Thursday, June 29, 2006

 

U.S. Prosperity Flourishing, Barton Tells Commerce Secretary

‘We are the Envy of the World’

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, made the following statement today during the full committee hearing entitled, “Growth, Opportunity, Competition – America Goes to Work:”

“As head of the Department of Commerce, Secretary Gutierrez is responsible for promoting trade and industry for U.S. companies, at home and abroad. The department has responsibility for a diverse portfolio of federal programs including those relating to telecommunications, technology, economic statistics, trade promotion, weather, and oceanographic services.

“One of the priorities of the Bush Administration and of this committee is creating policies that allow economic growth and job creation to flourish. American innovation, technology, and standard of living are the reasons we are the envy of the entire world. It is an impressive cycle that attracts creative genius and rewards innovative progress. It is a strong foundation that others around the world have been trying to replicate for a number of years.

“I believe the administration and Congress have done a good job to maintain that foundation when faced with some of the extraordinary challenges of the last seven or eight years. In the wake of the technology market collapse and the onset of recession in 2000, we faced a significant test to restore economic growth and prosperity. That test became even more difficult with the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 and the resulting economic shock that sent business investment into steep decline.

“The administration and Congress have worked together to helped prevent the economic downturn from being too prolonged and destructive to Americans’ standard of living. We have done a number of proactive policies that have spurred investment through tax cuts. Those policies have brought investment back to the market to create job growth and increase overall economic output that has created one of the strongest periods of economic activity we have experienced in our history.

“For example, since 2001, productivity has grown annually at 3.5 percent and outpaced the previous five year annual rate of 2.3 percent. This is the fastest rate of productive growth in four decades. As the key driver to economic growth, it is not surprising that productivity is translating into strong GDP growth. For the first quarter of this year, gross domestic product grew at an annual rate of, believe it or not, 5.6 percent. Unemployment has fallen from its peak in July 2003 at 6.3 percent to 4.7 percent last month. This is a historical low, and at a point many economists consider full employment. When compared to other industrialized countries—many of which have double-digit unemployment—there is no doubt that we are succeeding in fostering an environment conducive to creating jobs.

“Given all these remarkable statistics, we must remain committed to promoting policies that increase productivity and continue to provide real growth for all Americans. The Secretary of Commerce has reported that American employment rates are substantially higher than our Western European trading partners. The May unemployment rate of 4.6 percent, however, is significantly below the 30-year average of 6.4 percent and has fallen for all races, ages, and levels of education.

“During the committee’s last hearing two years ago with Secretary Gutierrez’s predecessor, Secretary Evans, we discussed a number of ways to promote growth and employment in U.S. industry, particularly with regard to the manufacturing sector. Those issues, at the time, were to enact a national energy policy, which we did, to promote reliable delivery of energy and diminish our reliance on foreign sources of oil and natural gas. On that second point, we have not done that. We wanted to enact tort reform to improve the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturers, and we wanted to control health care costs which make up a disproportionate share of manufacturers’ costs and increasingly affect all businesses.

“This committee is working hard to achieve these goals and I am proud to say we took a good step toward accomplishing the first one when we enacted the Energy Policy Act on a bipartisan basis last summer. However, as the hurricanes last fall demonstrated, more needs to be done to increase our refinery capacity to further reduce our dependence on foreign oil. As the increase in gasoline prices remains higher than anyone likes, on either side of the aisle, it is essential we continue to address all aspects of energy policy to provide viable alternatives for long-term sustainable energy independence. We are continuing to pursue these goals on a bipartisan basis, and I’m sure as the year progresses we will have more success on this front.

“Mr. Secretary, we are very glad to have you here. Personally, I appreciate you appearing before us and I look forward to hearing your testimony."
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