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Increasing the Debt Limit

Location: Washington, DC

INCREASING THE DEBT LIMIT -- (House of Representatives - November 16, 2004)


Mr. KIND. My colleague from Tennessee has been a real voice of reason on the committee as well as the ranking member of the Committee on the Budget for trying to inject a little voice of reason in this whole fiscal responsibility debate that we need to have in this Congress and throughout this Nation. Because it is staggering, looking at these numbers and what the administration is coming back to Congress and asking for this week, another huge increase in the debt ceiling limit.

There are a lot of ramifications to what the President is requesting us to do this week in increasing the debt by addressing the symptom but not addressing the cure that we need to get out of the fiscal mess that has been created in this Nation over the last few years. It is a mess that is spiraling out of control. We see the increased costs and what is happening in Iraq and Afghanistan right now. We are also butting up against an aging population in this country, the so-called baby boomers who are about to begin their massive retirement in a few short years, putting in jeopardy Social Security and Medicare solvency for future generations. And we are not addressing a cure to the solution, one of which the ranking member and those of us on the Committee on the Budget here tonight have been advocating for the last 4 years, and that is reinstituting the budget tools that were in effect in the 1990s, the pay-as-you-go rules, so we maintain balance in the budgeting decisions.

If you are advocating a spending increase or a tax cut somewhere, you have got to find an offset to pay for it to maintain that balance. It worked well in the nineties. It gave us 4 years of budget surpluses, a couple of years in which we were not even touching the Social Security and Medicare trust funds, and all that has been reversed under the current administration and with the leadership of the current Congress.

One of the more disturbing aspects about this whole debt ceiling limit and the fiscal irresponsibility is who we owe it to. Right now, a majority of the debt is owed to foreign interests, Japan being the largest purchaser of government debt today, soon to be surpassed by China as the number one purchaser of our debt in this Nation. I do not believe it is in our best long-term economic interest to be so dependent on China, to be financing our red ink in this country for years to come, because it can wreak havoc on the financial markets in this country if they decide to take their investments somewhere else. That really has not received the attention I think it deserves, given the long-term implications of our dependency now on foreign countries in order to finance the debt that is being accumulated because the current administration is not willing to make the tough decisions to maintain fiscal responsibility around here.

It is going to be an important debate we have this week. There is going to be an increase in the debt ceiling at the end of the day. Those of us who want to reinstitute these rules do not have the votes to do it today, but hopefully with the help of the American people, some who are watching perhaps tonight, we are going to create this synergy that is necessary in this Congress in order to start making these tough decisions again that worked very well in the 1990s and gave us incredible economic prosperity and job growth and an incredible dynamic to help grow the economy which is being lost now based on the decisions that we are seeing.

I thank the gentleman for yielding.


Mr. KIND. Madam Speaker, if the gentleman would yield for one final point.

Mr. SPRATT. I yield to the gentleman from Wisconsin.

Mr. KIND. Madam Speaker, this literally is the ticking time bomb sitting beneath Social Security and Medicare. They do not want to talk about it. They do not want to talk about fiscal solvency and fiscal responsibility that will help shore up Social Security and Medicare for the next 75 years. But this really gets to the crux of it. And later, next year perhaps, in the next session of Congress, we are going to have a serious discussion about Social Security reform. I think the best reform measures we can start taking today is instilling a little more fiscal discipline in the budgetary decisions so that this $160 billion annual raid on the Social Security trust fund stops and we have that ability to deal with the baby boom generation's retirement, which is about to explode in future years. But, again, it is the lack of leadership right now that we are seeing from the administration and here in Congress that is preventing us from really shoring up Social Security and Medicare as viable programs for many generations to come.

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