(Senate - July 16, 1999)

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[Pages S8709-S8714]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []

                                TAX CUTS

  Mr. COVERDELL. Mr. President, I recognize the distinguished Senator 
from Missouri for up to 10 minutes.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Missouri is recognized.
  Mr. ASHCROFT. I thank the Chair, and I thank the Senator from 
Georgia. I thank the Senator from New York for his allowing me to 
accommodate a previously developed schedule. When I had asked for time 
during this special order, I had anticipated being able to begin at 
about 11, so I appreciate the indulgence of my colleagues.
  This morning the Senate voted on a Social Security lockbox to protect 
every dollar of Social Security, protect the surplus and the integrity 
of Social Security. We were not able to do that. We had a majority of 
the Senate vote in favor of it, but there is still the filibuster on 
the part of others who are unwilling to guarantee a vote on this issue.
  The supporters of the lockbox believe the money Americans pay for 
Social Security ought to go for Social Security, period. That happens 
to be the language of the President of the United States who has 
endorsed that position. But Social Security taxes are only one of the 
many taxes, as we all know, that are placed upon the American people. 
Too many taxes, forms of taxation, proliferate in this place. These 
taxes place an enormous $1.8 trillion burden on the American people 
annually. That is 1.8 trillion, trillion being a thousand billions and 
a billion being a thousand millions. It is more money than one can 
virtually imagine.
  These taxes also bring in more money than the Government needs. It is 
amazing. What we have is a Government which is charging more in taxes 
than it needs in order to provide services. I find it interesting that 
over the next 10 years there will be a trillion dollars more than are 
needed to provide the services we now provide.
  Normally, if you go into a store and you give them $20 and you are 
buying something worth $8, they give you change. When you pay in excess 
of what you need to buy the product you are getting, they give you 
change. I think the U.S. Government ought to do that. We ought to say: 
There is a surplus coming in. The people have paid more than is needed 
for these services. We ought to give the money back.
  If a store owner came to me and said: You have bought two bottles of 
milk and you get some change from your $10 bill, but instead of the 
change, I want to give you six more bottles of milk, I would say: Wait 
a second.
  I think the American people want some change. They want change in the 
way Government is consuming their resources. I believe it is time for 
us to begin to address the idea that we have tax relief for the 
American people.
  Never before in history have we paid as high a tax as we pay today--
State, local, Federal taxes--and a lot of the State taxes are really 
disguised Federal taxes. I say that because the Federal Government 
forces the State governments to do things. Then the State government 
has to charge the people for that. The truth of the matter is, it is a 
mandate from the Federal Government. It is an expense occasioned by the 
demand of the Federal Government through the system. And when you put 
all of our taxes together, they are higher than any time in the history 
of the country--higher than in wartime, the First World War, Second 
World War, Korean war, Vietnamese war, Gulf war; you name it, we are 
higher than ever before. Now, it seems to me we ought to be asking 
ourselves with whom we are at war. I had one taxpayer say to me: I 
think you are at war with the American people, because we are taxing 
them the way we are.

  I think the American people deserve a break. The Republicans in 
Congress agree with that. We believe we should return the tax 
overpayment. Senator Roth has offered an $800 billion tax cut over the 
next 10 years. This tax cut is deserved; it has been earned. The 
American people are the ones who are responsible. This Congress didn't 
create the surplus. The American people earned the surplus. It is just 
as if you hand $20 to the grocer and you are entitled to change; it is 
money you earned.
  It is the same with the American people who are overpaying for 
Government services now, creating a surplus. It is money they earned. 
They earned it, and we should return it. So we should change the slogan 
of Washington from, ``You send it, we spend it,'' to, ``You earned it, 
we returned it.''
  I think one of the things we ought to do as we begin to provide 
relief to the American people is to scrub out of our system those 
things that are discriminatory and those things that are harmful, 
pernicious punishments in the Tax Code, especially punishments for 
things that are very important to our culture. One of those things is 
  I don't believe there is an institution in this country more 
important to the future of America than marriage. We want people to be 
married. We want the durable, lasting commitments of families to 
undergird this culture with the kind of principles and responsibilities 
and values that will keep us from having really serious social 
problems. I believe we will minimize the difficulties and trauma we 
have in this culture if we have strong marriages, things we need to 
minimize such as the tragedies we experience.
  What we find out when we look at our Tax Code is, for the last 
several years Americans have been paying a tremendous penalty in taxes 
merely because they are married; $29 billion is paid by people as a 
penalty to the Tax Code simply because they are married, and 21 million 
couples pay that penalty. It is an average of $1,400 per couple, per 
year. That is over $100 a month. Think of the food, the shoes, the 
schoolbooks, the entertainment that could pay for. That is at least a 
very nice vacation for that family. Think of the relief to families if 
we simply say, we are not going to punish you for being married.
  It is time for us in Congress to say that among those items of tax 

[[Page S8710]]

we sure ought to be doing something about the marriage penalty. This 
CRS study projected that over the next 10 years the average household 
will be paying $5,000 extra in taxes than it needs to pay. We ought to 
address that.
  I think the Roth plan will return that hard-earned money to those who 
earned it, the American people. I urge the American people to call the 
Congress and urge us to give them the change they deserve, give them 
their money back. They earned it, and we should return it. It is time 
for us to get together with Senator Roth and support an idea that he 
has, and get our ideas in that measure, of refunding the $800 billion 
in tax overpayments that the American people are scheduled to make 
in just a very few years.

  I thank the Senator from Georgia.
  Mr. COVERDELL. Mr. President, I yield now to the distinguished 
Senator from Idaho up to 10 minutes.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Idaho is recognized.
  Mr. CRAIG. Mr. President, I thank Senator Coverdell of Georgia for 
asking for a special order this morning to talk about taxes, where we 
are with taxes in our country, and where the Senate Finance Committee 
and the House Ways and Means Committee are at this moment as we begin, 
within a few weeks, a very important national debate on reducing the 
overall tax burden for the American people.
  For a few moments this morning, let me talk about that tax burden and 
try to put it in context with other times in our history when the 
American people cried out for tax relief and the Congress heard them 
and the Congress respectfully responded.
  Today's total tax burden is the highest since World War II, according 
to the Office of Management and Budget. I know when I came here in the 
1980s, the World War II tax level was always used as the index. It was 
less than we had to pay during the wartime tax of World War II. At that 
time, that was the highest ever registered in our Nation. But now we 
have broken that mark. I will repeat that. The OMB now says that the 
peacetime tax burden of the average American taxpayer is higher than it 
has been at any time since World War II.
  Tax receipts as a percentage of the gross domestic product amounted 
to 20.5 percent last year, will grow to 20.6 percent this year, and 
will reach 20.7 percent next year.
  Recently a new administration estimate predicted the largest budget 
surplus in the history of our country, with the highest taxes ever, and 
the highest budget surplus ever.
  The Congressional Budget Office has confirmed this optimistic 
  According to the President's estimates, last year's was the largest 
surplus in history. It will be larger this year, and will extend for 
the next 15 years.
  That is a lot of optimism. But even conservative economists suggest 
that the budget surplus, as we now know it, is going to extend well 
into the future.
  Over the next 10 years, a non-Social Security surplus will be at 
approximately $1.1 trillion. Over the next 15 years, the non-Social 
Security surplus could get as high as $2.9 trillion. Once again, these 
are reasonably conservative estimates on reasonably conservative growth 
in the Federal budget. Growing surpluses, but still no net tax cut? 
That is what our President is saying. Look at all of this money we are 
going to have to spend beyond what would be considered a reasonable 
level of spending at the Federal level. President Clinton won't 
recognize the income taxpayers' burdens, despite a $2.9 trillion 
overpayment over the next 15 years.
  I am not going to talk about surpluses anymore. I am going to talk 
about overpayment. The American taxpayer is overpaying what they should 
have to pay for the Government they are getting at this moment. Yet 
from the White House there is not one word about reasonable and 
responsible tax relief for the American taxpayer. That is why our 
Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee are 
fashioning tax reductions at this moment.
  The income taxpayers' burden is the heaviest in history, in terms of 
a total tax burden. The personal income tax burden stands at 9.9 
percent of the gross domestic product, and, that is not just the 
highest since World War II, but the highest ever. It is higher than the 
7.9 level when the President took office. It is higher than the 7.8 
level of the gross domestic product when John Kennedy, a new President, 
came into office, and said: Let's stimulate the economy by producing a 
major tax cut. Of course, we remember the history of that. It was not 
unlike the model that Ronald Reagan brought to office and convinced the 
Congress to produce a tax cut to stimulate the economy.
  Our President thinks this economy is so good that you don't need to 
do that. That is not the issue. Our economy is strong, and we want to 
keep it strong, growing, and providing jobs. The way you do that is to 
insure that you don't drain the American public of their ability to 
spend for their families, and to save and invest in the growth of that 
future economy.
  The tax burden we have today is higher than the 9 percent level Jimmy 
Carter left office with, which produced the tax cuts, or at least the 
stimulus for the tax cuts, that Ronald Reagan brought to this Congress 
in the early 1980s.
  It is the highest level since World War II, and that was 1946 when it 
was 7.2 percent, and we were taxing at a high level to finance a war 
effort, the most major war effort ever conducted in the history of this 
  According to Clinton's own budget office, his 9.9 percent level is 
the highest recorded level of personal income tax receipts ever reached 
in the history of this country. Clinton is the undisputed champion of 
personal income tax burden.
  You are the undisputed champion of that personal income tax burden 
and not one word from you, Mr. President, on a right and responsible 
level of tax reduction on the highest burden ever in the history of our 
  Under President Clinton, personal income tax receipts have grown at 
an average annual rate of 9.7 percent. That is 75 percent faster than 
the economy's average annual growth rate of 5.3 percent. That is faster 
than the wages' and salaries' average annual growth rate of 5.6 
percent. In other words, Mr. President, your tax rate increase is 
outstripping all levels of growth in this country--both personal and 
public. That is faster than personal income's average annual growth 
rate of 5.2 percent. That is faster than payroll taxes' annual growth 
rate of 5.6 percent. That is 4\1/2\ times faster than the 2 percent 
average annual growth rate of gross private savings of this country.

  Highest surpluses in high history; highest non-Social Security 
surplus in history; highest non-payroll tax surplus in history; highest 
personal income tax receipt burden in history.
  What should we do? Cut personal income taxes, is what we ought to be 
doing. Yet, Mr. President, not a word from you.
  What about the marriage penalty that the Senator from Missouri was 
talking about a few moments ago? What about death tax relief? Every 
time I walk off from a plane in my home State of Idaho, I hear from the 
small businessperson, or a farmer, or a rancher, who are at a time in 
their lives when they want to transfer the ownership of their life's 
work to their son, or to their daughter, and can't because the Federal 
Government steps in and destroys the American dream by saying: Give me 
at least 50 percent of the value of the life's work, and then I will 
let you pass the rest of it on to your family; and, in doing that, the 
son, or the daughter, or the son-in-law or the daughter-in-law spends 
the rest of their life trying to pay once again for that business, for 
that farm, for that ranch, and, in the end, they have to sell it just 
to pay the tax.
  Mr. President, please. What about the American dream? Join with us in 
eliminating the death tax.
  The fact that we have a $2.9 trillion surplus totally apart from 
Social Security means we can still protect Social Security and buy down 
the public debt. In addition to these things, we could cut income taxes 
and return income tax surpluses to the overburdened taxpayer.
  Everyone can see this connection. It is not a difficult thing to 
understand the highest income tax burden and the highest surplus in our 
country's history. When I say it is easy to see, that is everyone 
except President Clinton. Right on this Hill, his defenders won't even 
talk about a tax reduction.

[[Page S8711]]

  Clinton wants to raise taxes. Understand me. Here is the President, 
after all of the statistics and facts I have just given you, who brings 
the budget to the Hill this year, and in it are tax increases. 
According to the Congressional Budget Office, President Clinton's 
budget raises $96 billion in new taxes over the next decade. I mean, 
Mr. President, where in the heck are you coming from? With surpluses 
unlike we have ever had before, certainly in this Senator's history, 
and you want to raise taxes? That is roughly a 10-percent surplus 
surcharge over the next 10 years on the American taxpayer.
  In case you haven't forgotten, let me give you a little of the 
Clinton tax history. It is important the Senate understand this is a 
President who campaigned in 1992 on the promise to cut taxes. Then, in 
1993, once elected, he raised taxes by $240 billion. After that, in 
1995, President Clinton confessed--I was not in the room at that time, 
but here is the quote: ``People in this room are still mad at me at 
that budget because you think I raised your taxes too much.''
  His own quote: ``Well, it might surprise you to know I think I raised 
them too much.''
  That is the inconsistency of this President on this issue, and now 
with 2 years of a budget surplus under our belt, and with $2.9 trillion 
over the next 15 years in non-Social Security budget surpluses, Mr. 
President, join us in reducing the overall tax burden on the American 
people, and work with us to give a strong, responsible tax reduction to 
the taxpayers and to the economy of this country.
  Bill Clinton breaks promises to cut taxes and makes promises to raise 
  No wonder Bill Clinton is the undisputed champion of personal income 
  Bill Clinton may have a choice--whether to keep his word or not, 
whether to raise taxes when there is a surplus or whether to veto a tax 
cut when there is a surplus.
  For this Congress there should be no choice.
  This Congress should cut taxes on the overtaxed American people.
  We should do it if we had to cut spending to do it--as we have 
  We do not even have to cut spending to cut taxes when there is 
trillions more than is necessary to run an already bloated government.
  When not one cent of this surplus comes from Social Security.
  We have nothing short of a moral imperative to return the money to 
the taxpayers who sent it.
  While it may be Clinton-able, it is unconscionable to do otherwise.
  Mr. COVERDELL. Mr. President, I commend the Senator from Idaho for 
his very illuminating remarks.
  I now yield to the distinguished Senator from Minnesota for up to 10 
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Minnesota is recognized.
  Mr. GRAMS. I congratulate the Senator from Georgia for putting 
together this special order on taxes. If we don't talk about it, if we 
don't act on it, as sure as day follows night, Washington will spend 
this surplus unless we do something. It is a very important issue, and 
I appreciate the opportunity to join in.
  A few minutes ago the Senate cast another important vote in an 
attempt to lock away every penny of the Social Security surplus for 
Americans' retirement security. If enacted, this lockbox legislation 
would effectively end the practice of allowing the Government to spend 
Social Security money on other Washington ``wish list'' programs.
  I take this opportunity also to commend Leader Lott, Chairman 
Domenici, and Senators Abraham and Ashcroft for their leadership on 
this very important issue. I believe stopping the Government from 
raiding the Social Security trust fund is an essential first step to 
ensure Social Security will be there for current beneficiaries, the 
baby boomers, as well as their children and grandchildren. I am pleased 
this remains our No. 1 priority.
  We will protect Social Security, preserve Medicare, and dramatically 
reduce the national debt, while providing major tax relief. Republicans 
are pleased that President Clinton agrees that shoring up Social 
Security and Medicare should be our Nation's top priority. But the 
difference is that President Clinton talks about it and Republicans are 
ready to act on it.
  A good example is the President's commitment to work out a Social 
Security lockbox compromise when talking with the leadership this past 
Monday. Yet here we are again, another cloture vote, and no agreement. 
Where is the action to back up that type of commitment?
  The Republicans are determined to achieve these goals. We have locked 
in every penny of the estimated $1.9 trillion Social Security surplus 
over the next 10 years--not for Government programs, not for tax 
relief, but exclusively to protect all Americans' retirement.
  We have been working hard to reform Medicare to ensure it will be 
there for seniors. Prescription drug coverage for the needy will be 
part of our commitment to seniors, to protect their Medicare benefits. 
Had the White House and the Democrats cooperated, we could have fixed 
Medicare by now.
  We have reduced the national debt and will continue to dramatically 
reduce it. Debt held by the public will decrease to $0.9 trillion by 
2009. The interest payment to service the debt will drop from $229 
billion in 1999 to $71 billion in 2009. We will eliminate the entire 
debt held by the public by 2012.
  We have not ignored spending needs to focus on tax cuts as has been 
charged. We not only have funded all the functions of the government, 
but also significantly increased funding for our budget priorities, 
such as defense, education, Medicare, agriculture, and others.
  Meanwhile, Republicans are committed to providing nearly $800 billion 
of the projected non-Social Security surplus--the tax overpayments of 
working Americans--for tax relief.
  This is the largest tax relief since President Reagan and it does not 
come at the expense of seniors, farmers, women, children, or any other 
deserving group.
  However, despite our healthy economy expanding our on-budget surplus, 
which, again, is not the Social Security surplus, President Clinton 
still denies meaningful tax relief for working Americans. He and his 
aides accuse our tax relief plan of being ``dangerous'' and ``risky,'' 
squandering your money by giving it back to you, worried that you won't 
spend it right. The administration believes you are smart enough to 
earn your money but you are not smart enough to know how to spend it--
Washington is.
  He believes public opinion polls show less interest in tax relief. No 
wonder! How many people do you know like paying taxes and actually 
expect a refund? Most people have given up any thought of tax relief--
but they still constantly remind me how important it is when I travel 
around Minnesota.
  To tell the public they don't deserve tax relief is just plain wrong. 
The Bureau of Census just released a report last week that finds 49 
million hard-working Americans--nearly one person in every five--lived 
in a household that had trouble paying for their basic needs.
  They are going further into debt each month trying to make ends meet. 
Credit cards are charged to the limit. They need tax relief.
  What's even more shocking, Mr. President, is that not all of these 49 
million are underprivileged people, over 8 million Americans are from 
middle-class families, families that earn more than $45,000 a year.
  Let me repeat, Mr. President, a significant number, 8.1 million, to 
be exact, of middle-class and well-off families today have difficulties 
making their ends meet. They even have trouble paying rent, medical 
bills or other basic daily needs. A family night at the movies, a 
dinner out, braces, piano lessons are often out of reach to average 
income families.
  Mr. President, this is not my data, nor is it data from think tanks. 
This is the data produced by the government of the United States.
  Some experts attribute this financial hardship to lack of savings, 
which is true, but there is much more.
  Our personal savings rate has dropped from 9.4 percent in 1981 to 
only six-tenths of a percent last year. This year the government 
reported that the rate actually dipped below zero for the first time 
since the Great Depression.
  In fact, in the past 70 years, including the Great Depression, our 
savings rate has dropped as low as it is today

[[Page S8712]]

only twice before. The personal savings rate has remained low for more 
than a decade, and net personal savings other than pensions have 
virtually disappeared over the past ten years.
  But why? My answer is that government tax bites have been getting 
bigger and more cruel. Americans have been struggling to pay basic 
bills. After paying Uncle Sam and paying for basic family needs, there 
is nothing left for working Americans to save, or for money even to 
provide for the basics.
  Americans should be able to save for their future, but they also 
should be able to pay for what most of us here take for granted--the 
family's night out, the lessons, camps, etc.,--the things that improve 
our quality of life. Tax relief can improve the quality of life of 
middle-class American families.
  Mr. President, I remind you the total tax burden on working Americans 
is at an all-time high. The government's own data shows that the 
average household pays $9,445 in federal income taxes alone--twice what 
it paid in 1985.
  Federal taxes take a huge bite out of Americans' hard-earned paycheck 
and consumes about 21 percent of the national income, the highest 
proportion since World War II. And it's still growing. Total taxes from 
all levels of government--federal, state, and local taxes--stand at a 
record 32 percent of national income.
  Mr. President, according to the Census report, the income of the 
average American family has grown only 6.3 percent in constant dollars 
between 1969 to 1996. However, federal tax revenue increased nearly 800 
percent during the same period of time.
  Studies show that if government spending in this country had remained 
at the 1960 level, the average income of an American family of four, 
even accounting for inflation, would be $23,000 higher today than it 
is. That could certainly improve the quality of life for those 
  The tax burden has become even more excessive since 1993. Over the 
course of President Clinton's administration, Washington's income has 
grown faster than our economy and twice as fast as the income of 
working Americans. In fact, federal taxes have grown by over 54 
percent. That's nearly $4,000 a year more per person.
  Because of the unfair tax system, millions of middle-income Americans 
who have worked hard to get ahead have been pushed from the 15-percent 
bracket into the 28-percent bracket. Hundreds of thousands of others 
have been pushed from the 28-percent bracket into the 31- and 36-
percent brackets. No one can escape this growing tax burden, not even 
low-income and minimum wage workers.
  Since payroll taxes are levied against everyone, as low-income and 
minimum wage workers work harder and earn more, their payroll taxes 
also increase, taking a huge bite out of their hard-earned dollars that 
are most needed to keep families above the poverty line. As a result, 
Americans today are working harder and longer but taking less home. A 
larger share of the earned income of working Americans is siphoned off 
to Washington, and isn't available to spend on family--not Washington--
priorities. No wonder working Americans have trouble making their ends 
meet. No wonder they cannot save for emergencies. No wonder they work 
two or three jobs but still cannot get ahead.
  President Clinton himself at one time admitted that Americans were 
taxed too much. But he still refuses to return the tax overpayments 
back to them because he does not think working Americans will spend it 
right. Instead, President Clinton has decided he will spend much of the 
surplus for his own government programs.
  President Clinton and some of our Democratic colleagues insist we 
should have Social Security and Medicare first before we have tax cuts. 
In my view, this is nothing but an effort to deny working Americans tax 
  Republicans have saved Social Security and have tried to create 
interest in Medicare reform. Tax relief only detracts from the need to 
spending more to bring home the bacon for many of our colleagues on the 
other side. Even after we've set aside and protected $2 trillion for 
Social Security and Medicare, he and my Democratic colleagues in the 
Senate still insist the tax relief is unachievable.
  Over the next 10 years, the federal government will collect over 
$22.7 trillion in taxes. Excluding the Social Security tax surplus, the 
government will take $17 trillion from Americans' paychecks while it 
needs only $16 trillion to operate the government. In other words, the 
average U.S. household will pay approximately $5,307 more than the 
government needs over the next 10 years, according to the Congressional 
Research Service.
  One question we should ask ourselves before we decide how to spend 
any non-Social Security surplus is where the budget surplus comes from. 
Do we have a budget surplus because the government is spending less or 
because it is taking more of our money? The CBO has showed us precisely 
where we will get our revenues in the next ten years. The data 
indicates that the greatest share of the projected budget surplus comes 
directly from income tax increases, primarily from the capital gains 
realizations and increase of effective income tax rates.
  Clearly, Mr. President, as I have argued repeatedly our revenue 
windfall did not just fall from the sky, nor has it come from any belt 
tightening in Washington. It comes directly from American taxpayers.
  Again, my point is, Mr. President, that this non-Social Security 
surplus is nothing but tax over-payments. It is the American taxpayers' 
money and it should be returned.
  Like the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan, my biggest 
fear is that if we don't give the non-Social Security surplus back to 
the taxpayers, Washington will soon spend it all. Such spending will 
only expand the government, making it even more expensive to support in 
the future, creating an even higher tax burden than working Americans 
bear today and a higher federal debt. That's why Chairman Greenspan 
says ``If we have to get rid of the surpluses--I would far prefer 
reducing taxes than [increasing] spending, and, indeed, I don't think 
it's a close call.''
  Major tax relief as we have proposed will help all Americans keep a 
little more of their own money. It will give middle class families 
relief from the tax squeeze. It will help farmers and small business 
owners pass their hard-earned legacies onto their children. It will 
help to reduce self-employed medical costs, and correct the injustice 
of the marriage penalty tax. It will encourage working Americans to 
save and invest more. It will reward people who work hard to get ahead. 
It will benefit all Americans and ensure our economy continues to grow. 
But more importantly, it will give working Americans more freedom to 
control their own fate and decide what's best for themselves and their 
families. This is exactly what President Clinton and our Democratic 
colleagues fear will happen. They simply cannot let go of their 
misconceived belief that higher taxes and more government spending are 
the best answers to America's challenges. That's the fundamental 
difference between the two parties. That is what this debate on tax 
relief is all about.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Georgia.
  Mr. COVERDELL. Mr. President, I thank the Senator from Minnesota. I 
appreciate his accommodating the somewhat tight schedule. The remarks 
he made are very pertinent to what we are going to be hearing a lot 
about over the next 3 weeks.
  I now turn to the distinguished Senator from Colorado for up to 10 
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Colorado is recognized.
  Mr. ALLARD. Mr. President, I thank the Senator from Georgia, Mr. 
Coverdell, for leading the discussion this morning on the need to have 
tax cuts for all Americans. I agree with my colleague from Missouri, 
Senator Ashcroft, and his call to action. He said: Americans have 
earned it; Uncle Sam ought to return it.
  I agree with my colleague from Idaho, Senator Craig, who pointed out 
that right now Americans are facing the highest tax burden since World 
War II. I also would like to associate myself with the comments of my 
colleague from Minnesota, Senator Grams, who says we can save Social 
Security, we can pay down the public debt, and we can still provide tax 
cuts for Americans. My colleague from Kansas, Senator Brownback, will 
probably talk about the need of cutting taxes for the benefit of 
American families.

[[Page S8713]]

  These are all very good points on why we should cut taxes. In talking 
with my constituents in town meetings across Colorado, one thing I hear 
in every meeting is that Congress should cut taxes. The legislature in 
the State of Colorado, and the Republican Governor in the State of 
Colorado, have heard the same message. This year there were some major 
tax cut provisions for the people of Colorado. The Governor of 
Colorado, Governor Owens, has pointed out that he plans on making 
another major tax cut for the people of Colorado next year. They 
recognize that government is receiving a windfall with our good 
economy, and we ought to cut taxes to give people the power to 
determine how they want to spend that money.
  The government in Colorado or the Government in Washington should not 
be spending those dollars. The power really does belong with the 
people, not with the government in Colorado or, particularly, with the 
Government in Washington, DC.
  People of all ages, professions, and positions in life believe they 
send too much of their paycheck to Washington. I happen to agree with 
that. Taxes are currently at a record high level. According to the Tax 
Foundation, Tax Freedom Day, the day in the year to which the typical 
American family must work to pay their combined Federal, State, and 
local taxes, was May 11 this year. This is the latest day ever, but it 
is hardly surprising in light of the fact that the combined effective 
tax rate is also the highest ever. When you add in the cost of 
Government regulations, Americans did not finish paying for the cost of 
Government until June 22nd. I believe Congress should downsize 
Government and return power to the States, localities, and individuals.
  Part of the effort to downsize Government must also include a tax 
cut. I believe Americans should be able to keep more of their own 
money. American workers already pay 38 percent of their income in 
taxes, which is more than they spend on food, clothing, and housing 
combined. For the average family, this translates to a large percentage 
of their paycheck going straight to Uncle Sam.
  A tax cut means they could keep more of their money to use for their 
priorities, not Washington's priorities. Some families may choose to 
use that money for a downpayment on a house, others, for education, and 
other families will now have the money to work fewer hours and spend 
more time together. The important point is, they know their own family 
needs and we, in Washington, do not.
  I realize some question the wisdom of tax cuts. We always hear from 
those, sometimes I think louder than we do from others, except when it 
comes to election time, and then their voice is heard. They believe the 
budget cannot be balanced or Social Security cannot be saved if they 
return taxpayer money. However, according to a recent Congressional 
Research Service study, there will be an additional $800 billion on 
budget surplus over the next 10 years, even after assuring that all our 
obligations to Social Security and Medicare have been met.
  The study also found the average household will pay $5,000 more in 
taxes than the Government needs to operate over the next 10 years. This 
money belongs to the American people. We must refund the excess in the 
form of tax cuts and not spend it. At the very least, we should reduce 
the excessive recent growth of the Federal tax burden.
  During the Clinton administration, Federal tax receipts have 
increased by over 54 percent. Tax revenues have grown twice as fast as 
our economy and twice as fast as economic growth for working Americans. 
Clinton tax hikes have left each American $4,000 per year poorer, yet 
the President is not done. His budget for Fiscal Year 2000 proposes $96 
billion in new taxes. Congress should reject new taxes and new spending 
in favor of meaningful tax relief.
  In conclusion, I point out that it is time we return Government money 
to its rightful owner, and that is the American people.
  I thank the Senator from Georgia for allowing me to join with him and 
my other colleagues in the Senate to deliver this very important 
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Georgia.
  Mr. COVERDELL. Mr. President, I know our time has been scheduled to 
conclude at noon.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator has 14 minutes remaining.
  Mr. COVERDELL. Do I have 14 minutes remaining? Thank you.
  Mr. President, let me, first of all, thank all of these speakers. In 
their own way, each pointed out the effect of a circumstance in which 
working American families are paying the highest taxes they have ever 
paid. These numbers begin to back into each other, but if you get down 
to the bottom line, what we are talking about is that American workers 
today are keeping just over half their paycheck--about 52 cents. If 
they kept two-thirds of their paycheck, which I think everybody in the 
country would agree at a minimum would be appropriate, they would have 
about $7,000 a year in their checking accounts.
  We have just spent a fierce week of debate arguing about how people 
deal with prescription drugs and the Patients' Bill of Rights and the 
needs of American families. The problem is, we have taken so much out 
of those folks' checking accounts they do have to start looking to some 
other place to take care of these problems. Obviously, if every working 
family had $7,000 more in their checking accounts, the problem of a 
$2,000 drug bill or an additional educational requirement could be 
  We have created, by these enormous tax levels, massive pressure on 
American working families. I will give you two immediate manifestations 
of what this does, and there are many.
  One of them is that American families this year, for the first time, 
have a negative savings rate.
  In other words, they are in the red in terms of the amount of money 
they are saving each year. The reason is, if somebody--the Government--
goes into their checking account and takes over half what they make, 
there is not enough left to save. In fact, there is not enough 
disposable income left to do what that family is supposed to do. 
Education, housing, transportation, and health needs are all impaired 
because we have taken those resources and moved them away.
  There are people in this city who believe they can make better 
decisions about where that money ought to go. If you are interested in 
tax relief, economic relief, leaving those funds in those families' 
checking accounts, you are a person who believes they make a better 
decision about what they need, they make a more efficient decision, 
they make a more intelligent decision about what the requirements are 
in that family than some bureaucrat buried in the basement of one of 
these buildings in Washington, DC.
  They know whether they have a special education problem. They know 
whether they can afford and need more health insurance or not. They 
know whether or not they have a housing requirement or transportation 
  There is absolutely no way this city, despite all the intellect, can 
figure out what are the specific needs of an individual family. The 
best thing we can do for middle America, the best policy we can enact, 
is to get more resources into their checking accounts. They worked for 
it; they earned it.
  If Thomas Jefferson were here today, he would faint that we had come 
to the point where nearly half the resources of working families are 
sent off to the Government. If he woke up, he would be furious that 
this condition had ever been imposed. So American families are not 

  Also, we have the highest bankruptcy rates in contemporary history. 
Why is that? Once again, it is a reaction to all the pressures we put 
on working families across the country. We are taking too much of their 
paychecks and moving those resources away from them to Washington for 
others to decide what to do with it, leaving those families without the 
resources necessary to do what they have always done for America.
  Mr. President, I am going to conclude. I know there are several other 
Senators who have remarks to make on other subjects.
  In my judgment, there is no single policy more deserving of our 
attention than that of focusing on how to lower the highest tax levels 
in American history, how to return resources to the

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checking accounts of our average American families so they are 
empowered to do the things they need to do to make America great.
  There are three pillars of American freedom. One is economic 
opportunity, the second is safety of persons and property, and the 
third is an educated mind. We have ratcheted down economic opportunity 
to a point where it is changing the behavior and the way Americans 
function and act. It is robbing them of the dreams and the visions that 
have been such a special part of America.
  This is the time, the perfect time, for us to be conscious of this, 
to leave those resources in those checking accounts and empower those 
families to build not only their family, their community, but their 
Nation, the United States of America.
  I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Bunning). The clerk will call the roll.
  The assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. KERREY. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mr. KERREY. Mr. President, first of all, I did not hear everything 
the Senator from Georgia said. As I understand it, he was talking about 
income tax cuts; is that correct?
  Mr. COVERDELL. That is correct.