Sticking with a Winning Game PlanBy U.S. Rep. John Hostettler
Note: Congressman Hostettler announced his bid for re-election on Tuesday, February 17th at the Monroe County Courthouse.
While the national media is focused on events at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, members of Congress have quietly returned to the Capitol to resume the people's work. The second session of the 105th Congress holds a great deal of promise. We approach the coming legislative year buoyed by a strong economy, low unemployment and falling interest rates. As work begins on the fiscal year 1999 budget, it's instructive to look at how we've gotten here.
Since Republicans took control of Congress in January 1995, the stock market has doubled in value and eight million new jobs have been created. We now have the lowest unemployment in 27 years and the lowest crime rate in 24 years. Congress passed legislation cutting taxes for the first time in 16 years. Interest rates fell by 2 percentage points and continue to fall. One in four welfare recipients has now left the rolls. We have the highest family income and the highest farm income in American history. And that's not all. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the federal budget could be in the black this year for the first time since 1969!
Many, including President Clinton, like to take credit for these numbers, but the facts dispute such claims. If Republicans in Congress had accepted the budget the president submitted in 1994, for example, the projected deficit for this year would have been $225 billion! Deficits continued beyond that as far as the eye could see. In fact, President Clinton submitted nine budgets that didn't balance before buckling to public pressure.
Now that we're on the brink of balancing the budget we must avoid the temptation to spend the money and return to big government. In order to maintain and build on our successes over the last three years we must stay the course, not abandon it as we near the goal.
That goal is the return of decision-making and money to the American people. We moved one step closer last year when Republicans made good on their promise to provide the American people with tax relief. Sixteen years of continued tax hikes were stopped cold -- and reversed -- as Congress passed a child tax credit -- $400 in 1998 and $500 thereafter -- a reduction in capital gains and death taxes, and tax credits to defray the cost of higher education.
Still, American workers and families remain overtaxed. Taxes now consume 38 percent of the average family's income and 19.6 percent of gross domestic product -- the most since World War II; since Bill Clinton went to Washington, federal taxes per capita are up 32 percent.
I've heard some argue that allowing Americans to keep more of their money is like giving a child extra dessert -- an arrogant attitude when discussing someone else's money. Tax relief is not a treat -- it's a moral imperative. When you realize you're standing on someone's foot you step off because it's causing him pain. When you realize the tax code is making it difficult for Americans to make ends meet, you do the same. Therefore, if there's a budget surplus this year fewer dollars should be taken from taxpayers. That's why our first priority for 1998 should be additional tax relief.
But that's just the tip of the iceberg. Our ambitious agenda also contains efforts to: