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A hearing before the Joint Economic Committee will be held on Wednesday, April 21, 2004, at 10:00 a.m., in room 216 Hart Senate Office Building.

WHAT: Hearing on “The Economic Outlook"

WHO: The Honorable Alan Greenspan Chairman, Board of Governors, Federal Reserve System

WHEN: 10:00 a.m., Wednesday, April 21, 2004

WHERE: 216 Hart Senate Office Building

Chairman Robert F. Bennett presiding.
Washington, DC—As last minute filers are preparing their taxes before tomorrow’s deadline, the Joint Economic Committee (JEC) today released a brief overview of how the nation’s income tax share is distributed. Complying with the overly complex tax code costs all the nation’s taxpayers a great deal of time, frustration, and, of course, money. Today’s report describes the progressivity inherent in America’s tax system and breaks down the income tax burden borne at each income level.

According to new data from the Congressional Budget Office, the more a household earns, the more it pays in income taxes as a percentage of income. Those whose earnings are in the top 20 percent of households actually earn 46 percent of the nation's income, but pay 83 percent of the total income tax burden. Those included in the 40 percent of lower-earning households pay little or no income tax, on average, and often receive money through the income tax system in the
form of refundable credits.
Employment growth surged in March as the economy continues its brisk expansion. Activity in manufacturing and service industries remains strong, profits and cash flows continue to improve, business confidence and spending have been on the rise, and job growth is accelerating. Households continue to benefit from tax relief and low interest rates. Short-term interest rates were kept at multi-decade lows by the Federal Reserve in light of very low inflation. Rapid increases this year in energy and industrial commodity prices have not inflated prices of most producer or consumer goods. Forecasters see rapid, sustained growth of GDP this year and continued job growth.
Washington, DC—Joint Economic Committee Chairman Robert F. Bennett released the following statement on the employment report issued this morning by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The statement was released in conjunction with a Joint Economic Committee hearing
on the employment situation, which featured Bureau of Labor Statistics Commissioner, Kathleen Utgoff.

“Today’s report of an increase in payroll employment of 308,000 jobs in March is good news for America. It is the seventh consecutive month of job gains, and brings us to a total of 759,000 jobs that have been added to U.S. payrolls in the past seven months.

“The unemployment rate edged up to 5.7% in March because of an increase in labor force participation, but remains well below its recent peak of 6.3% last June.

“Today’s report of increasing payrolls confirms a strengthening economy that we have seen in other economic indicators. Recent jobless claims reports show that both initial and continuing claims have fallen substantially from levels we saw last summer. The four-week moving average of initial claims, a sort of “tracking poll” that smoothes out week-to-week fluctuations, has fallen to a new post-recession low.

“The increase in employment in today’s report suggests that businesses have become increasingly assured that the economic expansion will endure, and they are becoming less reluctant to hire workers. In recent months, many have used the delayed resurgence of hiring for political gain, without acknowledging the dynamics of the labor market. But we have been expecting these job gains for some time, and today’s report of job gains in March begins to close the gap between expectations and actual hiring.

“While today’s focus is on employment numbers, it is important to point out that other indicators show the overall economy continues its strong growth, and this growth will translate into more jobs as the recovery moves forward. We are still seeing solid gains in households’ after-tax incomes, consumer spending remains resilient, activity in the housing market is still strong, and business activity in manufacturing and service industries remains robust.”
Washington, D.C. – Senator Bob Bennett (R-Utah), chairman of the Joint Economic Committee (JEC), announced today that Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan is scheduled to testify before the committee on April 21, 2004. Chairman Greenspan is expected to discuss the strength of the economy and economic policy issues facing Congress.

WHAT: JEC hearing on “The Economic Outlook”

WHO: Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan

WHEN: 10:00 a.m., Wednesday, April 21, 2004

WHERE: Room 216, Hart Senate Office Building
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Joint Economic Committee (JEC) will hold a hearing on the March employment data to be released on Friday, April 2, 2004, Vice Chairman Jim Saxton (R-N.J.) announced today. Dr. Kathleen P. Utgoff, Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) will
testify.

“The March employment data to be released this Friday will be eagerly awaited by ordinary citizens, economists, market analysts and the press,” Saxton said. “I would note that in recent months the payroll employment increases have usually fallen short of forecasters’ expectations,” Saxton
concluded.

Hearing Topic: The Employment Situation: March 2004
Time: 9:30 a.m.
Date: Friday, April 2, 2004
Room: 1334 Longworth House Office Building
Witness: Dr. Kathleen P. Utgoff, Commissioner, Bureau of Labor Statistics
Washington, DC—Senator Robert F. Bennett, Chairman of the Joint Economic Committee, held a hearing today to find ways that federal policy can encourage Americans to save. Bennett invited witness widely recognized as experts on saving; Richard Thaler, University of Chicago professor of economics; Robert Pozen, Non-Executive Chairman of MFS Investment Management, and professor at Harvard Law; Ric Edelman, founder of Edelman Financial Services in Fairfax, and host of financial programs on radio and television; and Peter R. Orszag,
Senior Fellow at The Brookings Institution.

“The U.S. tax system is excessively complex to the point where it discourages personal saving,” said Bennett. “The income tax system and the treatment of dividends, capital gains, and interest income lets the government tax the returns from saving two or even three times before it reaches
a worker’s pocket. The tax advantages we do provide, such as for IRAs, are complicated, and unreasonably restrictive.”

Two years ago, American households saved only 1.5% of their income, an all-time low. Just over a decade ago, households saved eight percent of their income, and in the 1970s and early 1980s the saving rate was regularly over ten percent. Personal saving is low not only by historical standards but by international standards; nearly every other westernized economy saves more than the U.S., as do many developing countries.

“As Americans live longer and entitlement programs balloon, it is not realistic to expect the federal government to pick up the entire tab,” said Bennett. “What’s more, saving finances the investment necessary to spur further economic growth. The American economy is driven by
ingenuity and entrepreneurship, but even the most ambitious genius with a business plan can do little without ready access to capital.”

The panel concluded that policymakers should adopt simple, common-sense changes to the current tax code making it easier and more attractive for individuals to save. It was also agreed that financial education should become a core component in schools and in the workplace in order to improve the financial well-being of all Americans.
Washington, D.C.—Senator Bob Bennett (R-Utah), chairman of the Joint Economic Committee, announced today that he will hold a hearing on “Helping Americans Save” at 10:00 a.m., March 10, 2004. The hearing will highlight the need to increase the amount that American households are saving and policies that can encourage people to save.

Senator Bennett has invited witnesses with a variety of expertise in the area of personal finance. Richard Thaler, a University of Chicago professor of economics, has been at the forefront of developing innovative ways to increase saving through employer-sponsored retirement plans. Robert Pozen, Massachusetts Secretary of Economic Affairs, professor at the Harvard Law School, and former vice-chairman of Fidelity Investments, has a unique perspective on how institutions can affect saving, and what types of reforms would complement the work of financial institutions. Ric Edelman, founder of Edelman Financial Services in Fairfax, VA, is the author of three New York Times #1 bestsellers, is an award-winning host of radio and television shows, and taught personal finance at Georgetown University for nine years.

WHAT: JEC hearing on “Helping Americans Save”

WHEN: 10:00 a.m., Wednesday, March 10, 2004

WHERE: Room 628, Dirksen Senate Office Building

Richard Thaler
Robert P. Gwinn Professor of Behavioral Economics and Finance
Graduate School of Business
University of Chicago
Research Associate, National Bureau of Economic Research

Robert Pozen
Secretary of Economic Affairs, State of Massachusetts
John M. Olin Visiting Professor of Law from Practice
Harvard Law School

Ric Edelman
Financial Management Advisor
Television and Radio Host
Washington, D.C.

Additional witness TBA
Washington, D.C.—Senator Robert F. Bennett, chairman of the Joint Economic Committee (JEC), announced today that he will hold a hearing on “The Employment Situation” at 9:30 a.m., March 5, 2004. The Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics will be on hand to discuss the February employment data which will be released that morning.

WHAT: JEC hearing on “The Employment Situation”

WHEN: 9:30 a.m., Friday, March 5, 2004

WHERE: Room 562, Dirksen Senate Office Building

WITNESS: Kathleen P. Utgoff, Ph.D., Commissioner
Bureau of Labor Statistics
U.S. Department of Labor
Washington, DC—Senator Robert F. Bennett, Chairman of the Joint Economic Committee (JEC), held a hearing today on the recent performance and continued potential of a consumer driven approach to health care. During the hearing, Bennett urged the Department of Health and Human Services to expand access to its Medicare claims database so that health plan sponsors could develop cost and quality comparisons and help their consumers make better informed
decisions. Data would be held back only to the extent necessary to protect the privacy of individual Medicare beneficiaries.

“One of our problems with the current health care system is that the people who are making the health care decisions are not the ones consuming the services” said Bennett. “A consumer driven approach to health care restores to consumers direct control over their health care dollars. It
provides them with better value, greater choice, improved health, and recognition of the true cost of the services they demand.”

“The United States faces a significant challenge to keep health care affordable,” Bennett added. “For many years, our health care spending has grown at a significantly faster rate than the economy, and many projections indicate that this will continue. By restoring control of health
care decisions to individuals, we can reverse a long-term trend that has combined more third-party payment of health care bills with substantial hikes in health care spending. Consumer driven health care plans offer a broad range of options that encourage individuals to take a
greater role as informed health care consumers.”

In conjunction with the hearing, the JEC released a report, Medical Spending Growth & the Level of Insurance Coverage, that highlights the relationship between third party payment and rising health spending. Over the last 40 years, the out-of-pocket share an individual pays has
gone down while the total real cost of health care per person has increased almost seven-fold.

The report explains that for decades many Americans have had the perception that their health care is paid for with someone else’s money. This third-party could be an employer, a private insurer, or the government. In fact, most working Americans and their families receive health care through an employer because of the tax advantages of employer-provided health insurance.

One option cited in the study to restore consumers’ control over their spending decisions is the Health Savings Account (HSA), a provision included in last December’s Medicare Act. HSAs include a high-deductible insurance plan to cover large, unplanned expenses and a tax-preferred
personal savings account for routine care.

“Giving individuals and families greater control over their health care decisions should strengthen the patient/physician relationship, improve accountability, and ensure consumers receive the greatest value for their health care dollar.”

Testimony from the hearing and the full report on medical expenditures can be found online at https://www.jec.senate.gov.