Videos & Speeches
Jul 07 2011
Mr. President, it is appropriate that we are here on this July 4th holiday week. I joined a number of my colleagues last week who made it clear it was important for us to be here. Raising the debt ceiling is a significant issue we face, and while I am pleased to see the discussion ongoing on the Senate floor today, we do need actions that speak louder than our words. I say that knowing I am coming here to talk about an issue that we have attempted to bring to the attention of my colleagues in the Senate now for a long time.
We have a looming financial crisis. All the Democratic leadership was capable of bringing up on the Senate floor this week was a sense of the Senate that wealthy Americans should pay their fair share of something.
I suppose we will have a discussion about that, which has begun and will continue for the next few days. But I believe Americans deserve leadership in our Nation’s Capital to confront the real fiscal challenges – not just this desire to kick the can down the road and ignore the crisis we face.
In my view, our President and the Senate leadership have failed to lead. They have failed to adopt the President’s own Deficit Reduction Commission report. The President has not proposed the results of that report. They have failed to pass a budget in over 2 years. They have failed to introduce a budget even in our committee this year, and the President’s budget that he did propose this year is woefully inadequate in addressing the fiscal crisis - the deficits that we face.
Crafting a budget is one of the basic responsibilities of Congress, but it has not happened. No country, business, or family can operate responsibly without a budget. I serve on the Appropriations Committee. I would love to have a budget that set the guidelines for us to begin the process of determining how much money we should spend, what things might be increased, decreased, or eliminated. Without a budget, the appropriations process continues to falter and, in fact, it would not be surprising that once again we end up with either an omnibus spending bill or a continuing resolution.
The President and Senate Democrats have said they are serious about dealing with our Nation’s debt crisis, but actions will speak louder than words. The truth is the President’s budget and the policies of this administration have made our problems worse.
During the last 2 years, the government has spent more than $7.3 trillion and increased the Nation’s debt in just 2 years by more than $3.2 trillion. The President is missing and the Senate is dysfunctional. The struggling economy we are experiencing and the financial collapse around the corner is the most expected economic crisis in our lifetime. Yet nothing is being done to stop it.
The co-chairs of the President’s own Fiscal Commission have said the same thing and have warned that if we fail to take swift and serious action, the U.S. faces “the most predictable economic crisis in its history.’’ They predict such an event could occur in 2 years or less.
It is time to move past empty rhetoric and get serious about confronting the debt crisis. Delaying difficult decisions and simply increasing the debt ceiling once again without making any changes to the way Washington spends taxpayer dollars should not be an option. We cannot afford business as usual.
The President’s solution is to raise revenues to balance the budget. But does anyone really believe that increased taxes will be used to pay down the debt or will it just be used for even more spending? History shows that money raised in Washington, DC, results in more spending in Washington, DC.
When families struggle to pay the bills, they do not simply ask for a pay raise; they cut their spending. The revenue increases we need are not tax increases, but increased revenues that come from a growing economy.
The last time we had a balanced budget was at the end of President Clinton’s term. Yes, there was some spending restraint, and Republicans and Democrats could not get along well enough to agree to spend a bunch of money, but the real reason the budget was balanced was that people were working and paying their taxes. We need a growing economy once again to balance the budget.
If we increase taxes, we reduce the chance of economic growth and we reduce the chance of more and better paying jobs.
In Kansas, for example, the President proposes we increase taxes on those who own a business plane. Airplanes are a pretty important component of our State’s economy, and this proposal would have a devastating impact upon the Wichita economy, which has already suffered the loss of thousands of jobs under declining business in this country.
Now is not the time to penalize a U.S. industry that produces the best quality airplanes in the world. The United States and North America ship a significant amount of business jets worldwide, more than any other region in the world. But because of the recession, nearly every aircraft manufacturer has had to cut jobs, some up to 50 percent of their workforce.
We see this in Kansas day in and day out, and yet the proposal is to make it more expensive to own an aircraft. This does not punish the owners of aircraft. It punishes the people who work every day to make an airplane.
To turn our economy around and put people back to work, Congress and the Obama administration should be implementing policies that encourage job creation, not diminish the chances; rein in burdensome government regulations; replace our convoluted Tax Code with one that is fair, simple, and certain; open foreign markets for American manufactured goods and agricultural products; and develop a comprehensive energy policy. Yet none of these things are being done by this Senate.
Spending more has failed to stimulate our economy. Instead, we should cut government spending to reduce our deficit, cap spending so it does not continue to eat up more and more of our gross domestic product, and balance our budget so we do not get back in this mess once again.
First, it is time to cut government spending and change the way Washington, DC, spends taxpayer dollars. Mr. President, 40 cents of every dollar our Federal Government is spending is borrowed. One hundred percent of our tax revenue is spent on mandatory spending and interest payments on the debt. Everything else--defense, homeland security, energy, education--is borrowed. This year we will collect $2.2 trillion and spend $3.7 trillion--a $1.5 trillion deficit.
CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, now projects that debt held by the public will exceed 100 percent of gross domestic product by 2021 under current policies. This is a 10-percent increase in debt relative to CBO’s projections of only a year ago.
The debate over government spending is often seen as one that is philosophical or partisan bickering that always goes on in Washington, DC. And certainly I have heard, all of my adult life, the conversations that go on in Washington, DC, and on the talk shows, and in the newspapers, that talk about Republicans and Democrats arguing about balancing the budget and how much money we can spend, but the reality is this time it is different, and our failure to act will have dramatic consequences on the daily lives of Americans.
This is about whether or not Americans can find a job, can make their payments on their homes and automobiles, whether their kids have a bright future and can pursue the American dream. This is not a philosophical discussion for Washington, DC. This has real consequences for every American family.
We are not, unfortunately, immune from the laws of economics that face every nation. The failure to get our financial house in order and borrowing under control will lead to increased inflation, higher interest rates, fewer jobs, and a lower standard of living for every American. Our creditors may one day decide we are no longer creditworthy, and we will suffer the same consequences that other countries are now suffering who followed that path. We should learn from them.
Secondly, it is time to cap discretionary spending this year and next. We must demand enforceable statutory caps to return Federal spending to 18 percent of gross domestic product, where it has been for almost all of the past 60 years. Current Federal spending is now nearly 25 percent of gross domestic product and remains on track to be high over the course of the next 10 years.
Third, we must pass a balanced budget amendment. This amendment to the U.S. Constitution is the best way to discipline government officials. This amendment would require the President to submit and Congress to pass a balanced budget each and every year, cap Federal spending at no more than 18 percent of gross domestic product, and require a two-thirds vote of the House and the Senate to raise taxes.
Nothing here is unreasonable. Cut spending, cap the percentage of spending to GDP, and pass a balanced budget amendment. When did it become radical or even irresponsible to live within our means? We know what is going to happen if we do not act, and it would be immoral for us to look the other way or to kick the can down the road because the politics of these issues are too difficult to deal with.
Officials from the Obama administration warn that the failure of Congress to raise the legal debt limit would risk default. But the bigger economic threat that confronts our country are the consequences of allowing our country’s pattern of spending and borrowing to continue without a serious plan to reduce that debt. Our out-of-control debt is slowing our economic growth and threatening the prosperity of future generations who will have to pay for our irresponsibility.
Our government is not on the verge of a financial meltdown because Republicans will not vote to raise the debt ceiling. We are at the point of financial collapse because Republicans and Democrats have spent money we do not have for way too long. We must use the leverage that raising the debt ceiling now presents to force elected officials to do something they otherwise would not do: curb spending, grow the economy, and balance the budget.
If we fail to respond, if we fail to act as we should, if we let this issue pass one more time for somebody else to solve because it is so difficult, we will reduce the opportunities the next generation of Americans have to pursue the American dream.