with those who are perhaps doing the drilling, but it continues downstream. As I mentioned earlier, it even extends to a family like mine.
Now, let me mention another aspect of this that brings benefits to our country, to our working families and to our middle-income families. One thing I was helpful with was the restoration of the Historic Tax Credit. The Historic Tax Credit is a federal tax credit first made permanent by President Ronald Reagan, that allows somebody to go to an older building in a community and to restore it, returning it to commerce, so instead of a portion of our architectural heritage being destroyed, instead it is refurbished and it is there for future generations to enjoy.
Now, it is more than the kind of aesthetics of seeing an older building become beautiful once more. It creates jobs. Let’s go back to this legislation creating better jobs for working families and middle-income families.
First, it affects everybody. More than 40 percent of the projects under the Historic Tax Credit program in the last 15 years have been in towns of less than 25,000 people. In my state, since 2002, the Historic Tax Credit has contributed to 782 projects being built, bringing $2.2 billion worth of investment into these cities and towns across my state.
Now, when you have that much money, you create lots of jobs. It is thought nationwide, according to the study by the National Park Service, that the Historic Tax Credit has encouraged more than $131 billion in private investment, rehabbing 42,000 buildings, creating more than 2.4 million trade jobs, returning a net positive to the U.S. Treasury.
Since fiscal year 2002 in Louisiana alone, again has fostered more than $2.5 billion in private investment, creating more than 38,000 jobs. These are jobs, construction jobs, rehabilitation jobs that allow a family to live with a good living wage. That is part of this legislation.
The next thing I want to mention that benefits working families and middle-income families—oh, by the way, I should mention one thing in particular that’s very topical on the historic tax credit. The World Trade Center in New Orleans is currently being refurbished. Built in the 1960’s, being transformed into a world-class condominium complex.
What does it bring the city of New Orleans? $400 million dollars in infrastructure spending, 1,600 jobs in construction trades, as well as more than 450 permanent full-time jobs. Instead of a crumbling eyesore, you have a jewel. But more than a jewel, you have 1,600 jobs created and 450 permanent jobs.
Let me mention the last thing that benefits working and middle-income families. My friends on the other side of the aisle have talked about supposedly negative effects on Social Security and Medicare. I’m a doctor. I’ve been working in the public hospital system of Louisiana for 25 years. I understand the importance of safety net programs, if you will, like Medicare, that allow our senior citizens to have the health care that they need. Now the dirty little secret is that according to the people that run Medicare and Social Security, those trust funds are going bust. Yeah, bankrupt.
Now under the Obama Administration, they tried to address it by raising taxes. K, so you put an income tax, a higher income tax on people. And the trust funds are still going bankrupt. Under Obamacare, there was different things to try to save money within the system, delivery system reforms and some were frankly good ideas. Although I oppose Obamacare in general, on some of these it was good ideas and I continue to endorse them. And the trust funds are still going bankrupt. So we raise taxes, we’re trying to save money, and the trust funds are still going bankrupt.
What can we do, Mr. President, what can we do to try and rescue these programs that are so significant, so important to senior citizens, to all of us in this country, Social Security and Medicare in particular? Well, what about economic growth?
I did an analysis once with another man. It shows that if we just return to the economic growth that is common in our country, about 3.5 percent GDP growth per year, that we would fully fund our trust funds for Medicare and Social Security. Because, keep in mind, although we’re cutting rates for corporations, the rates for funding Medicare and Social Security are staying where they are.
So if our economy is doing better year over year, there will be more money going into these trust funds—not because the rates are higher; the rates remain the same—but because there’s more money to apply rates to.
And is it reasonable to have that kind of growth? Absolutely. From 1946 to the beginning of President Obama’s Administration, through ten and a half recessions, including one half of the great recession, we averaged over three percent growth as a country. Now under President Obama’s presidency, it was about 2 percent growth. Two percent versus 3.5 is all the difference in the world because it compounds. It goes like this if it’s two percent. It goes like this if its 3.5 percent, and at the end of 10, 15, and 20 years, those differences are remarkable.
Now I will say under President Obama—excuse me, under President Trump, for the last two quarters, we’ve had over 3 percent GDP growth. Republicans take over, the economy begins to do better. Next quarter it’s estimated it will be over three percent.
With this legislation, increasing the amount of money families have in their pockets, building out our energy resources as we are in Alaska, creating jobs for Americans across the way, using things like the Historic Tax Credit, returning money to the Treasury but also creating American jobs, will create that prosperity, that economic growth that instead of this two percent growth we’ve had for the last eight years, the 3.5 percent growth that we historically have had, that is a promise of this legislation. That will restore funding for Social Security and Medicare. That is the answer that has eluded the other side.