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Crisis Facing America

Floor Speech

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Location: Washington, DC

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under the Speaker's announced policy of January 5, 2011, the gentleman from Missouri (Mr. Akin) is recognized for 60 minutes as the designee of the majority leader.

Mr. AKIN. Mr. Speaker, it is a treat to be able to join you tonight, my colleagues and friends, and to talk about a great crisis that our Nation is facing. It is becoming increasingly apparent to Americans not only that we have a problem with unemployment and jobs, but we have a problem with the Federal budget and the deficit and the spending and the taxing--all of those things that go into an economy.

These problems are far more significant than I think many Americans are aware. I would like to talk about that tonight and to keep it fairly simple, and to let people know, as President Reagan said, while the solution is simple, it is not easy. It requires a great deal of courage.

I am going to start tonight in perhaps an odd way. I am going to ask you, please, to picture that you are either a Senator or a Congressman in 1850 in America. In 1850, you would have noted that there was increasing discussion as the new territories became available, whether they would be allowed to come into our Nation either as a free State or a slave State. It created a lot of political tension between the different Representatives representing different points of view on that subject.

By 1852, the book "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was written. It became a very popular book, and it tended to further inflame the issue, the great question of the day. The question was slavery; what would America do with that question.

By 1857, the Supreme Court, deciding to legislate from the bench, which has always turned out to be a bad idea and beyond their constitutional authority, came up with a decision that came from my State, the State of Missouri. It was called the Dred Scott decision. It said essentially that black people were not people; they were property. But beyond that, it also said to the Congress and to the Senate that they could not make any kinds of deals as to which State would be slave or free because each State could do whatever they wanted.

And so the stage was set as the tensions grew for Abraham Lincoln to be elected to be President. And as he was on the train approaching the capital, leaving Illinois, a number of Southern States seceded from the Union. And almost as though in slow motion, a great locomotive drove off the edge of the cliff pulling the train with it, and America was immersed in a terrible, terrible Civil War. It was a war that was ultimately to claim 600,000 lives. That is more than all the people who are Americans who have been killed in all of the rest of the wars we have fought in our Nation's history. Of course, a statistic like 600,000 may seem to make your eyes glaze over, but then you start to hear the individual and personal stories of people who were horribly touched and families that were destroyed by the horror of the war, and you recall the words of the second inaugural address of Abraham Lincoln and he talked about the fact that the war had been far, far worse than anybody had ever imagined was possible.

That great tragedy, that terrible cost that was paid by our Nation, was a result of a failure of leadership, a failure to deal with a massive fundamental question that everybody knew was there all through the 1850s--the question of slavery. And the failure was not just in the Congress, in the Senate, but it was in the people of the States for being too disengaged and unwilling to take that question head on.

The parallel today, I think, is a little bit frighteningly similar. Today, just as there was in 1850, there is a gorilla in our tent, and that is the problem with the Federal Government spending too much money. So what I want to do is put that in very simple terms not so your eyes will glaze over, but so we get some sort of a sense of balance as to what is going on; because my proposition is that we are spending too much money, the government is spending too much money, and it is unsustainable.

Now, this is something that many thoughtful liberals, as well as conservatives, agree is true. There is disagreement as to what to do about it. But the numbers are the numbers. There is something about mathematics that is that way. And that is what we are going to talk about: the simple view of what the numbers are today and why. This is a crisis that we must address. We cannot ignore the gorilla in the tent. This is something that all Americans must become aware of and must be participants in solving the problem.

As we do that, the jobs will return. America will hold her head high again; and almost, as a ship with a big wave breaking across the deck, the ship will shake loose the water that threatens to push it to the bottom and lift its bow in pride and sail further on.

So what I am going to do is just take a look at some stuff that sometimes politicians talk about in gobbledygook-speak and try to make it simple.

We have here a picture of all the things that the Federal Government is spending money on. It's your old classic pie chart. And I have over here Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. You can see that's a pretty big piece of the chart. These things are called entitlements by politicians. An entitlement--I'm an unfortunate engineer that ended up in politics--is sort of like a little machine that's created by law. The machine might have been created 30 years ago and it's a little bit like the machine in the bathroom which you put your hand in front of it and it spits out paper towels, except this machine spits out dollar bills. The entitlement is like a little machine. It's put on a track and off it goes spitting out dollar bills. So anybody who qualifies gets money. These programs--Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid--if you qualify, you just get money.

There are other entitlements as well. In addition to other entitlements, there is something that acts an awful lot like an entitlement and that's the interest on our debt. When we sell a Treasury bill, the person that bought it expects to be paid interest, and so the Treasury bill acts like a little machine. It spits out dollar bills at the appropriate intervals.

The point is that if you add these entitlements here, the other entitlements, and you take the net interest on our debt and you put that together, it comes up to $2.2 trillion. What does that mean, anyway? $2.2 trillion is bigger than I can understand, but we can compare it to something else, and that is the revenue of the Federal Government. That is, when everybody in America pays their taxes, the money comes into Washington, D.C., that's our revenue. The revenue is $2.2 trillion. So the entitlements and debt service at $2.2 trillion is the same thing as our revenue.

Well, what's left over to pay for national defense? And what's left over to pay for the rest of the running of the government? This other non-defense discretionary would be things like the Congress and the Senate buildings, would be the Federal prisons, the Federal parks, Departments of Energy and Commerce and Justice and Education, all those different things. Those are this non-defense.

In other words, what I'm saying is this. If you zero out defense, so there's not a soldier left, not a rifle, not a ship, not a plane left and zero out everything else in the Federal Government, when you zero those out, you now have a balanced budget. Because entitlements and debt service are taking every last penny we get in revenue. That is a serious problem.

I am joined by a very good friend of mine from Louisiana, a man who is growing in stature and feared, loved and respected, my good friend Steve Scalise from the great State of Louisiana.

Please join us, Steve.

Mr. SCALISE. I thank my good friend from Missouri. When we talk about feared and loved, I'm not sure where we fit in, but I do think it's important----

Mr. AKIN. The feared is because of the people who want to whitewash what was going on with that big oil spill and the fact that you got on it and told people the truth; and I respect that. Thank you, sir.

Mr. SCALISE. Thank you.

That's the beauty of the people's House. I think what you're doing, you hold this weekly town hall forum, as we call it, to talk to the American people about what really is happening here in the people's House, in the Congress, and how it affects people all across this country. Of course, I had three town hall meetings last week when I was back in my district, when Congress had finished dealing with one part of this budget problem.

I think when you talk about what's wrong with the spending, how out of control spending is in Washington, we had taken some action 2 weeks ago to say it's finally time to start righting the ship. Speaker Pelosi had the reins of the House of Representatives for 4 years. Of course during that 4 years that Speaker Pelosi was running the House, we saw unbridled runaway spending and record deficits, to the point where we now have a $1.5 trillion deficit.

One thing that she left behind that we're dealing with is the fact that Speaker Pelosi didn't even bring a budget to the House floor last year so there was not even a budget, when families across this country had their own family budgets and families and small businesses are dealing with their crises and shortfalls by cutting spending.

Mr. AKIN. Let me interrupt for just a second, gentleman, because you're bringing up a whole lot of additional facts and things. Let me try and put this in perspective.

In 1974, we came up with a budget act, and every year since 1974, there was a budget here in this House. You might have liked it, you might not have liked it, but there was a budget, anyway, for what's going to go on in terms of Federal spending. Last year, under Speaker Pelosi, there was just no budget. None. And so what a lot of people see us dealing with now, and I think you're getting to this point, and that is the fact that we're doing what you do in the Federal Government when you don't have a budget and it's called a continuing resolution. I think maybe you were going down that direction.

I yield to my friend.

Mr. SCALISE. You're exactly right, because when we're talking about where we are today, it's important to look at how we got into this mess and the mess that we're trying to clean up, but the fact that historically last year Speaker Pelosi failed to even bring a budget to the floor when she was Speaker and so there was no budget that was passed.

What that means is, like I said, while families are putting together their own budgets and families and businesses are dealing with the problems in the economy and shortfalls and they're cutting back and doing more with less, the Congress didn't even pass a budget. And so under Speaker Boehner now as we've got this new Republican majority here, we came up with a plan to fund the government for the rest of the year, but to fund it in a way that actually started cutting spending. I think one of the big problems that's been out there for a long time, things that you and I want to deal with, we want to cut spending and start putting our country back on a path to a balanced budget.

And so we had this debate 2 weeks ago in the House where we said, okay, we want to be responsible about funding government, but that means we've got to start making real cuts. You can't just keep spending at the rate you're spending with the deficits that go along with it. We've got to start cutting so that this pie that you showed actually starts getting addressed and shrunk in a way that the Federal spending starts getting closer to matching the amount of revenue that's coming in.

Mr. AKIN. If I could piggy-back in and jump to what you're saying.

A couple of weeks ago, we had basically a budget on the floor of the House. But the budget, interestingly enough, is what's called the discretionary side. So the budget was for this green, the defense, and this--what is that?--tomato soup. Maybe it's Campbell's tomato soup. This is the non-defense discretionary. So the budget only dealt with this section and we were making cuts to that section.

What, of course, you have to ask yourself is, how about all this other stuff? Of course, this wasn't touched.

So proceed, please, because I think it's a good story. People need to understand what we're working on was the first thing we had to work on which was the fact there wasn't any budget that we're running on, and so we're trying to put a budget together for between now and October 1, if I recall, sir.

Mr. SCALISE. And so finally, to address the real problem in the country with this runaway spending, what we said under both Speaker Boehner and then chairman of Appropriations Committee Hal Rogers is that we've got to stop the bleeding. We've got to start cutting spending. And we brought a bill to the floor that allowed for $100 billion in cuts. That's billion with a B. Real cuts to spending at the Federal level to finally start that process. By no means is this the finished product, but it was the first start of the process of finally getting spending under control.

That bill came to the floor. We had a lot of debate. An open process. Any Member could bring an amendment to that bill. I brought an amendment to get rid of a bunch of these czars, these czars that are killing jobs in our country, that are getting paid millions of dollars to go out there and try to implement radical policies that run jobs to China and India and other places. That amendment passed. A lot of good amendments passed to cut spending, but ultimately we set a new tone. We said, number one, we're going to put our money where our mouth is. We promised that if we get the reins of power in the House, that we would actually really start cutting spending. So we cut $100 billion. We sent that to the Senate. And we're almost at 2 weeks past the point where we sent that bill over to the Senate. They still haven't had one ounce, one minute, of hearings or debate on our bill that we sent to them to cut $100 billion in spending.

Mr. AKIN. Why do you think it was that they didn't want to take a look at the bill? They could have brought a bill up the same way. They could have gone through it and said, Well, we don't think they should have cut this much. They should have done this or this or this. They could have made changes on it and gone back and forth, and then we would have a budget for between now and October 1 and we could get on with what should be done this year instead of what should have been done last fall, or actually last year before the fall.

Proceed, please.

Mr. SCALISE. I think it became very clear very quickly just what is at stake here. There was a battle line that was drawn. In fact, as we were debating that bill to cut $100 billion and, as I said, with a $1.5 trillion deficit this year, $100 billion is just a start. Well, President Obama comes out and actually starts criticizing us for cutting $100 billion. He said $100 billion is too much. Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, said $100 billion is too much to cut. Again, we're saying $100 billion is just the beginning. We've got to cut more than $100 billion. And so you quickly saw a divide. There is a divide right now in Washington. I don't think there's a divide in this country. I think most people, people I talk to when I go back home to south Louisiana, my colleagues that I talk to that are going back home and having town hall meetings, meeting with their constituents, families and small businesses are saying, it's about time that we're finally seeing real cuts coming out of Washington, but yet the President and the Senate leader that were saying $100 billion is too much to cut. And so we've sent them $100 billion, but what's at stake here, it's not just getting spending under control, it's getting jobs created again in America.

One of the reasons we are seeing such stagnant job growth in this country is due to the uncertainty that is created by the runaway spending. These are interlinked issues--the spending problem in Washington and the problem with the slow economic recovery--because people are afraid to create jobs. Our job creators are under attack by Federal bureaucrats, who are bringing out all these regulations every single day to kill jobs.

We are seeing in my home State, in south Louisiana, where the administration doesn't even want to explore for energy in America. They've only issued one permit in 10 months to drill. In fact, now we're looking at the Middle East. We're putting more dependence in this country on Middle Eastern oil, under the Obama administration, at a time when the Middle East has never been in more disarray, which is why people are seeing over $3.20 or so a gallon at the pump. It's because of the President's own policies. This is killing jobs. It's not only running more jobs overseas, but it's also raising the prices of energy and gasoline for families.

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