Ranking Member Steve Womack (R-AR) Opening Remarks at Hearing Entitled: The Economic Outlook: The View from the Federal Reserve

As Prepared for the Record:

Thank you, Chairman Yarmuth, for holding this hearing.

And thank you, Chairman Powell, for being here with us today. The request for this hearing originated when I chaired this committee, and I am glad to participate in this important conversation. The work of the Federal Reserve is central to our understanding in Congress as we seek to foster economic growth. This hearing is good for our committee, and helpful as we carry out our responsibilities for the American taxpayer.

Our economy is strong, and the forward momentum continues thanks to the pro-growth policies enacted last Congress and under this Administration. In fact, last month marked the 124th consecutive month of economic growth. This is the longest period of uninterrupted growth in American history.

Chairman Powell, you recently stated that “many people who have struggled to find work are now getting opportunities to add new and better chapters to their lives.” We know this to be true because we travel through our respective districts and see the results firsthand. The strength of the current job market is such that the number of job openings exceeds the number of unemployed Americans by more than one million.

The unemployment rate is 3.6 percent – near the lowest our nation has seen in half a century.

While our country is experiencing economic prosperity that should certainly be celebrated, we continue to face very real long-term fiscal challenges. Of course, the most pressing concern for myself and many of my colleagues on this committee is the ever-increasing federal debt.

To put it plainly: the debt is on a completely unsustainable trajectory. The publicly-held debt has averaged 42 percent of GDP over the last fifty years. Today, it is $17 trillion and accounts for 79 percent of GDP, and the outlook is not good. The debt is projected to increase to an astronomical 144 percent of GDP by 2049 – by far the highest level in American history.

The key driver of our nation’s growing debt is out-of-control mandatory spending, which has grown from 34 percent of the federal budget in 1965 to 70 percent today. Interest on the debt alone threatens to devour major categories of discretionary spending.

It goes without saying that these levels of debt are detrimental to our economy, and failure to address the problem would be unacceptable and fiscally irresponsible. A growing federal debt has proven to have a negative impact on business investment, productivity, and economic growth.

In order to preserve our country’s economic advancements, it is imperative that Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate come together to reduce the debt.

Thank you, again, for being here today, Chairman Powell. I look forward to hearing your perspective and insight.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back the balance of my time.