U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew testified before a House subcommittee on Thursday that while the economy has grown stronger since the financial crisis, many Americans still face mortgage troubles and difficulty finding employment.
The U.S. economy grew at an average annual rate of just over two percent in the past three years, and private sector employers added nearly 6.5 million jobs since the labor market bottomed out in February 2010, though the unemployment rate remains at 7.6 percent.
“Despite recent improvements in the housing market, many families remain underwater on their mortgages and credit-worthy borrowers continue to have trouble getting the financing they need to buy homes or refinance existing mortgages,” Lew said before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, which held a hearing to discuss the Treasury budget. “Although corporate profits are at an all-time high, America’s middle class continues to struggle.”
Lew also said the U.S. Treasury’s budget supports President Barack Obama’s strategy to bolster the economy through innovations in manufacturing, work training and education by “reducing waste, increasing efficiency and making investments to accomplish our core missions and achieve future savings.”
The budget is 2.3 percent smaller than last year’s budget, excluding the IRS, for which the Treasury has requested a $1 billion increase partially funded by a cap adjustment for enforcement initiatives that provide high investment returns.
Lew said the funding is critical to assist the IRS in implementation of the Affordable Care Act, which he said will lower the budget deficit by more than $1 trillion over the next 20 years.
“The sequester has taken a toll on Treasury, but we are doing everything we can to absorb these cuts without reducing services,” Lew said. “The Treasury budget builds on our commitment over the past four years to deliver core services more efficiently and at a lower cost to the taxpayer.”
The Treasury said infrastructure and administrative inefficiencies will be targeted in the budget as part of an effort to reduce costs. Lew said the Treasury plants to implement a number of measures “to improve operational efficiency and effectiveness across government.”
“The proposed savings will be achieved through a combination of efficiency improvements and increased streamlining of operational processes, making Treasury a stronger organization that continues to provide indispensable services across the country efficiently and effectively,” Lew said. “Our investments are aimed at reaching goals we all share: an economy that is expanding, a private sector that is robust and a job market that is full of opportunities.”