Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, began laying the groundwork for a major new populist economic strategy at a hearing today, including a “welfare-to-work” program that would strive to place unemployed Americans in the jobs amnesty advocates say they won’t do.
“Every Senate Democrat voted for an immigration bill that was said to be needed to fill jobs Americans are unqualified to take,” Sessions said during a Budget Committee hearing. “Would it not be better to transition those hurting Americans now on welfare into open jobs, rather than bringing in more new workers from abroad? We need a welfare-to-work program, not a doubling of guest workers. And it can be more than paid for with welfare savings,” he added.
Sessions, a top conservative leader on immigration and spending issues, is working with GOP allies in the Senate to craft an agenda with the 2014 midterms — and potential Republican control of the upper chamber — in mind.
On immigration, he has worked to focus the debate on how increased immigration would depress wages for American workers and on the new federal spending that would eventually occur to provide benefits to the influx of new citizens.
“We have a moral duty to take firm, principled steps that will actually help millions of struggling workers transition from joblessness and dependency to work and rising wages,” Sessions said on Tuesday. “American workers are hurting. Wages are down, the workforce is shrinking, and the welfare rolls continue to grow,” he said.
Sessions continued by arguing that the federal government borrowing and spending more money “is not the answer” and pointed to the trillions added to the national debt in recent years–and how 20 million people are “unemployed, underemployed, or have been discouraged from looking for jobs,” among other economic distresses to the nation–as evidence.
He listed of a series of bullet points:
- About half of recent college graduates are underemployed
- 800,000 fewer jobs exist in America since the recession began
- The percentage of the people “actually working” is the lowest it has been in 40 years
- American workers’ wages are lower now than in 1999
- Workers’ take-home pay has dropped each year for the past half decade
- More than 47 million Americans collect food stamps
“We can’t keep hurting our future to enjoy a sugar high today,” Sessions said, while calling for a “dramatic new strategy” to fix the nation’s fiscal woes. Sessions added:
The centerpiece of the strategy should be a consuming national effort to reduce the welfare rolls and grow the employment rolls. Currently, the federal government spends around $750 billion a year on means-tested welfare and poverty support. That’s more than Medicare, more than Social Security, and more than Defense. Imagine how much could we could do if we redirected this spending to focus on job training, job placing, and work preparation. Wouldn’t that be a better, more productive, and more compassionate plan? One that would work?
Sessions will likely be further developing this message and plan throughout the year, and he is scheduled to deliver remarks on this topic to the Tea Party Patriots’ Tea Party movement fifth anniversary conference on Thursday. Other speakers at the conference include Fox News’ Sean Hannity, radio’s Mark Levin, Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Rand Paul (R-KY), among many other leaders.