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Public Statements

Concurrent Resolution on the Budget, Fiscal Year 2014

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. JOHANNS. Mr. President, I thank the Senator from South Dakota for a nice introduction. I appreciate the opportunity to speak today on the budget that has been proposed by the majority party.

If I might lay a little groundwork, in addition to what the Senator from South Dakota said about me, my time in elected office dates back to 1983. I was first elected to be a county commissioner in Lancaster County. After that, I went to the Lincoln City Council, where I served for a couple of years, primarily because I had concerns about where the budget of the city of Lincoln was headed. I ran for mayor of Lincoln, and I served two terms as mayor of the city of Lincoln in a strong mayor form of government. From there I went to the Governor's office of the State of Nebraska, and from there I went on to become Secretary of Agriculture in the Bush administration, and 4 years ago I joined the Senate after running for election.

I have dealt with government budgets all of my career. I worked on my first budget when I was 32 years old. The one thing I knew was that it had to be balanced or it was not going to work. I have submitted budgets over and over again through those years, all balanced.

But let me focus a little more intently on the State of Nebraska and my time as Governor there. Nebraskans have a very practical approach to spending money. It is very straightforward. If you don't have the money, you don't spend it. It is that straightforward. You see, in our constitution, when the founders of our State wrote our State constitution, they worried about the very thing that is happening with this budget being presented by the majority. They worried that there would be politicians who would figure out that if they just kept borrowing and spending, they could get themselves reelected over and over. But they also realized that was no course for a State, so they put into our constitution that the politicians could borrow $100,000. I suspect that when our constitution was written over 100 years ago, many at that time looked at $100,000 and said to themselves: That is a handsome amount of money. Obviously, in today's world, $100,000 doesn't get you very far. In those years--post-9/11, I might add, when the economy had tanked because of what happened on 9/11--we were not only balancing the budget, we were not borrowing money to do it.

The other thing I would say is this. The Presiding Officer understands this as a former Governor. There was always a day of reckoning for the Governor. It was called the State of the State address, when you would walk into a chamber like this and you would lay out your plan for the State, and every media outlet in the State was there examining every word of the budget you submitted, every single senator was listening to every word you had to say, and if you laid out a plan that did not work or was filled with gimmicks, then the editorials the next day were devastating. You could never do that.

Let me compare that experience over those many years doing those many things with what I am faced with today as a Senator. This is what I am faced with. In order to support this budget, I, a former Governor, mayor, county commissioner, city council member who has balanced every single budget I ever submitted, would have to go home to Nebraskans and say this: My fellow Nebraskans, I just supported a budget that has over a $1 trillion tax increase. I would have to go on to say: That would be on top of the $600 billion tax increase last year.

That would be on top of the $1 trillion of new tax increases in ObamaCare, and that is what I would have to say in order to support this budget to the citizens of Nebraska. I would also have to say to them that notwithstanding the fact that I have balanced your budgets for over 30 years in every budget I ever submitted, our Nation's debt in this budget will grow by $24.4 trillion by the end of the 10-year budget cycle. That is $7.3 trillion in new debt.

Let me just offer a thought on that. One could argue that at my age, age 62, maybe that doesn't mean a lot. After all, the Good Lord willing, I am probably not going to be on this Earth forever. It is just the way it works for human beings. Let me look around and see who is going to pay for this. Well, I know this weekend when I go back home--if we get back home--I am going to see my kids and grandkids. My kids are in their thirties. I am going to see my grandkids who range in age from 5 to 13. I am not going to have to look very far because if I vote for this budget, I am saying to my kids and my grandkids: I hope your life turns out OK because you are taking on, at the end of this 10-year budget window, $24.4 trillion of debt.

Now, let me compare that to how I started my adult life. When I was 20 years old, this Nation owed $380 billion of debt. So what I am saying to my kids and grandkids is I supported this budget, because here is where you are going to end up. You are going to end up starting your adult life with about $25 trillion of debt. I started my life with $380 billion. So when there is a war--which I wish I could say it will never happen, but it does--when there is a flu pandemic, when you want to do something more to educate your children, you are going to be hampered.

They are going to be paying back the debt I ran up during my life if I support this budget. This budget balloons the debt by 42 percent. That is what I will tell my kids and grandkids when I go home this weekend if I vote for this budget.

Net interest on the debt over the 10 years will total $5.2 trillion. What do we get out of that? What can we tell our kids and grandkids they get out of that? Well, they get to pay China back for lending us money. No schools will be built, there are no new teachers who will be hired, and there is no better health care which will be provided. That is just to service the debt our generation is running up.

Our debt, as a percentage of the gross domestic product under this budget, never goes below 90 percent of our economy. Actually, for 4 out of the 10 years it is over 100 percent. Every economist will say if we get into that stratosphere, the warning lights will be going off, the flags will be waving--stop, stop, stop borrowing the money. If I would have suggested anything like this as the Governor of Nebraska or the mayor of Lincoln, I would have been laughed out of the chamber.

Annual deficits. Even with all of the tax increases and gimmicks under this budget, we never get under $400 billion a year in new debt we are taking on. It ranges between $891 billion annually--on top of the nearly $17 trillion we owe today--to $407 billion annually. We never get close to a balance.

Senator Sessions says it so well: Balanced? What is balanced about this? I have been balancing budgets my whole life. This is not balanced. This is crazy. This is insane. This is adding debt to the shoulders of our children and grandchildren who are already up to their eyeballs in debt because of the spending that is going on.

Looking at the spending, it actually increases. Today's budget is $3.6 trillion. Under this budget--if I vote for this--it will go to $5.7 trillion in 2023, and that is a 60-percent increase.

Entitlements. You know what. I am 62 years old and in June I will be 63. Two more years until Medicare, and a little bit after that I will receive Social Security. People have talked about this great benefit that Senators get. Well, I said to a group back in Nebraska, at 65 I am going to get this great benefit. I am not going to have to pay much for it, and it is going to pay for my health care costs until the moment of my death. Everybody was looking at me. Wow, what is that plan? I said: Ladies and gentlemen, it is Medicare.

I said: At a point in my life where I could afford to pay something for it--and I would be happy to do that. I am not the richest person in the Senate, but I am not the poorest either. So I am going to go on this program and pass it on to my kids and grandkids. Is there anybody here who wants to get up and say: My gosh, that is fair.

That is not fair. We should not be doing that. It is not right. What does this budget do to address that problem? Nothing.

In a townhall meeting I was at in Lincoln recently, I said: If you are 62 years old, it is probably going to work out for you. We will probably borrow enough money to get Medicare and Social Security throughout my life. For those 40-year-old Members in the Senate or citizens who come to my townhall meeting, I am sorry, but I cannot make that promise to them. The trustees are telling us we cannot make that promise.

We waited 4 years for a budget from the majority. Year after year the majority leader would come down, stand right there and say: We are not going to be doing a budget this year. I wonder what the city council meeting would have been like if I would have gone down in Lincoln, NE, and said: I have been thinking about this, and I will not be doing a budget this year for the city of Lincoln. As Governor, I cannot imagine walking into our chamber back home and saying: I have been thinking about it, and I will not be doing a budget this year. Justifiably so, the people of the great State of Nebraska would have been looking for a new Governor and trying to figure out how to run the existing Governor out of office. Yet that is what we have been doing for the last 4 years.

We have waited 4 years, and we finally get a budget that does nothing for this country except increase taxes, increase the debt, increase spending, increase borrowing, and lay it off on our kids and grandkids with whom we will all go home and spend time this weekend--if we get out of here. It is not right.

Even the newspapers have figured it out. USA Today says:

Disappointing ..... namby-pamby plan that underwhelms at every turn ..... neither balances the budget or reins in entitlements.

Now, I read the Washington Post, but I have to say, they are not always the most favorable to Republicans, and that is the understatement of the day. Here is what the

Washington Post said: ``Gives voters no reason to believe Democrats have a viable plan.'' Boy, talk about a condemnation of a plan.

The Wall Street Journal said: ``Much higher taxes to fund much higher spending to finance a much bigger government.''

The Hill said: ``The Murray budget does not contain net spending cuts with the sequester turned off.''

I talked at length today about going home and explaining what a ``yes'' vote would mean on this budget. I am not going to do that. I am not going to go home and tell people I voted for this budget. I just want people to know right now that I will be a ``no'' vote on this budget. I will be a ``no'' vote because somebody has to stand for the people who are ultimately going to pay the bill.

We cannot pull the wool over the eyes of Nebraskans. They are just too darn discerning. They do not believe for a moment that all of this debt and spending and taxation is going to be financed by the rich guys. They realize that at the end of the day, this is going to visit home, and this is going to hammer the very people who are out there ranching, farming, running small businesses, and trying to pay their bills and educate their kids so maybe even they can leave a little something behind for the grandkids. That is what we are facing.

We are facing literally a situation where if we don't stand up to this, the day is not very far off where people's Social Security is in jeopardy, their Medicare is in jeopardy, Medicaid is in jeopardy, and we leave our children and grandchildren with this massive pile of debt. There is just no way to deal with it unless we just slam their standard of living and tax the living daylights out of everybody, and that is where this is headed. There is no way I could justify this vote back home.

I proudly announce that today I will be a ``no'' vote on this budget resolution, and I will do everything I can to stop it. It is the wrong course for our country.

I yield back to the Senator from South Dakota.

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