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Mr. COBURN. Madam President, I wished to come to the floor to talk about two or three subjects. The first is to issue an apology to the majority leader. I do not apologize for my frustration with this place, but occasionally my words are harsh and inaccurate. This past week, I used words that were inappropriate in describing his actions in the Senate, and for that I offer a public apology.
I do not apologize for how I think the Senate is being run and the damage that I think is being done to the country, but as an individual, he has a very difficult time and I understand that and to him I ask his forgiveness.
Madam President, if I was coming to the floor with intelligence about an imminent threat to our national security, Americans would demand that our government and this body take immediate action. If an Army was on our border,
if missiles were about to be launched at our territory or if there were a terrorist plot in motion, doing anything less than us uniting in the face of that threat and taking decisive action would be seen as cowardice and foolishness.
Yet that is precisely where we are today, which brings me to my frustration with the majority leader. The threat, though, does not come from traditional armies or terrorists, the threat comes from our unsustainable spending and this body's refusal to unite and take action. It is not just the conservatives who are sounding the alarm, the warnings are coming from our military leaders, diplomats, and statesmen on both sides of the aisle, as well as the international financial community.
ADM Mike Mullen, the retired Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, while he was still Chairman, said the greatest threat to this Nation is its debt. We have done not one thing since January to address that problem. We are having spats over judges. We are having spats over all the small things. But the greatest imminent danger to our country, we are doing nothing about. I believe we have less than 2 to 5 years to act to make a significant change in our path.
No one knows when this Nation will cross the point of no return. We may have already. But there is a point where we will lose control of our own destiny. It is coming. The fact that the Senate, this year, has had fewer votes than at any time since 1947, according to the Congressional Research Service--why is that? Because we have a political year. We don't want to take votes. We don't want to have to explain to our constituencies why we voted yea or nay on something. So the whole goal is to not vote.
Ultimately, the whole goal is to not address the very pressing issues facing this country. What do you think is going to happen to the Defense Department with no Defense authorization bill? They are in la-la land. Where do they go? We are not going to give them the direction with which to spend the largest discretionary amount of money in our government--$600 billion. They are going to be coasting, flying by the seat of their pants. They are not going to have radar or anything. There is not going to be any stealth. Yet we refuse to do that.
We have spent a larger amount of time in quorum calls--37 percent of the time this year--nothing but quorum calls. Less than one-third an amount of the time available to the Senate has actually been on the business associated with the country, and most of the business we have addressed isn't this critical risk in front of our country.
Last week, Vanguard, the largest private owner of U.S. bonds--$186 billion they own of U.S. bonds--said we have until 2016 to act. If we don't act, we will go into a debt spiral. Bond investors will revolt, they will drive up prices--drive up interest rates and drop prices. We already know from CBO that the entitlement programs are on the brink of insolvency. Social Security disability--we have added 3.2 million people to those rolls since January 1, 2009. That system will be bankrupt in less than 18 months; 8 1/2 million people depend on that. And there has not been a comment from the leadership in addressing a trust fund that will be out of money in less than 18 months.
Our Founders believed that republics that lived beyond their means don't survive. They talked about it. History is full of examples. Europe is reminding us of that today. The euro in Europe, as we know it, is on its deathbed. Every month, every week there is a new set of resuscitative efforts that are not working. What is the real problem? The real problem is they spent money they didn't have on things they didn't need.
If you want to see what America will look like in 2 or 3 years, just look at Europe. Look at the demonstrations, look at the crying out of the masses to say: How did we get here? The pain of fixing it is too great. That is why we should be addressing our problems now.
The reason America looks good is that we are the least wilted rose in the bud vase. The only reason we look good is because they look so bad. We are at 103 percent debt to GDP. It is costing us at least 1.2 million jobs in new job creation every year. We are at historical interest rates. Our interest costs per year would be over $1 trillion. The interest rates are falsely low because of what the Federal Reserve has done.
The price to pay for that is coming in the future. What is the contrast? I ask seniors all the time: Do you think we ought to save Medicare?
They say: Yes.
I say: Do you think we ought to save Medicare just like it is.
They say: Yes.
I say: If we save Medicare just like it is, do you know that your grandchildren will have a standard of living that will be one-third lower than yours was?
Then they say: No.
America is used to doing hard things. It is just that the Senate right now will not do the hard things, will not come together, will not make the sacrifices. We value our positions more than we value the country we live in. The consequences are showing.
We have an 8.2-percent unemployment rate. If we use the same statistics we used in 1980, our unemployment rate is above 9.6 percent--just measuring it the same way we did it 32 years ago. Now that we are measuring it differently, we don't see the real impact.
Today we are dangerously close to a global great depression. Let's remember the last time the world saw a great depression. That depression was a leading cause of the global war that killed 60 million people--2.5 percent of the world's population. Do we dare go down that path by putting politics ahead of principle and policy?
Fortunately, many of our leaders see this threat and are calling on us to take action. Consider this exchange between former Secretary of State James Baker and current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last month on ``The Charlie Rose Show'':
I know one thing. We are broke. We can't afford wars anymore. We can't afford a lot of things, and the biggest threat facing the country today is not some threat from the outside--Iran, nuclear weapons, or anything else--it's our economy. We better darn well get our economic house in order because the strength of our Nation has always depended upon our economy. You can't be strong politically, militarily, or diplomatically if you are not strong economically.
He is giving us a foreshadow of what is coming.
Secretary Clinton said this in response:
Well, amen to that, because I have had to go around the world the last 3 1/2 years reassuring many leaders both in the governments and the business sectors of a lot of countries that the United States was moving forward economically, that we were not ceding our leadership position, and that we are as powerful as ever. But we recognized that we had to put our economic house in order.
If former Secretary Baker and Secretary Clinton can agree, why can't we? They both see the same thing. The only problem is we haven't put our economic house in order.
I know it is the Senate majority leader's position to try to protect both his incumbent President and his Members. I know that conventional wisdom says we cannot get anything done in an election year. But I want to tell you that isn't good enough anymore--not good enough for the country. The country deserves better.
By doing nothing, we are pushing our children and grandchildren off a fiscal cliff. By doing nothing, we are guaranteeing the very tax increases and cuts in entitlements that both sides say they want to avoid.
If you are an unemployed American right now or someone struggling to make ends meet, when is the right time for us to act? Is it a perfect political moment that is always a mirage beyond the horizon of the next election or is it today or this week? The American people have lost their confidence in us because we refuse to act even as we call on others to do things that we will not do ourselves.
Today we are asking our soldiers to risk their lives for our country. Why can't we do the same? Why are we allowed to play it safe when we ask others to make the ultimate sacrifice--especially when we as elected leaders have so much less at stake.
I believe the American people want us to do hard things and will actually reward us for demonstrating leadership and courage. The problems before us today can all be solved, but delay means the pain that comes with the solution is much greater. Yet to delay-- that is the path we have chosen in the Senate; that is the path the President has chosen--to not face the real issues, the coming and impending bankruptcy of Medicare, and the fact that the average Medicare couple will take three times more out of Medicare than what they put in, and the fact that the baby boom generation will overwhelm the trust fund that pays the hospital bills the worst-case scenario is that in 4 years the Medicare trust fund will be bankrupt. I know that sounds like a lot of things. Let me show the American people some examples.
We hear mindless, partisan rhetoric about which side is to blame, just like the debate we heard before the vote on Judge Bacharach. The truth is both sides are to blame, both Republicans and Democrats, when Republicans had the chance to restore limited government, and we helped double the size of government.
Meanwhile, the leaders today--their chief complaint is we didn't overspend enough. I know the Senate majority leader has a tough job and the burden of leadership, but he is refusing to accept the responsibility that is truly ours today. This Congress will be measured by our actions.
At the end of this week, for 5 weeks, the Senate is going to take off, and we are going to be just like Rome. Actually, what should happen to every Senator as we leave this place at the end of the week, we should each be handed a fiddle so we can all fiddle while the government and the financial situation and the economic chaos that is ours today grows unabated.
Real leadership isn't about being right, it is about doing the right thing. We are not doing the right thing in the Senate today. We are not reforming the Tax Code that is 90,000 pages and takes 110,000 IRS employees to administer. We are not addressing the impending bankruptcy of Medicare. We are not assuring the solvency of Social Security and increasing payments for those on the very low end of the totem pole. We are not addressing the key issues facing our country.
Why are we here if we are not going to address those issues? We are addressing every issue but those. Again, it is evident my frustration is high. I want the Senate to return to the body it was when I first came here. I think we can do that. I think Senator Reid can lead us to do that. Every day we waste, every day we are not fixing the real problems, the disease that faces our country means we are responsible for a significant increase in the pain and disruption that is coming. Let it not be so.
I yield the floor.
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