House Speaker John Boehner says that the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction “has a huge opportunity” to lay the foundation for economic growth and urged the panel to agree to a path for tax and entitlement reform without raising taxes.
“When it comes to producing savings to reach the $1.5 trillion deficit reduction target, the Joint Select Committee has only one option: spending cuts and entitlement reform,” Boehner, R-Ohio, told the Economic Club of Washington today. “The Joint Committee can achieve real deficit reduction by reforming entitlements and taking real action to preserve and strengthen Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.”
Boehner called on the 12-member panel to “develop principles for broad-based tax reform that will lower rates for individuals and corporations while closing deductions, credits and special carve-outs in our tax code,” adding, “Tax reform should include closing loopholes.
“If we’re going to tackle tax reform, we should do it all,” Boehner said, “not for purposes of bringing more money to the government, but because it’s the right thing to do.
“Tax reform should deal with the whole tax code, both the personal side and the corporate side, and it should result in a code that is simpler and fairer to everyone,” he added. “Tax increases, however, are not a viable option for the Joint Committee. It’s a very simple equation. Tax increases destroy jobs, and the Joint Committee is a jobs committee. Its mission is to reduce the deficit that is threatening job creation in our country.”
Boehner said that American job creation is facing “a triple threat” from government: excessive regulation, a spending binge in Washington and the current tax code, which he said “discourages investment and rewards special interests.”
He put the responsibility for fixing the “toxic environment for job creation” on both parties and said that everything Congress does should start by asking, “Are we addressing these problems, or are we making them worse?”
“It’s reasonable to ask: Is it wise to be doing all of this right now?” Boehner said. “The current regulatory burden coming out of Washington far exceeds the federal government’s constitutional mandate, and it’s hurting job creation in our country at a time when we can’t afford it.
“It strikes me as odd that at a time when it’s clear that the tax code needs to be fundamentally reformed, the first instinct out of Washington is to come up with a host of new tax credits that make the tax code more complex,” he added. “[Spending] has created a massive debt crisis that poses a direct threat to our country’s ability to create jobs and prosper.”
Boehner said that “the American people are worried,” and, “job creators in America are essentially on strike.”
“I can tell you the American people — private-sector job creators in particular — are rattled by what they’ve seen out of this town over the last few years. My worry is that for American job creators, all the uncertainty is turning to fear that this toxic environment for job creation is a permanent state,” Boehner said. “The problem is not confusion about the policies. The problem is the policies.”
Boehner, however, said some of the president’s proposals in the American Jobs Act “offer opportunities for common ground” and will be selected for consideration on the House floor.
Boehner said that over the past few years, a growing government has made people less confident that they can prosper, and that in order to realize job growth, “we need to recognize who really creates jobs in America. It’s the private sector.”
“We all know the economy is stalled, and it’s been stalled, and it’s not because the American people have lost their way. It’s because their government has let them down,” Boehner said. “The president’s proposals are a poor substitute for the pro-growth policies that are needed to remove barriers to job creation in America, the policies that are needed to put America back to work.”
Boehner urged the Senate to act on a dozen House-passed measures Republicans believe would eventually lead to job creation.
“The Senate cannot continue to sit idle on jobs and the budget. The House has passed an array of bills already this year to remove barriers to job creation, and those bills are piling up in the Senate,” Boehner said. “The Senate hasn’t produced a budget, either. It must.”
On transportation and infrastructure, Boehner said he is “not opposed to responsible spending to repair and improve infrastructure.” But to support long-term economic growth and job creation, he said, he called on Congress to link the next highway bill to an expansion of American-made energy production.
“Removing some of the unnecessary government barriers that prevent our country from utilizing its vast energy resources could create millions of new jobs,” Boehner said. “There’s a natural link between the two: As we develop new sources of American energy, we’re going to need modern infrastructure to bring that energy to the market.”
If the president truly wants to change the dynamic in Washington, Boehner said, “he should announce his support for a balanced budget amendment and call on the Congress to send one to the states without delay.”
“We have an opportunity in front of us. The trick is to recognize it and believe in it and act on it. We know the challenges we face as a nation and we have a chance to confront them,” Boehner said. “Instead of ducking from the challenge, we should rise to the occasion and liberate our economy from the shackles government has placed on it. I’m ready. And for the sake of our country and our economy, I hope all of us are ready.”
After his address, Boehner took a series of questions from David Rubenstein, co-founder and managing director of The Carlyle Group and the president of the Economic Club of Washington.
Asked whether he expected the deficit reduction super committee to work right up to its Nov. 23 deadline, the speaker said, “Who knows? … This is Washington.” He added that he expected the committee to complete its recommendations “closer to Nov. 23 than Nov. 22.”
Rubenstein asked Boehner whether he’d be interested in signing onto the GOP as a vice presidential candidate for the eventual presidential nominee, to which the speaker joked that it’s “hard enough to go to funerals of people I know.”
Boehner, who said he still mows his own lawn when he’s home in West Chester, Ohio (his wife takes over when he’s in Washington), also compared the “chaos” of growing up with 11 brothers and sisters to handling his current job as speaker, while the lessons he picked up from bartending in his father’s bar and playing team sports showed him “you have to learn to deal with every jackass who walks through the door.”