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Remarks by Senator Tom Coburn at the Americans for Prosperity Summit

Location: Washington, DC


SEN. COBURN: It is great to be with you here. I want to thank you for participating in our country. The way we solve the problems that are in front of us -- and they're the greatest in my lifetime -- they're not insolvable, but they're insolvable if we leave the solutions to Washington. And they have to change, and there has to be a culture change in this country.

You know, January 1st is DD-Day. George Will penned that just this week. Demographic Deluge Day; the first of the baby boomers will start taking Social Security. What does that mean to us? That means that we've got $79 trillion worth of unfunded liabilities out there, 79 trillion (dollars). If you divide that up over our next generations that come, each child born today is responsible for $400,000 of that unfunded liability. The Americans for Prosperity doesn't stand for $400,000 worth of liabilities for our children, and we can change that. And the way we change that is changing the culture of Washington.

You know, I heard one of the presidential candidates that was speaking prior to me. He said the time is to end anonymous earmarks. It's wrong, the time is to end earmarks in total. Not anonymous earmarks, all earmarks. (Applause.)

The assumption -- the assumption on earmarks is that Washington knows better than you know. The other assumption is a state can be healthy if the country isn't, and that's not true. We come together as a nation, and our health depends on our nation as whole being healthy fiscally, spiritually and emotionally. And we need real leadership on those issues.

You know, I'm reminded of a story of the group of kids that went to the post office, and they saw the 10 most wanted poster, and there happened to be an FBI agent coming through.

And the postmaster said, "Would you explain what this is to these kids? And one of the kids said, "Well, are these dangerous?" And he said, "Yes." And, "Are you going to catch him?" He said, "Yes." And then this little girl -- this little 8-year old girl raised her hand, she said, "I don't understand. Why didn't you keep them when you took their picture?" (Laughter, Applause.)

We need to take -- we need to take the picture of what we have in the U.S. Congress today and reject it out of hand because of the behavior. Earmarks are the gateway drug to overspending in this country. And they are an addictive habit that causes politicians to think in the short term about their next election instead of thinking in the long term and about the next generation. And that has to happen. (Applause.)

My hope -- my hope is that as you hear the presidential candidates, that you'll look for somebody who wants to do this: they want to take on the Congress of the United Sates and they want to reform it. And they want to veto every piece of junk that comes out of there that isn't thinking about the long term of our country.

And if they'll do that -- (applause) -- they may lose in Washington, but whoever the president is that does that can go around this country and we can change the Congress, simply on the basis of standing up to the short-term, self-serving political interests that are there today. That's what you all are about. That's what we have to change. That's how you can make a difference. (Applause.)

We did 49 hearing in a subcommittee last year -- oversight hearings in the federal financial management oversight. We found $200 billion worth of waste, fraud, abuse and duplication. Not one of those findings have been acted on by Congress. Now why is that? Two- hundred billion dollars.

The important thing is out of the 49 oversight hearings in the Senate that we held in my subcommittee, that was more oversight hearings than all the rest of the Senate combined. So we don't have one problem we can't fix with courageous, moral leadership that's based on the future of this country rather than the future of the political careers of the members of the bodies of Congress.

You play an important role in that. I want to bless you in what you're doing. I want you to grow, I want you to communicate, I want you to continue to be active because your activity, your activism and your ability to hold members of Congress accountable is what's going to change. We're not winning the battle in Washington right now, but we're winning the battle among the hearts and minds of the American people. They get it, Washington doesn't get it. And all it is is simple common sense. You have a metric on everything you do. If it's not working, you don't continue doing it. We haven't gotten that here.

You continue to do what you do. Ask the questions of these presidential candidates. Will you eliminate all earmarks? And will you challenge Congress to be faithful with the small so that they can have the responsibility to fix the big problems -- Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid.

God bless you all. Thank you for what you do. (Applause.)

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