Mo Brooks zeroes in on debt, deficit, Democrat proposals at annual Washington Update
HUNTSVILLE — United States Congressman Mo Brooks expressed his concern over hot-button issues like voting, illegal immigration and Democrat-proposed programs and what that might mean for the national debt and deficit at his annual Washington Update March 4 at the Von Braun Center.
Brooks, who was reelected to the House in the 2018 midterm elections, is currently serving his fifth term as representative for Alabama’s 5th congressional district. He began his address by discussing the current political climate across the nation, saying this is “truly an historic time.”
“You’ve got President Trump—a rather unique president who has been forced to endure an unrelenting daily assault from the news media and from his political rivals, the Democrats,” he said. “Then we have House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who is also under siege, but remarkably, it’s from her own caucus … and then you’ve got the Republican senate, which really is relatively unchanged … and they still have not risen to the major challenges that we face as a nation on deficit and debt, on border security, on government health care … and the hardest struggle: between socialism and free enterprise.”
A conservative Republican, Brooks also shared his dismay concerning the House of Representatives’ shift in power from a Republican to a Democratic majority. He noted that he was previously on three committees in Congress but had to drop one when the power shifted. He chose to drop Foreign Affairs and stay aboard the Armed Services and Space, Science, and Technology committees.
He also tore into several ideas that are major platform points for Democratic senators, representatives and presidential candidates, explaining how the implementation of those would worsen the debt and deficit, even calling some “impossible.”
MEDICARE FOR ALL
Brooks criticized Medicare for All for its potential costs, citing an estimate from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University that states the Medicare for All Act would add about $32.6 trillion to the federal budget commitments between 2022 and 2031.
A subcomponent of the plan, according to Brooks, also eliminates private insurance.
“Ultimately, you’re looking at a higher government cost, of course—higher taxes to pay for it, and probably a lower quality of care, particularly if you’re talking about lifesaving measures that tend to be the most expensive,” he said.
Medicare for All, a proposed single-payer health care system, has received mixed reactions across the nation that has some lauding the sentiment but calling it “an impossible dream.” While several Democrats like Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren have endorsed the idea, Brooks remains opposed to a system that is “basically socialized medicine.”
GREEN NEW DEAL
Brooks expressed even more disdain for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-NY) proposed “Green New Deal.” The proposal aims to address multiple issues ranging from environmental impact to labor laws to higher education.
Raising his voice, Brooks made a few tongue-in-cheek campaign promises relating to the potential effects of the GND. “I promise you that if you will reelect me to Congress a decade from now, we will still have electricity,” he declared. “… We’re still going to have hamburgers and steaks because we’re still going to have those gas-emitting cows, all right? Everybody’s for that, right? … And I promise you that a decade from now, if I’m still in office, that your congressman’s not going to have to walk to Washington, D.C. We will still have airplanes. I make that commitment to you. And finally, I promise to you that if you reelect me to the United States Congress that in 12 years, we will still have the planet Earth, and we’ll still be living on it.”
Though Brooks’ humorous “campaign promises” spiel garnered several laughs from the audience, he noted that there was some seriousness to his remarks.
“Y’all may laugh, but you look at this Green New Deal stuff—farting cows is in it,” he said. “Getting rid of the emissions from airplanes is in it. … Electricity and getting rid of nuclear power and getting rid of every form of carbon-based electrical generation is in it. … This is serious stuff because these people are serious people and because they have serious power.”
Brooks said the GND could cost anywhere from $51 trillion to $93 trillion in its first decade.
“If you put the Medicare for All top-dollar with the Green New Deal top-dollar, then you’re looking at half of the GDP of the United States of America being spent on just these two programs over the next decade,” he said. “That’s how big these things are, how costly these things are and how impossible they are to implement because we literally do not have the cash.”
While one component of the GND aims to decrease pollution, Brooks claimed that the GND would accomplish the opposite. He said the environmentally friendly changes would be more costly for companies, leading them to establish themselves elsewhere, perhaps countries like China or India that regulate pollution less, and therefore increase the global levels of pollution.
Brooks declared that he is nicknaming the GND the “Green Raw Deal” because “that’s what it is for Americans individually, for their standard of living, and that’s what it is for our country.”
Another issue Brooks said is costly to the United States is illegal immigration. The Census Bureau, according to Brooks, estimated that there were about 11 million illegal immigrants in the country in 2010, and a recent Yale University study estimates that number to be close to 22 million now.
Based on the Census Bureau’s numbers, a study suggests that illegal immigrants cost the nation about $135 billion a year at the local state and federal levels. The same study suggests that these immigrants pay about $19 billion a year in taxes, making the net cost about $116 billion. With this in mind, Brooks said Trump’s border wall plan is the better option.
“If the Yale study is accurate, then it’s closer to $200 billion a year in net tax losses,” Brooks noted. “The revenues produced by illegal aliens at the city, county, state and federal level delta the consumption of services consumed by illegal aliens and their households.”
While statistics from several credible agencies state that illegal immigrants commit crimes at rates far below native-born Americans, several still argue that crimes committed by illegal immigrants are crimes that should not have occurred at all.
Brooks said ICE arrested 235,000 illegal immigrants for criminal activity in fiscal years 2017 and 2018. These crimes include about 100,000 assaults, 30,000 sex crimes and 4,000 homicides. “It’s all federal government data, and quite frankly, if it errs, it errs on the low side, in my opinion,” he said. “That is an adverse effect of having illegal aliens in America—keep in mind these are minimal numbers because these are people we’ve apprehended.”
Voting by these illegal immigrants is another matter of concern Brooks brought up. “We don’t know how much it is,” he said, though he used Texas as an example of one state that recently reported more than 90,000 individuals who represented that they were illegal immigrants. “Don’t know if they’re still illegal aliens today, but in the recent past, they’ve represented that they were illegal aliens—90,000 who were registered to vote. Sixty thousand voted in one or more of the last few elections, so you’ve got this kind of adverse effect on the citizenry of the United States of America because it dilutes the voting power of America, and … Texas is just a microcosm of the bigger picture.”
Brooks also mentioned that some metropolitan cities—the largest of which is currently San Francisco—allow everyone to vote, including citizens and immigrants, whether legal or illegal. Though this only applies to municipal elections, Brooks said he is concerned that it is too easy for anyone to vote in higher elections as well, leading the U.S. to become more of an “international country.”
TAXES ON THE WEALTHY
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) were two more Democrats whose ideas faced criticism from Brooks.
Omar brought up an idea earlier this year that would see higher taxes—up to a 90-percent income tax rate—on America’s wealthiest citizens. Brooks’ concern is that after taxes at lower levels, those citizens would essentially end up “paying the government money to work.”
“You can imagine long-term how that’s going to depress economic activity and deter the incentive for those of us who are the most successful to go the extra mile and work,” he said.
Warren is also in support of a “wealth tax,” though Brooks called that idea “very complicated” and “very complex” and said it would call for more federal government intrusion. “Nonetheless, she’s running for president of the United States, and she thinks this is a winner,” he said. “We’ll see how that plays out.
“There are a couple reasons for this huge interest in increasing taxes on the American people by the other side of the aisle. One, of course, is to pay for some new programs. They want more welfare, Medicare for all … and they’ve got environmental programs like the Green New Deal.”
Brooks later said that the U.S. “just blew through the $22 trillion debt” recently, and “we’ve already reached our debt limit.” With this in mind, he expressed concern that a trend will continue that sees the government taking money from other funds to meet operational cost. Some of these funds could be Social Security or Medicare, he said.
“We did pretty good in fiscal year 2015, but we have gone absolutely the wrong direction since then, and you’re looking at a $1.4 trillion deficit sometime within a decade.”
In addition to serving on two major House committees, Brooks also serves on three important subcommittees: Strategic Forces and Readiness (Armed Services) and Space (Science, Space, and Technology). He moved from South Carolina to Huntsville with his family at the age of 9 and graduated from Grissom High School before attending Duke University and the University of Alabama School of Law. He has served in several other capacities at the local and state levels, including Madison County District Attorney, Madison County Commissioner and Special Assistant Attorney General.