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When the Well Runs Dry: A Bipartisan Approach to Entitlement Reform

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

When the Well Runs Dry: A Bipartisan Approach to Entitlement Reform -- (House of Representatives - January 15, 2009)

Mr. WOLF. Madam Speaker, our financial situation is at a critical mass. Everywhere you look, everything you read, more bad news, no end in sight. Of massive budget shortfalls President-elect Obama has said, ``If we do nothing, we will continue to see red ink as far as we can see.''

Last week, the Congressional Budget Office projected the Federal budget deficit will balloon to $1.2 trillion this fiscal year, and that does not include the economic stimulus package proposed by the incoming administration. These staggering numbers are deeply troubling today and pose a dire choice for our children and our grandchildren.

Simply put, our Nation is slowly going broke. Without a change of course initiated by Congress, we will follow what Comptroller General David Walker characterized as a financial ``tsunami strong enough to swamp the ship of state.'' It will sweep our children and our grandchildren off their feet, leaving far less opportunity for future generations.

Out-of-control spending is not just an economic issue, it is a moral issue also. Is it right for our generation to live very well, knowing that future generations of Americans will inherit a broken system in the form of massive debt, Social Security and Medicare obligations, unsustainable spending and commitments that cannot be kept?

Entitlement spending has such a tight grip on the rest of the Federal Government that every day the 111th Congress waits to act is another day that vital discretionary programs, domestic and international, are in jeopardy. That is what we are facing today.

Everyone, whether you are a Republican or Democrat, should be alarmed. As parents and grandparents, we should care that without adequate resources our children won't receive the first-class education they need to compete in the global market. Already the tests show that one-third of U.S. students lack the competency to perform the most basic mathematical computations.

People should care that scientists at the National Institutes of Health who

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are so close to finding cures for devastating disease might not have the funding they need for medical research and breakthrough clinical trials that will change the way we live. Cancer, Alzheimer's, autism will all remain shortchanged if we do not have the discretionary funding necessary to put together the pieces.

Think about the roads, the highways, the bridges. Our children and grandchildren may wake up in a dismal scene. These scenarios only scratch the surface on how concerned we should be about America's future.

The ramifications of out-of-control spending reach far beyond our shores. I have always believed in the biblical admonition that to whom much is given, much is required, and have supported efforts, as have many in this Congress, to fight global hunger and poverty and disease. For example, U.S. Government funding for global HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria was nearly $20 billion over the last 5 years. The recent 5-year reauthorization commits $50 billion.

While that is good news for millions hurting around the world, it places America in the position of fulfilling a moral obligation to keep these vulnerable populations alive. Yet where will the money come from if America's foreign assistance dollars continue to shrink because the mandatory spending is taking a growing piece of the pie?

Ecclesiastes 5:5 says, ``It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it.'' I fear, Madam Speaker, that the vow will not be able to be fulfilled because of the deficit spending that we have no way to deal with.

The economic stimulus being shaped by the administration offers an opportunity, and Jim Cooper and I have a bipartisan bill, eight Republicans and eight Democrats, that puts all spending on the table and forces, and forces the Congress to act.

Many Members of the Congress go home and love to give the speeches at the Rotary Clubs talking about how bad the deficit is, but yet when they come back to Washington they do nothing about it. So next week, Madam Speaker, I will offer an amendment in the appropriations bill to put the Cooper-Wolf language into law whereby we can get control of this runaway spending.

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