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Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for Fiscal Year 2012

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. LANKFORD. Mr. Chairman, I would like to also continue on this same conversation. The central question that we have to answer is do we have a debt and deficit problem in America or do we have a spending problem in America? Words like balanced approach, investment in America's future, and the often quoted ``shared sacrifice'' confuse the real issue. The focus of the House of Representatives is not about just reducing the deficit; it is about reducing spending so we can pay off the debt that we have.

Raising taxes on Americans now would be like the man who ran up a huge credit card bill and then went to his boss to tell him that he needed a raise to pay off his bills. His boss would most likely respond, You don't need a raise. You need to get your family on a budget and cut your spending to what is essential.

For the past 50 years, the Federal Government has taxed Americans at around 18.5 percent of GDP, no matter what the rate is. The current proposal from the President suggests a tax requirement closer to 22 percent of GDP. To close the deficit gap, all income taxes will have to double or corporate taxes will have to increase five fold. A tax increase on the wealthy may make some people feel better that they're sticking it to the man; but, historically, tax increases only lead to more government spending. And, ultimately, it will not solve the debt crisis.

Washington likes handing out other people's money for noble causes. Here is a novel idea: How about dealing with our existential problem? We spend too much. In 2009, 140,000 new Federal employees were hired. During the previous 10 years there was no change in employment in the Federal Government. The number of Federal contractors has increased 25 percent since 2006. In 4 years, discretionary spending has increased 25 percent. In that same 4 years, Medicare and Medicaid spending has increased by 50 percent. None of that includes the special TARP or stimulus funding, which would make the cost to the taxpayers even higher.

We cannot spend our way to prosperity. We have to get back to getting a handle on our debt and deficit and our basic spending. The reason the House budget has gained so much traction is that it does what Americans know in their gut must be done. It cuts spending.

Finally, someone is saying what many have felt. We cannot solve the budget problems quickly without significant spending changes.

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Mr. LANKFORD. This is a little surreal to walk in the Chamber and be able to hear that somehow Republicans are interested in throwing old people off the bridge and that somehow old people--that we're focused on all of these things: that we hate those in poverty, and we hate our own parents, and we hate all of these other things.

In reality, as a newcomer walking into this body, I walk into a Chamber saying, We came to get things done. And the driving factor that I walked in this Chamber with is the reality that we have $14 trillion in debt. Now, that's hard to be able to wrap your head around, $14 trillion in debt. So the way I try to wrap my head around it is with an old illustration from me personally.

I remember being 9 years old watching the Voyager spacecraft take off and thinking it will take forever for the Voyager spacecraft to get all the way up to Saturn and to Jupiter. It would take all of 10 years to get out there. But I remember when those pictures were done, and they were sent back, and how significant they were.

Now, just imagine this: in 1977 when the Voyager 1 spacecraft took off, if it started dropping a dollar a mile from the time it took off, how long would it take it to drop $14 trillion? Now, remember, the Voyager spacecraft has been out 34 years. It is still operating. It has left the solar system now. It is past Pluto, headed out of the solar system. If it dropped a dollar a mile since the time it took off, it will drop $14 trillion 41,801 years from now. A spacecraft that's already flown out of our solar system will have to continue flying at the same speed another 41,801 years from now.

It is surreal for us to stand here and to be able to not take seriously the amount of spending that we do and how out of control we really are. This is not just a tax problem. This is a long-term issue that's not Republican and Democrat. We have both spent too much money. It is time for us to pull our own budget back and to take this seriously.

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Mr. LANKFORD. Madam Chair, the House budget that we're proposing tonight from Republicans is a budget that will take discretionary spending back to the pre-2008 level and begin to deal with our spending issue that we have as a Nation. We have increased our discretionary spending 25 percent over the last 2 years. We're trying to move it back to where we were a few years ago and then allow that to be able to grow with inflation.

We're focusing on freezing in the Federal workforce. It's a recommendation done by the President's own debt commission. And taking that issue on that the President and the debt commission gave to say, how do we need to handle our Federal workforce? It has increased by 140,000 just in a single year. And it begins to walk through the process of what do we do with our social safety net to make sure that the social safety net is still there in the years to come.

We believe there needs to be a social safety net, but as our chairman has said multiple times, that social safety net should be a safety net and not a hammock. And it should allow people to be able to go through that process to find a safe place and a safe harbor for a period of time until they're able to get back on their feet. That's a good thing for us to be able to do as Americans, and we need to find ways to be able to protect that in the days to come.

But part of the struggle that we have with that is finding ways that that doesn't become a place where people are trapped indefinitely. So we would like to be able to implement some of the reforms of the Clinton-era time when temporary assistance for needy families was transitioned in, and it has become such a great success on helping families be able to transition into work. The best way we can take care of families that are in the poverty area is not through a program from the government; it is with a great job so they have great self-esteem and they can be engaged and be a part of our ongoing economy.

The President's own debt commission made the comment that the Nation is broke, and what we need to do is focus on reducing spending and dealing with how we handle what we do as a Nation and what we're trying to accomplish.

As far as the issues about Medicare, we've been very clear through this process. We're dealing with Medicare changes for those that are 54 years old and younger. And for those that are in poverty and facing disability, those individuals would have full coverage, and as they're more wealthy, yes, we would means test that. We have an expectation that wealthier senior adults would be able to help cover more of their own Medicare; but for those that are in poverty or near the poverty range, they would be supplemented more to make sure that we're taking care of them, and it would be a guaranteed coverage like they have now so that they don't have to worry about not being able to get Medicare. They would be able to have it, and that would be secured for them.

We have one more major thing that we've all discussed. We all want taxes to be more simple in the process. Tomorrow is April 15, all of our favorite day in America, dealing with the taxes and dealing with the process. And it's not a matter of being a great citizen. It's just a matter of going through the tax forms. We need to simplify this process and make it more flat, more level and more fair for people across the board. So that's a major part of it. We're not talking about raising taxes $6 trillion. We're talking about keeping tax rates where they are and finding a way to be able to honor people and honor families.

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