Joint Economic Committee Chairman Kevin Brady is slamming President Obama and other Democrats for trying to advance an agenda to confront “income inequality” and efforts to extend emergency unemployment benefits in what he calls a misguided appeal for compassion.
The Texas Republican is also speaking out on the dismal jobs reports and what Congress can do to spur job creation and why he’s generally supportive of the bipartisan spending bill that emerged this week.
With Obama and other Democrats trumpeting the need to combat income inequality through proposed minimum-wage increases and extending emergency unemployment benefits, Brady told WND the whole campaign on the left is badly misguided.
“I just reject the whole premise. I think it is not the government’s role to equalize everyone’s income. I think it’s our role to provide as unfettered of an opportunity as you can for individuals to climb up that economic ladder,” Brady said. “I don’t trust the government to equalize income, but I do trust the free-market system to give us opportunities that allow us to move up that ladder. That’s where I think the focus ought to be.”
Listen to WND’s radio interview with Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, below:
Brady said the American system is a shining example of how the poor and underprivileged can elevate their condition by taking advantage of opportunities and making wise decisions.
"If you're born into a family with very low skills and among the poorest in the country, you have a better chance of moving up the economic ladder into the middle class than the wealthy do staying at their station," he said. "In America, individual decisions on education, on work, on marriage, on family, all the factors that help you move up the economic ladder, are available."
While he dismisses the ideology behind the income-equality movement, Brady acknowledges it will be a major issue in this year's campaigns and Republicans need to be ready with a rebuttal and better solutions.
"It's going to be focused on equal opportunity, the opportunity to pull yourself up that economic ladder through hard work, through education, through opportunities," he said. "It is America's strength. Government is not so good at that, and all they have to do is look at this new health-care law to realize they do not have the answers for families."
The latest major salvo in the income-inequality movement centers on President Obama's call to extend emergency unemployment benefits that expired in December and were not part of the bipartisan budget deal that passed earlier in the month. Republicans now seem willing to approve short-term extensions if they are paid for with spending cuts in other areas. Brady disagrees with both of those approaches.
"I don't think we ought to extend the emergency benefits, and that's what this is. These are emergency benefits beyond what state gives of half a year, beyond extra unemployment benefits if the unemployment rate is high in your state. These are emergency benefits designed for the unemployed when (the jobless rate) is high and going higher. The president tells us unemployment is lower in all 50 states. The emergency is over," said Brady, who fiercely rejects the contention that opposition to the extension is rooted in a lack of compassion for those out of work.
"The measure of America's compassion for those who don't have a job is not how long you keep them on unemployment. It's how soon you get them into a good-paying job," Brady said. "These folks are crying out for a job, and I think extending it three months or some short period doesn't help them get back to work."
As chairman of the Joint Economic Committee, Brady goes over the jobless numbers with great scrutiny. He said there was great hope for a healthy jobs report given some of the recent economic indicators, but the December report shows the economy is struggling mightily.
In December, the nation added just 74,000 jobs and saw the jobless rate dip to 6.7 percent, but that's only because 347,000 people gave up searching for work. Brady said there's little mystery as to why the economy is so stubbornly weak when he speaks with business owners in his Houston-area district.
"What our local businesses tell us about the new taxes that landed on top of them is the health-care law is having a real impact on hiring," he said. "There's the worry about red tape that they're all experiencing. And now, we have these recommendations that you force local companies to pay $5,000 more a worker through the minimum wage."
While Brady believes getting the government out of the way is the best avenue to encourage job creation, he said scores of bills passed by the House and languishing in the Senate could provide at least some relief. He pointed to two in particular: approving construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline and making the employer mandate optional in the new health-care law.
This week, the House is expected to approve a bipartisan spending bill totaling $1.1 trillion. Multiple House Republican and Senate Democratic leaders committee chairs are urging their members to hold their nose on some items and approve the bill for the larger good.
Veterans benefits are still a bone of contention. Most were cut in the December spending bill and, while both parties promised to restore them, only benefits for disabled vets seem to be getting restored while other veterans will see cost-of-living reductions and other cuts.
Brady said there are items in the bill he doesn't like, but he said given Democratic control of the Senate and the White House, this is about as well as the GOP can do until it wins more elections. He also said there are some very bright spots in the plan as well.
"There's some things to like in this. To take this part of the budget basically back to the Bush years, I think, is rolling back all of the president's spending since then. It not only freezes Obamacare funding, it actually cuts dollars out of that and cuts funding out of the Independent Payment Advisory Board. It cuts the IRS and EPA back, the EPA funding by almost 20 percent. More importantly, it restores defense by keeping the funding at the current level. That really helps with readiness," Brady said.
The House is expected to vote on the omnibus spending bill Wednesday.