WASHINGTON, D.C.– U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Ranking Member of the Joint Economic Committee, delivered the following statement at today’s hearing on American living standards. In his remarks, Senator Heinrich highlighted that the Republican tax law is doing little to improve working Americans’ wages or living standards. Senator Heinrich also highlighted the Measuring Real Income Growth Act (S.3440) he introduced which would provide better insight into how broadly economic progress is shared and whether living standards are improving.
Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Thank you Mr. Chairman.
I have a sense of déjà vu – another hearing on the Republican tax law that passed nine months ago. Another attempt by Republicans to convince their constituents that they are better off because of that law.
But there’s a problem. Despite White House promises, working families aren’t better off, and another hearing won’t change that.
Wages are stuck. The typical worker’s hourly wages, after adjusting for inflation, were lower in August than a year ago.
What has increased is the cost of this tax giveaway. When Republicans passed the bill last December, the estimated cost was $1.5 trillion. Today, it stands at $1.9 trillion.
It was a massive waste of resources when workers could least afford it and when we should have been investing in our people and communities.
Most working Americans have been treading water, with middle-class earnings stalled for years. The typical man working full time year round earned less in 2017, after adjusting for inflation, than in 1973.
While earnings have been stagnant or shrinking, the costs of child care, housing and education have climbed higher, with student loan debt exploding in the past decade.
We’ll hear today that we just need to look at a different inflation measure or use a different survey, and then everything looks great.
But telling people across New Mexico, don’t worry, you are doing better than you realize won’t make it easier for them to pay for their kids’ college. It won’t help them get health insurance or treatment for addiction.
Even as those in the middle work harder and harder to make ends meet, those at the top continue to reap large income gains.
Between 1980 and 2014, the top 1 percent saw their pre-tax incomes grow by 204 percent while incomes for the bottom 50 percent remained virtually flat.
And, with passage of the Republican tax bill, the gap between those at the top and everyone else is likely to grow significantly wider.
Part of the challenge we face is that we need better, more timely economic data to help us craft smart, forward-looking policies.
Knowing in real time who is benefiting from economic growth – and who is not – is key to designing new policies that generate growth which benefits everyone.
Along with Leader Schumer and some of my JEC colleagues, I have introduced legislation that instructs the Bureau of Economic Analysis to start reporting on new Income Growth Indicators.
These measures would show how incomes are growing at different levels of income – painting a clear picture of who the economy is working for.
We also need a sustained effort to lift the living standards of working families and to help workers chart a brighter course for themselves and their families.
We should invest in programs that reward work and help Americans prepare for 21st century jobs.
Increasing the value of Pell Grants so that a college education is within reach for more students is a good place to start.
I have a proposal to expand Pell Grant for students across the country – in New Mexico, the increased Grant would cover the full cost of tuition at all of New Mexico’s in-state colleges and universities.
Let’s expand the Earned Income Tax Credit so that work pays better and more families are able to afford the basic necessities. We should have done that in the Republican tax bill.
Rather than turning the clock back and again allowing insurance companies to deny coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, as the Trump administration is trying to do, we need to build on recent gains to make health care more accessible and affordable.
We also need to be smarter about how we use our nation’s fiscal resources.
After squandering $1.9 trillion on the tax bill, the House is preparing to vote on the Republicans’ Tax Plan 2.0. This legislation would add $3.2 trillion to deficits from 2029 to 2038, bringing the total cost of their tax bills above $5 trillion.
And remember, the majority of these costly tax breaks go to the richest among us.
I don’t think we can have a hearing on living standards without asking ourselves – what will happen to the quality of life for tens of millions of Americans who count on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid if Republicans add literally trillions to deficits and then turn to these programs as their piggy bank.
The consequences would be disastrous.
I look forward to our witnesses’ testimony.”