U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., today said the massive spending plan proposed by congressional Democrats spends too much taxpayer money without providing needed economic recovery assistance. Speaking from the floor of the Senate, Wicker noted as little as one-tenth of one percent of the proposed $1.2 trillion stimulus plan could make its way to projects in Mississippi ($1.2 trillion includes the cost of interest over 10 years).

Wicker said he believes something needs to be passed to help stimulate our economy, but that it should be more targeted to job creation and less expensive to taxpayers. He outlined a Republican alternative he supports, sponsored by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. that spends half as much as the Democrats’ proposal and focuses on working class and small business tax relief, along with incentives to help fix the housing problem.

The following excerpts are from Sen. Wicker’s speech:

“Back in my home state of Mississippi, it has been reported that this package could mean $1 to $2 billion for our state. That means as little as one-tenth of one percent of this package would make its way to projects for Mississippi. A one-tenth of one percent return is not a good investment for Mississippi’s taxpayers, especially when this money will be borrowed from China and other foreign governments – and it will need to be paid back.”
“The Congressional Budget Office reported this week that the per-job cost of this plan is between $100,000 and $300,000. The average Mississippian earns $31,000 per year. It is hard for me to stand here today and tell that hard-working Mississippian that the most efficient use of their tax dollars is to spend up to $300,000 to create just one job under this plan.”

“It is hard to get a firm grasp of the magnitude of this amount of spending. In order to try to understand, let’s focus for a moment on the $1 trillion figure. If you began spending $1 million per day on the day Jesus was born, you still would not have spent $1 trillion today.”

“In order to get it right, this package needs to be laser-focused on getting workers back to work, getting our housing market out of the gutter, and doing so in a way that doesn’t waste taxpayer dollars.”

The full text of Sen. Wicker’s speech follows (as prepared for delivery):

Mr. President, we all understand the reason for having this debate. I do not know of a person in this chamber who doesn’t believe we need to act to jumpstart our economy.

People across the country are facing hardship:

· More than 860,000 properties were repossessed by lenders in 2008, more than double the 2007 level

· Manufacturing is at a 28-year low

· 1.9 million jobs were lost in the last four months of 2008

· The economy shrank at a 3.8 percent pace at the end of 2008 – the worst showing in a quarter century

· The unemployment rates stands at 7.2 percent

· In my home state of Mississippi, the unemployment level has hit 7.6 percent

These figures are a sobering reminder of how much we have at stake. But what’s at stake is also exactly why we need to ensure we do this right.

Part of the reason I voted against the bailout in September was that I thought it was rushed. We were told that if we didn’t act in a matter of days that the world as we knew it might stop. I think there are many members of this chamber that now wish we’d have taken more time to ensure that the TARP legislation was done right. Let us learn from that experience.

Mr. President, the bill we are debating this week is unprecedented in its size: a staggering $1.2 trillion over ten years.

I want to take a moment to put that into perspective. I know many of us here in the chamber have heard these examples over the last few days and weeks, but they are worth repeating for the American people.

In comparison to this $1.2 trillion plan, the entire Vietnam War had an inflation adjusted cost of $698 billion. Our involvement in Iraq has cost $597 billion. FDR’s New Deal – which many have tried to compare to this plan – pales in comparison with an estimated inflation adjusted cost of $500 billion.

On top of this massive spending request, let us also remember that we’ve been told that should this package pass, the president will send up to the Hill another $500 billion package to prop up the financial sector. For those of us keeping score, that would be close to $2 trillion when you factor in the cost of interest. And all of that is in addition to the $700 billion bailout passed last fall.

It is hard to get a firm grasp of the magnitude of this amount of spending. In order to try to understand, let’s focus for a moment on the $1 trillion figure. If you began spending $1 million per day on the day Jesus was born, you still would not have spent $1 trillion today.

Or put another way – if you had one trillion dollars worth of one hundred dollar bills – and you connected those one hundred dollar bills end to end – you could circle the earth nearly 40 times.

Back in my home state of Mississippi, it has been reported that this package could mean $1 to $2 billion for our state. That means as little as one-tenth of one percent of this package would make its way to projects for Mississippi. A one-tenth of one percent return is not a good investment for Mississippi’s taxpayers, especially when this money will be borrowed from China and other foreign governments – and it will need to be paid back.

Also, the Congressional Budget Office reported this week that the per-job cost of this plan is between $100,000 and $300,000. The average Mississippian earns $31,000 per year. It is hard for me to stand here today and tell that hard-working Mississippian that the most efficient use of their tax dollars is to spend up to $300,000 to create just one job under this plan.

That is not the best use of the American taxpayers’ money. We need to get this right. The American people deserve a maturely considered plan. As Thomas Jefferson reminded us: “Delay is preferable to error.” Let’s not rush into doing this the wrong way, because generations of Americans – Republicans, Democrats, and Independents – will pay for our mistakes.

Bill Clinton’s former budget director, Alice Rivlin, agrees. She recently testified that we should not rush to spend the amount of money this package will spend on projects with slow spend-out rates. She said:

“Such a long-term investment program should not be put together hastily and lumped in with the anti-recession package.” She said the risk is that “money will be wasted because the investment elements were not carefully crafted.”

Mr. President, a trillion dollars is a terrible thing to waste.

Members of the media understand this, too. The Washington Post’s David Broder – someone who has covered Congress for more than forty years – wrote on Sunday regarding this plan “so much is uncertain, and so much is riding on it, that it’s worth taking time to get it right.”

In order to get it right, this package needs to be laser-focused on getting workers back to work, getting our housing market out of the gutter, and doing so in a way that doesn’t waste taxpayer dollars.

The Democratic leadership once said that this package should be targeted, temporary, and timely. I couldn’t agree more.

Unfortunately, as this package stands today, it could more accurately be described as “slow, unfocused, and unending.”

Americans have real concerns over some of the spending contained in this package, and I know many American do, too.

· $20 million for the removal of fish barriers

· $70 million to “support supercomputing activities” for climate research

· Tens of millions to spruce up government buildings in Washington, D.C.

· $25 million to rehabilitate off-road ATV trails

· $600 million for new government vehicles

· And the list continues…

These projects may have merit, but what do they have to do with creating jobs immediately? There is a process for considering these types of projects, and this emergency stimulus package is NOT it.

I was pleased to hear the president speak recently, acknowledging the good ideas Republicans have and saying he wants to make sure those ideas are incorporated in this package.

So what are those ideas? First, we need to trim the unnecessary spending that doesn’t immediately put people back to work.

Secondly, this package needs to go right at the housing problem, because the housing problem is what has caused the situation we are currently in.

Then let’s focus more on targeted tax breaks for the working class and for small businesses. The president initially said this package would be made up of 40 percent tax cuts. Regrettably, we are not close to that goal.

Senator McCain has proposed an alternative plan that does all of these things. His substitute plan costs half as much and offers focused spending and effective tax cuts:

Eliminating the 3.1% payroll tax for all American employees (for one year)
Lowering the two lowest marginal tax rates (for one year)
Accelerated depreciation for capital investments for small businesses (for one year)
Tax incentives for home purchases
Early investment in national defense and military infrastructure priorities
Mandatory deficit reduction after two consecutive quarters of economic growth greater than 2%
Establishment of entitlement commissions to review Social Security and Medicare
I was delighted yesterday when the Isakson amendment was adopted, doubling the current first-time homebuyer tax credit to $15,000 and expanding it to cover all properties and homebuyers.

As I stated earlier, Mr. President, I’m glad we’re having this debate. The president was right when he said that Republicans have good ideas. And I hope that, as the president said, we can incorporate those ideas. And I hope we can make this package much smaller and much more targeted to jobs and housing.

That is what the American people are saying now that they are becoming more familiar with the details of this plan. If we pass anything close to the current proposal – and go to conference with the House – does anyone really believe the final product will be less expensive?

The time to redirect this package – to make it indeed targeted, timely, and temporary – is today.

We have an opportunity to strengthen this package so that it doesn’t waste taxpayer money and actually puts people back to work quickly and puts families back into homes. The American people deserve to have us do this right.

Senator Roger Wicker Press Release
2/5/9