Black Opening Statement: Hearing on CBO’s Budget and Economic Outlook

As prepared for delivery – House Budget Committee Interim Chairman Diane Black 

Good morning, and thank you, everyone for being here.

We’re holding this hearing today to discuss the Congressional Budget Office’s Budget and Economic Outlook – which gives us ten-year projections of our spending, national debt, and how the economy is going to perform over the next decade.  

The report forms the cornerstone of the work we do here at the House Budget Committee, and I want to thank everyone at CBO for all their hard work in producing this report. I’d also like to welcome CBO Director Keith Hall. Director Hall – I appreciate you taking the time to testify today and I look forward to your insight as we discuss this report.

The discussion we will have today is a serious one, because as CBO indicates, we face enormous fiscal and economic challenges. Deficits are beginning to rise again and economic growth continues to be subpar – legacies of the last administration’s policies that encouraged more spending, more debt, and more government. These challenges have a real impact on every person in this country. The numbers we’re reviewing today affect the ability of every American to buy groceries, obtain a loan to start a small business, or get a good return on their retirement plan.

We know this to be the case because CBO’s report is telling us what would happen if we kept President Obama’s policies in place. Without any changes to current law, the deficit would rise from $587 billion in fiscal year 2016 to $1.4 trillion in fiscal year 2027. During that same period, our national debt will jump to $30 trillion. To put that in human terms, that’s $93,000 for every American. For a lot of folks, that’s about what it costs to buy a home.  

CBO tells us that this ever-increasing debt spiral will hamper economic growth and consign the country to a lower standard of living. As a grandmother, I want my grandchildren to have every opportunity I did. But on our current path, the dream of a good job, owning a home, and sending their kids to college is becoming harder and harder.

Much of this unsustainable fiscal path is driven by projected spending for Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security over the next decade. But without reforms, these programs are going to fail our seniors who have worked hard and paid into them their entire lives.

To compound these problems, economic growth is set to average at a morbid 1.9 percent over the coming decade, well below the historic average of just over 3 percent. Slow economic growth hurts our country in multiple ways – it means fewer jobs and less opportunity for Americans, and it means smaller paychecks and less financial security for those Americans who do have a job. In fact, more than 5 million Americans are working part-time because they can’t find a full-time job. That means we’ve got welders, computer technicians, nurses, and people in all sorts of industries who want to contribute to our economy, but they’re being let down by the rules and regulations coming out of Washington.

The problem is particularly acute among men. One of the key symptoms of this subpar economic recovery has been the decline in the labor force participation rate of those in their prime working age. And here’s a story from a gentleman named Chris back in my district in Tennessee. He said he was laid off last year, and in his letter to me he said, “I worked at this job for 7 years and I’m a hard worker and have never tried for any government assistance. I’m positive I’ll have a job soon but I’ve been without a paycheck for months now. If I have to wait any more I will have no money for utilities or to support me, my wife, and 7 year old.”

Now it’s pretty clear that Chris is exactly the type of worker that makes our economy the best in the world, and he’s a good husband and father who just wants to take care of his family. Chris wants to make our country stronger, and it’s our job to help give him that opportunity.

A job is so much more than a way to pay for rent and put gas in the car. A job helps us define ourselves. It gives people a sense of purpose, helps build strong communities, and can break cycles of poverty. When Americans have a steady job, they know the dignity of work.

CBO’s report tells us what will happen if we do nothing, but that is certainly not the only choice we have. We can choose to get our fiscal house back under control. And we can choose to get our economy growing again so that it works for the men and women of this country. And here at the House Budget Committee, that is exactly what we intend to do.

Director Hall – again, thank you for being here. I look forward to your testimony and how it can help guide us in forming the best policies to hold the federal government accountable, grow the economy, and serve the American people.

With that, I yield to the ranking member, Mr. Yarmuth.