U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) on Wednesday spoke on the Senate floor about the disconnect between Democrats’ big-government, big-spending agenda and the reality faced by working families and small business owners who have struggled to keep up due to historic inflation and record-high costs. Thune also discussed the need for President Biden to join Speaker Kevin McCarthy at the negotiating table, and he noted that responsible spending reforms could put the country on a more sustainable and less damaging path for the future.
Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, one of President Biden’s favorite things to talk about is giving families ‘a little bit of breathing room.’
“It’s a phrase he uses frequently, just as he also frequently talks about growing the economy ‘from the middle out and the bottom up, not from the top down.’
“He used both phrases in a speech just last week.
“And frankly, Mr. President, it is somewhat staggering to me that he continues to talk like this.
“Because the Biden economy is a story of taking away Americans’ breathing room.
“It’s a story of declining purchasing power for lower- and middle-income families.
“Of wages that don’t keep pace with increased costs.
“Of stretched budgets and difficult spending decisions.
“President Biden has presided over a historic inflation crisis that has left American families struggling to keep up.
“According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in February 2023 a cost-effective, nutritious meal plan for a family of four cost $979.40 per month.
“Two years earlier, that same family would have had to spend $674.80.
“That is a 45 percent increase, Mr. President.
“A 45 percent increase.
“The Biden economy is costing that family of four an additional $304 a month for groceries – or $3,655 per year.
“And again, that’s just on groceries.
“I don’t need to tell anyone that prices have risen across the board – 15.4 percent on average since President Biden took office.
“And American families are feeling the pinch.
“A recent CNBC survey found that 70 percent of Americans are feeling financially stressed – 70 percent – and that the majority of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.
“And it’s no surprise given that inflation has outpaced wage growth for 24 straight months – meaning that under the Biden administration, Americans have received a de facto pay cut.
“Americans are cutting back on spending, dipping into savings, or charging expenses to their credit cards to help make ends meet.
“Bloomberg reports on a growing trend of relying on ‘buy now, pay later’ apps for everyday purchases, noting that, and I quote, ‘U.S. consumers are increasingly using such installment loans to pay for everyday items like groceries, highlighting the financial pain wrought by the worst inflation outbreak in four decades.’
“Credit card debt hit a record high in the final quarter of 2022, and nearly half of Americans are carrying balances from month to month.
“More than two-thirds of Americans are saving less than they did a year ago.
“And the list goes on.
“Put simply, Mr. President, if President Biden wanted to create more breathing room for Americans, he’s failed.
“In fact, President Biden has taken away Americans’ breathing room.
“And there’s little relief in sight.
“Now, I don’t need to tell anyone that one of the main reasons we’re in the midst of this inflation crisis is because of Democrats’ and the president’s decision to pass the so-called American Rescue Plan Act – a massive, partisan, $1.9 trillion spending spree that flooded our economy with unnecessary government money.
“Democrats were warned that their bill could cause inflation.
“But they proceeded anyway.
“And the economy overheated as a result.
“Even worse, despite steadily climbing inflation in the wake of their bill, Democrats seemed determined not to recognize their mistake.
“Instead of acknowledging that their oversized spending bill had helped set off inflation, Democrats kept pursuing more spending and more damaging economic policies.
“There’s the $5 trillion big-government vision they called Build Back Better, but should probably have been named Build Back Broke – or Bankrupt.
“The so-called Inflation Reduction Act – which has done nothing to address inflation but has imposed a series of new taxes that are driving up Americans’ energy costs.
“The president’s reckless student loan giveaway, which could end up costing American taxpayers close to a trillion dollars.
“And the bad ideas just keep coming.
“The president recently released his budget proposal, which would increase spending every year until the federal budget reaches an eye-watering $10 trillion in 2033.
“For comparison, let me just point out that the entire federal budget for 2019 – the last budget before the pandemic – was $4.4 trillion.
“President Biden wants to more than double that.
“Then there’s the latest idea from the White House – punishing Americans with good credit scores if they purchase a house.
“That’s right, Mr. President.
“The Biden administration has announced a new policy, which is set to go into effect on May 1, that would impose higher mortgage fees on Americans with higher credit scores – and the highest fees on Americans who make a substantial down payment.
“These higher fees would then go to subsidize mortgages for Americans with lower credit scores.
“In other words, the Biden administration is targeting hardworking Americans who save, diligently pay their bills, and build good credit in order to subsidize mortgages for higher-risk borrowers.
“It’s a microcosm of Biden’s big-government policies: Punish hard work. Punish financial discipline. Punish success. Redistribute wealth. Squeeze middle-class Americans. Force hardworking taxpayers to fund Democrats’ socialist visions.
“Because let’s be very clear.
“President Biden likes to talk about forcing better-off Americans to pay for his policies.
“And he likes to claim that he isn’t going to raise taxes on Americans making less than $400,000 a year.
“But this new mortgage policy is going to hit thousands of middle-class Americans making ordinary salaries whose only crime is that they have worked hard, saved money, and been responsible with their debt.
“The president can talk all he likes about making wealthy Americans pay their fair share.
“The truth is that it’s lower- and middle-income Americans who are suffering as a result of the president’s economic policies.
“Mr. President, this summer another big economic issue will come into play: the debt limit.
“Sometime in the next few months, the United States will reach the limit of its borrowing capacity, and Congress will have to pass – and the president will have to sign – legislation to raise the debt ceiling to enable the United States to pay our debts.
“Needless to say, that will require negotiations between the president and Congress – something the president has so far refused to engage in.
“Because the president doesn’t want an increase in the debt limit to be paired with any measures to cut spending.
“I suppose that’s not a surprising position from someone who wants to grow government and increase the size of the federal budget to a staggering $10 trillion.
“But it’s a deeply problematic position – both because it ignores the increasing danger represented by our ever-increasing national debt, and because it is an unrealistic position.
“In divided government, a refusal to negotiate cannot be an option.
“And if the president doesn’t want to go down in history as the president who forced the United States to default on its debt, he needs to start engaging in negotiations.
“House Republicans are putting forward a serious bill to restrain excess spending while protecting the full faith and credit of the United States.
“The president needs to join the speaker at the negotiating table.
“Responsible spending reforms might not undo the economic damage the president has done, but they could put us on a more sustainable and less damaging path for the future.
“And they could spare Americans some of the economic pain that would result from more of President Biden’s reckless government spending.
“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”