Can you guess which United States Senator spoke these words in 2006?
“Mr. President, I rise today to talk about America’s debt problem.
The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our government’s reckless fiscal policies. Over the past five years, our federal debt has increased by $3.5 trillion to $8.6 trillion. That is ‘‘trillion’’ with a ‘‘T.’’ That is money that we have borrowed from the Social Security trust fund, borrowed from China and Japan, borrowed from American taxpayers. And over the next five years, between now and 2011, the president’s budget will increase the debt by almost another $3.5 trillion.
Numbers that large are sometimes hard to understand. Some people may wonder why they matter. Here is why: This year, the federal government will spend $220 billion on interest. That is more money to pay interest on our national debt than we’ll spend on Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. That is more money to pay interest on our debt this year than we will spend on education, homeland security, transportation and veterans benefits combined. It is more money in one year than we are likely to spend to rebuild the devastated gulf coast in a way that honors the best of America.
And the cost of our debt is one of the fastest growing expenses in the federal budget. This rising debt is a hidden domestic enemy, robbing our cities and states of critical investments in infrastructure like bridges, ports and levees; robbing our families and our children of critical investments in education and healthcare reform; robbing our seniors of the retirement and health security they have counted on.
Every dollar we pay in interest is a dollar that is not going to investment in America’s priorities. Instead, interest payments are a significant tax on all Americans—a debt tax that Washington doesn’t want to talk about. If Washington were serious about honest tax relief in this country, we would see an effort to reduce our national debt by returning to responsible fiscal policies.
But we are not doing that. Despite repeated efforts by Senators Conrad and Feingold, the Senate continues to reject a return to the commonsense Pay-go rules that used to apply. Previously, Pay-go rules applied both to increases in mandatory spending and to tax cuts. The Senate had to abide by the commonsense budgeting principle of balancing expenses and revenues. Unfortunately, the principle was abandoned, and now the demands of budget discipline apply only to spending.
As a result, tax breaks have not been paid for by reductions in federal spending, and thus the only way to pay for them has been to increase our deficit to historically high levels and borrow more and more money. Now we have to pay for those tax breaks plus the cost of borrowing for them. Instead of reducing the deficit, as some people claimed, the fiscal policies of this administration and its allies in Congress will add more than $600 million in debt for each of the next five years.
That is why I will once again co-sponsor the Pay-go amendment and continue to hope that my colleagues will return to a smart rule that has worked in the past and can work again.
Our debt also matters internationally. My friend, the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, likes to remind us that it took 42 Presidents 224 years to run up only $1 trillion of foreign-held debt. This administration did more than that in just five years. Now, there is nothing wrong with borrowing from foreign countries. But we must remember that the more we depend on foreign nations to lend us money, the more our economic security is tied to the whims of foreign leaders whose interests might not be aligned with ours.
Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that ‘‘the buck stops here.’’ Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.
I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America’s debt limit.”
These words were spoken by then Illinois Senator Barack Obama. They clearly apply even more to President Obama today. Since taking office in January 2009, the national debt has increased over $5 trillion dollars from $11 trillion to $16 trillion. As you read this letter, President Obama is proposing raising the debt ceiling by another $1 trillion. Former President Bush needed 8 years to raise the debt ceiling by $5 trillion from $6 trillion to $11 trillion. President Obama was able to raise the debt ceiling $5 trillion in only five years! What’s another trillion or two among friends! When will this madness stop?
President Obama and Congress should freeze overall spending by adopting 2008 spending levels in 2014 funding bills for all Federal agencies. This would cut our spending up to a trillion dollars resulting in the end of borrowing and a real balanced budget. There was no public outcry from Democrats in 2008, including our own Senators Schumer and Gillibrand and our Congressional delegation that the sky was falling when the federal budget was a trillion dollars less than it is today. They didn’t say that a multi-trillion dollar safety net and Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid were going to end. The 2008 budget was prior to the one-time stimulus American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, TARP, auto industry bailouts, cash for clunkers and Obama Care expenditures. Now everything needs to be on the table including the infamous “third rails” of American politics — Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and military spending.
Any extension of the debt ceiling should be matched by corresponding real cuts in spending. Promises to cut future spending over the next 10 years will never be honored by the next Congress or President. These so called cuts in spending currently proposed exist only on paper. They represent a simple yearly decrease in the growth of current spending. At the end of the day, Washington will continue to spend hundreds of billions more each year than what is collected in tax revenues. This shortfall will have to be borrowed increasing our national debt by trillions over the next 10 years.
Implement “pay as you go” budgeting, means testing for all government assistance and sunset provisions for agencies and programs that have completed their missions. End pork-barrel member item spending, stop paying farmers to not grow crops and abolish corporate welfare subsides via tax deductions.
Close down obsolete military bases abroad. Reduce United Nations and foreign aid to those who offer no support when needed. End the wasteful war in Afghanistan. Don’t start a new war in Syria.
Have the IRS accelerate the collection of several hundred billion in uncollected back taxes owed by deadbeat individuals and corporations, along with suspending billions in future tax refunds to those who continue failing to pay long overdue taxes or student loans.
Stop wasting billions of dollars on the war on drugs
Everyone needs to do their fair share in bringing the budget deficit under control. It is time for Uncle Sam to destroy its own credit cards. Ordinary American families balance their budgets, why can’t Washington?