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Public Statements

National Debt and Spending

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. PALMER. Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Arkansas for putting together this Special Order and for those excessively kind compliments.

The budget should present a vision to the American people and should reflect how the American people approach their own finances. As of late, we simply have not governed according to the standards that the average American governs by.

While we have reduced deficit spending over the last few years, the fact is that we continue to spend more than we take in, adding billions more to our burgeoning debt.

This budget provides us with an opportunity not to repeat the mistakes of the past. Democrats and Republicans can find common ground to get our fiscal house in order.

I want to point out three commonsense solutions to the financial crisis that we face.

First, we can reform the Medicare payment system. Medicare currently uses more than a dozen different payment systems to set payment rates for medical items and services that the program covers for beneficiaries.

The location where someone receives a service determines which payment system applies. Republicans and the President believes this should be corrected. According to the President's own budget, a site- neutral system would save $10 billion over 10 years.

Second, the General Accountability Office has identified $125 billion in improper payments made in 2014. This is where the government sends a check to someone not entitled to it.

The GAO attributes about 65 percent of this to just three programs: Health and Human Services' Medicare fee-for-service, Medicaid, and the Treasury's earned income tax credit. Just three programs account for almost $81 billion per year in improper payments.

Combined, if we are averaging about $100 billion a year in improper payments over this 10-year window that we always talk about with the budget, that is $1 trillion.

Some of these payments are being sent to dead people. Certainly, no one should be opposed to correcting this problem. The GAO points out that interagency communication is not at its finest, but also that there are major errors within the Social Security Administration's death data. Some files show a person's death preceding their recorded birth date. Others show age of death between 115 and 195.

According to the ``Guinness World Records'' book, in the modern age, the oldest person ever lived to the age of 122. If Social Security's records are correct, they need to inform the Guinness World Records that someone outlived Ms. Jeanne Louise Calment by 73 years.

If we could eliminate these erroneous payments just based on what was paid out in 2014, as I pointed out, that is over $1 trillion in 10 years. I think we can all agree that that would be a great start toward getting our fiscal house in order.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, I am not an advocate of more taxes, but we could do a better job of collecting those that are actually due. As of September 30, 2014, the Internal Revenue Service's total tax debt inventory was $380 billion, which is a 23 percent increase since 2009. This is $380 billion in uncollected taxes.

I think it is safe to assume that we would prefer not to have our hard-earned dollars taken from us, but I also think it is safe to assume that the average person would be disgusted to hear that, while they are paying taxes, others are failing to pay theirs.

One other thing that we could do in the area of tax reform, since I brought that up, is corporate income tax. It is estimated that there are more than $2 trillion in revenues that are being held offshore that could be repatriated to this country if we lowered our corporate income tax rate, which could, again, provide a substantial flow of revenue to help us address our deficits and pay down our budget.

All this is to say that we need to be more efficient in collecting what we owe and spending what we collect. The budget process is where we can begin to get our fiscal house in order.

Just in these examples, there are over $1 trillion in savings from eliminating waste, fraud and abuse, and making some sensible reforms. Not only can we balance the budget without increasing spending, we can have a surplus. Let's work together and use these commonsense solutions to restore our fiscal house.


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