In less than six years during which the Republican Congress, with Shays a senior member of the controlling majority, and the Bush administration teamed up to run the economy, the federal debt of the United States has blown out by 50%. As a percentage of GDP, that's the biggest increase in peace time in the history of this country. And for two of those years, Shays served as vice-chairman of the House Budget Committee! "Fiscal responsibility"? Give me a break!!
Let's keep going. The Bush administration and Shays's Republican-controlled Congress presided over the first four-year period since the Great Depression during which private sector employment in America actually declined. The only increase in employment under the "small government" Republicans came from government hiring.
And despite Shays's loud touts of the country's economic growth "since April 2003" (he is careful to leave out the miserable first two years of the Republican domination beginning in 2001), the recovery from the 2000 recession ranks as the weakest recovery of any in the nation's history. Wages have been stagnant since Bush and the Republicans took over in 2001, and wealth disparity is rising sharply. But Shays continues to boast of his votes for every one of Bush's tax cuts that have led to the country's yawning debt and worsening income disparities. He seems actually proud of those results; or, perhaps, he is simply delusional.
And, Chris, tell us one more time why it really is "OK" for Connecticut to rank next to last in federal funding received per dollar of taxes paid. Tell us again why it's just a matter of our earning too much money. Got it. And the fact that our return from Washington has gone from over 80 cents on the dollar in the 1980's to just 66 cents now, that's someone else's fault, right? Absolutely. We just won't worry about the fact that our deficit with Washington equals two-thirds of our entire state budget. And your "achievement" of bringing Connecticut the smallest increase in federal transportation funding (+19%) of any state in the country in TEA-LU, the new six-year transportation bill? Not your fault, right? Got it.
But let's keep going with Shays' "record of fiscal responsibility", shall we? Let's look at health care. While Shays was voting to squander $370 billion for his beloved "noble effort" in Iraq, health insurance premiums during the Bush administration/Republican Congress have risen 87%. Health insurance for a family of four just rose 8% in the past year, nearly double the rate of inflation and two and a half times the average wage increase. And let's get down to the reality here in Connecticut: in Greenwich, the most Republican town in Connecticut with the largest number of registered Republican voters in the state, and one of the wealthiest towns in America, 16,000 people, representing one in four of all town residents, are without health insurance. In the entire state, 380,000 residents lack health insurance, and half again as many are seriously underinsured.
What has Shays done about health care? He did what he's done for years: he signed on to George Bush's Far Right agenda. He actually showed up in Bridgeport several weeks back at an appearance by George Bush to endorse the president's "health savings account plan". That's the plan that health care professionals across the spectrum have called "subsidies for the healthy and wealthy".
How about education? While enthusiastically rooting for the war in Iraq that has now cost more than 24,000 casualties, hundreds of thousands of cases of combat-related post traumatic stress, and more than 20,000 non-combat related cases of injuries and disease, he boasted of casting the deciding vote for the 2006 Republican budget that included the biggest cut in the federal student loan program in history. That's right: while voting to spend $370 billion on that senseless war in Iraq, Shays voted to cut $13 billion from federal education spending.
But don't take my word for it. Listen to Luke Swarthout, education associate for the State Public Interest Research Groups. Swarthout wrote that Congress had voted for "the largest cut in the history of the loan programs," which he said was "the largest raid on student aid in history. At a time when college costs continue to rise and students are going deeper into a financial hole, Congress has decided to use students and families to pay for other priorities. Rather than cutting lender subsidies, the bill derives most of its savings by continuing the practice of forcing student and parent borrowers to pay excessive interest rates on their loans and by increasing interest rates for parent borrowers." He also noted that "nearly 70% of the bill's total student loan cuts come from students and families." David Ward, president of the American Council on Education, an umbrella group representing 1,800 degree-granting colleges and universities, including Yale, Wesleyan University, and the Connecticut State University System agrees. While also calling it "the biggest cut in the history of the federal student loan program," he wrote that, "It is shortsighted to ask college students and their families to bear so much of the burden of deficit reduction."
Just about the last thing of which Chris Shays should be reminding voters is his miserable record of fiscal irresponsibility: biggest peacetime debt increase in history; hundreds of billions squandered in senseless war in Iraq, flat wages, worsening income disparity, huge cuts in federal education spending, rising uninsured population and out of control health care costs. We're supposed to vote for him on that record?
Wake up, Chris. Not going to happen.