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30-Something Working Group

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Location: Washington, DC


30-SOMETHING WORKING GROUP -- (House of Representatives - March 02, 2006)

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Because, Mr. Meek, what you are saying here, it is not simply a matter of fact. It goes beyond just factual accuracy that you are talking about. There is risk when it comes to this much debt being owned, this much of our debt being owned by another country. And then that doesn't even take into consideration whether the country that owns that debt, how friendly they are towards us.

Let us just talk about some recent comments by some of the leaders of the nations that own our debt. The Japanese Prime Minister, obviously Japan is an ally of ours and not one that we have to do a lot of hand wringing about, but Prime Minister Hashimoto just recently, I think this was a couple of weeks ago, stated, ``We hope we don't have to succumb to the temptation to sell off U.S. Treasury bills.'' And later that same day the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 192 points, one of the largest declines in points in history. So there is real risk to accumulating that much debt in each of these nations economically in our country and economically across the world.

I have heard many of our colleagues, very flippantly on the other side of the aisle, write off the issue of debt as if it is not a big deal. Debt, in someone's household individually, would be a big deal. When we talk about the deficit and deficit spending, which is obviously a separate issue, that is a very big deal. Debt is something that we should begin to move away from. Yet, instead of that, what Secretary Snow has been asking us to do is continually increase it. And what did they do recently, just during that February 16 letter when the Secretary indicated that the debt limit needed to be raised again? Because the Congress has not done that, he had to dip into the pension fund. He actually had to, because something has to give. If Congress is not raising the debt limit, then he has got to cover that debt somewhere.

What I have found ironic for a very long time is that the Republicans like to throw around the L word when it comes to us and that we are tax-and-spenders. Honestly, first of all, that certainly is incorrect. But beyond that, what has been equally, if not more, irresponsible since they have been stewards of this economy is the borrow-and-spend philosophy that they have engaged in, because during the Clinton years there was a surplus. We were only arguing over what we were going to do with that surplus. And now we don't have the ability to talk about that. So how much we are borrowing and dipping into our reserves, so to speak, other people's reserves, is really inappropriate.

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Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Thank you, because, you know, the concept of the debt and the deficit is kind of hard to get your mind around sometimes because the numbers are so big and the concepts are somewhat complex. So we always try, in our 30-something hours, to translate these concepts into what it means to everyday people. So let us just talk about the interest payments on the debt that we owe to these countries that Mr. Meek slapped up on our Nation's map.

What we could do with the money, just on the interest payments, just the interest payments on the debt that we pay for veterans: we could be spending about $35 billion, billion with a B, more money on services for our Nation's veterans.

We could be spending about $20 billion on homeland security. Billion with a B. Certainly we could dedicate all that money to port security, because we spent about $18 billion since 2001 and 9/11 on airport security. I think we could probably equal it out just with the interest payment on the debt.

Let us take a look at education. We are seriously underfunding the No Child Left Behind Act and preventing children from getting themselves prepared for the path that they choose in life. And we could take just the interest payments on the debt and spend that on education. That would be about $75 billion for education. Or we could continue to spend it on the interest, which is now at $250 billion.

Let us take it a little bit further and translate that even more specifically. What else could the government do with the interest that the country pays every day on this publicly held debt?

We could invest $1 million a day in every single congressional district. Now, I think all 435 of us could find something good we could do to improve the quality of people's lives with $1 million a day.

We could provide health care to almost 80,000, 79,925 more veterans in this country. And we know each of us in our districts hears from our veterans about the pitiful health care services that they are receiving and the struggle that they have in just getting an appointment to get health care from the Veterans Administration.

We can enroll 60,790 more children in the Head Start program, which we are going in the wrong direction in right now and enrolling fewer because we are not funding it adequately.

Or we could improve the solvency of Social Security, which this President has said is in crisis. We have differed with his definition of crisis; but even if it is half as big a problem as he says, we can improve Social Security solvency by almost half a billion dollars, just by using the interest that this Nation pays on the national foreign debt that other countries hold.

Now, if you went to a town hall meeting in each of our districts and asked our constituents, and the three of us have a diverse constituency. We represent all different kinds of folks between the three communities that we represent. Universally, they would prefer that that money be available to be spent on these items rather than making interest payments on debt that we owe to foreign countries.

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Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Yesterday the amazing thing about this whole port deal that you are alluding to, in the Financial Services Committee we had an opportunity to question the representatives of the administration. Do you know that they testified that six different entities within the White House were aware of the proposal to close this Dubai Ports World deal, and the President still did not know about it, with six of his offices in the White House knowing about it? No explanation in committee for why that happened.

Really, this picture says it all. We are essentially outsourcing America's security to a foreign-government-owned company. We are not talking about just a foreign company.

I think I can tell you that I recognize that we are not going to shut down foreign companies from owning and operating facilities in our Nation's ports. We are a global economy now. But is it appropriate to allow foreign governments to have intimate knowledge about America's security in our ports and run the terminal operations inside those ports? Overwhelmingly, I think Republicans and Democrats in Congress are saying ``no.'' Why is the President saying ``yes''? This is a person who supposedly thinks that America's national security should be a priority. It has left Americans scratching their heads.

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Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. It is indifference, Mr. Ryan. It is indifference, that there is a total disconnect between what the American people care about and understand are their needs and what this administration and this President understand.

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