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Making Emergency Supplemental Appropriations For Fiscal Year 2010

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. COBURN. Madam President, would the chairman yield for a question?

Mr. INOUYE. Yes, I will be glad to.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Oklahoma.

Mr. COBURN. The reduction is in overhead expense; it is not in labor. The definition the Senator is using is an across-the-board cut. That is not in this amendment at all. Does the chairman realize that the 5-percent reduction is in overhead--not direct labor, not actual employees, but the management costs to run the different agencies?

Mr. INOUYE. We have looked into that, and I can assure my colleague that all the statements I have made have been verified.

Further, it would eliminate childcare subsidies for 35,000 low-income children and their working families who depend on subsidies in order to be able to work. It would eliminate over 40,000 Head Start slots that provide comprehensive early childhood services to low-income children. It would more than double the number of people waiting on their disability decisions from the Social Security Administration and delay benefits for everyone waiting on a decision. It would eliminate 13 million meals for older Americans, many of whom are low income, disabled, and depend on these meals for the majority of their daily food intake.


Mr. COBURN. Madam President, I am taken aback by the chairman's remarks. We now sit at $13 trillion worth of debt, we have 10 percent unemployment, we are 4 years away from being Greece, and we are going to do what we have always done. The reason we can freeze Federal pay is because there is absolutely no inflation in this country. So instead of giving the raise, we don't. Every private sector business out there today is getting extremely more with less--to the tune that the productivity in the private sector was up 6.8 percent. If we had that same productivity in the Federal Government, we could lose 150,000 employees and do the same thing. But we would not accept what is necessary--the necessary pain--to protect this country for its future.

The chairman mentioned unobligated balances, but he spoke about obligated balances. We are not talking about money that has been obligated; we are talking about hundreds of billions of dollars that is not obligated. Last year, at the end of the fiscal year, there was in excess of $700 billion from the previous year that was unobligated, sitting there.

So it is about managing our money properly. That is like saying if you have $30,000 in a savings account and you want to buy a new home, you are going to leave it there and go borrow $60,000. No, you are going to use part of that to buy your new home. So we have the same approach that is disgusting America: We can't, we can't. What we can do is borrow against the future of our children. That is what this bill does.

So the first time we come out here with two good amendments that will offer a choice for the Senators of this body to actually make a downpayment on change in this country, to make a true downpayment on change, we get the same thing I have heard for 5 1/2 years: We can't.

Let me tell you what we can do. We can cap Federal employees. We have added 180,000 Federal employees in the last 17 months in this country. By the way, their average salary is $30,000 more a year than in the private sector. Their benefits are $40,000 a year, which is twice what it is in the private sector. So capping Federal employees is a great way to start slowing down the growth and cost of government.

If the bureaucracy isn't responding, then it requires management changes rather than adding more people. The worst managers in the world always give the excuse: I need to have more people, rather than: I need to be creative about getting more out of the people I have today.

We need to change the standard under which we operate our government. We need to expect more, and we need to pay less. The American people cannot afford the government we have. We are unaffordable.

The chairman brings to the floor a bill that is more of the same. You can be critical of what we have offered. We don't have the advantages of the staff the chairman has. But this is an honest attempt to pay so we don't charge it to our children.

Notice he didn't say anything about the savings of $4.6 billion for not printing this paper every day that nobody reads but reads on the Internet. Yet we are going to spend $460 million a year printing government reports from this body and the White House that nobody looks at in hard copy. I would assume you would take by unanimous consent that we would cut $4.6 billion from the American Government. We didn't hear about that. That is not one of the bad ideas. We weren't attacked on that.

This Federal Government has to change if our kids are going to have a future. It isn't going to change until we have the courage and the fortitude to start making the hard choices. What the Appropriations Committee has said is that we are not going to make hard choices, we are just going to borrow the money. How many of you think the war is an emergency? How long have we known, or how long have we been in Afghanistan? It is not an emergency. Here on the chart is the definition of our own rules for emergencies. Nothing in this bill meets that except FEMA--nothing. Yet we have the gall to bring to the floor a bill called an ``emergency'' because we don't want to have to pay for it. We don't want to make tough votes or make choices between competing priorities.

We are just kicking the can down the road, and we are kicking the soup that was in the can all over our kids. We lack courage. It is not popular, it is not fun to make the hard choices, but we don't have any leadership that will bring the hard choices. That is why you have this amendment. Had we brought this amendment and we made the choices, we probably would not have gotten much kickback. But we decided we are just going to charge it to our children.

Guess what is coming after this. Another $200 billion that isn't paid for. Since the chairman of this committee voted for pay-go, we have borrowed $173 billion outside of pay-go because we voted and said it didn't count, and we had this wonderful celebration that we are not ever going to borrow money again. We are going to live within pay-go. But every time it has been there, we kicked it down the road. Pay-go means nothing. It means the American people will pay and we will go spend it. That is what it means. That is what this bill does. American people--you kids, you grandkids--you are going to pay, and we are going to go spend it. How are you going to pay? Your standard of living will decline.

This body--Republicans and Democrats alike--is complicit in ruining the
future for our children. It is time we change. We have a committee that makes fun of attempts to try to change things; actually, it stretches the truth. This isn't going to cost one TSA person their job or one FBI person. This government is so fat and so overladen with excess that any smart manager can come in and streamline it and we can save 10 percent and the American people know that.

We have 12 million people on SSI and SSDI. Do you know what we have discovered? We have discovered that 6 out of 100,000 of them are operating commercial vehicles right now, but they are ``disabled.''

We have all sorts of fraud going on. We will not address that. We will not fix that. There is waste--at least $350 billion the American public--maybe not this body--would agree we can cut out of the discretionary in fraud and Medicare tomorrow, and nobody would feel a thing. Yet we have a stoic Appropriations Committee that comes to the Senate floor and tells us we can't pay for it. It is not that we wanted to pay for it, we didn't want to pay for it because the staff on the Appropriations Committee knows where the dollars are, but they weren't told to pay for it. They are not going to be told to pay for the extenders bill that is coming either. What will have happened since February 12 when we passed pay-go? I will tell you what will have happened: $500 billion--$ 1/2 trillion--more in spending that is unpaid for and charged to our kids, and that will happen before July 1. So in 4 1/2 months, after we say we are going to put in the discipline, that we are not going to spend money we don't have, we are going to spend another $ 1/2 trillion.

No wonder the country is sick of Washington. Our behavior causes them to wonder about the future of our country. I don't apologize for offering this amendment. I hope you vote against it because the voters, this time around, are going to be looking at how you vote and whether you are voting to make the hard choices, willing to eliminate things--maybe some things that are good but not as good as what we need to be doing--and make this a priority.

We don't have that courage. My challenge to my colleagues in the Senate is, let's buck up. It is OK to take heat from the special interests, the well-connected and well-endowed. Let's do what is the best and right thing for the country, not the easy thing for us, because this bill, the way it is written now, is easy for us.

With that, I yield the floor.


Mr. COBURN. I thank the Chair.

I want to say I enjoyed very much Senator Kaufman's words, and I agree with him. I think what he talked about and what we are doing for our military in this bill is appropriate. It is something that has to be done. The only difference I would have with him is it is not an emergency. We all know it is not an emergency. The reason it is being classified as an emergency is because we do not want to make the hard choices of getting rid of something else to pay for it, and we do not want to have another violation of pay-go, so what we do is we classify it as an emergency.

The only thing in this bill that is an emergency is the FEMA money. That is the only thing that meets the definition of our own rules for an emergency: unforeseen, unpredictable, and unanticipated. Everything else in this bill is predictable, foreseen, and anticipated. So we are actually violating our own integrity when we bring a bill to the floor and call it an emergency when everybody knows it is not.

Why are we doing that? We are doing that because we do not want to have to live with the rule we set for ourselves called pay-go. I did not vote for pay-go. I do not believe in pay-go because pay-go is exactly what I said it would be when we had the vote. The American taxpayer, you go pay, and we will go spend, and we will not diminish any of our spending, our profligate spending, because of this rule.

Since we have passed the bill on pay-go on February 12 of 2010--that is when it was signed into law--we have borrowed $46 billion and waived pay-go; borrowed $10 billion and waived pay-go; borrowed $99 billion and waived pay-go--that was all in March. We borrowed $18 billion.

This one is not going to count against pay-go because we put a false emergency designation on it, and we have another $190 billion coming to us from the House for extenders, and we are going to waive pay-go on that. So we will have spent $530 billion since February 12 that we do not have, and we refuse to make choices about lower priority programs and eliminating them. That is the truth. Nobody is going to dispute it. You cannot even get anybody to debate you on these things. They will not debate you because they know it is the fact. They will not stand and even counter it because they know it is the fact.

Well, what are the other facts? Here are the other facts: FEMA is broke. Medicare is broke. Medicaid is broke. Fannie and Freddie are broke. Social Security is broke. It is running a negative balance. The U.S. Post Office is broke. The highway trust fund is broke. And guess what. So is the Federal Government. If we are not careful, we are going to add our kids to the list and say they are broke. That is where we are headed: broke. That means our liabilities are greater than our assets. That means the money we have is not sufficient to cover the debts we have.

We have seen this tremendous volatility in the markets over the last 2 weeks. They are upset because they are not sure there is a stable Euro right now. The Euro has dropped from $1.43 in the last 4 months to $1.22. That is a significant decline in that currency. Why is that? Because there is no confidence they are going to be able to solve their problems of being broke, because they are not making the hard choices among priorities that are necessary for them to get out of the problems they face. And we are just starting to see a backstop and IMF demands of Greece--and you are going to see it of many others--that they are going to have to make certain cuts in spending.

We have a couple of choices. We can wait 2 or 3 years, when we are in the same shape, to where the world currency and the world bankers are demanding of us that we make those hard choices or we can start making them now when they are a lot less expensive and a lot less costly.

I know the amendments we have offered have been sent to CBO, and CBO is saying--which tells us another entire problem we have--they cannot score a freeze in Federal salaries. Well, we know it is going to go up $3.1 billion next year if we do not score it, but CBO will not score it. We know regardless of the significant increase we had in our own budgets--4.6 percent--I have averaged turning back more than 400,000 a year. Everybody in this Congress, everybody in this Senate, could do that easily if they wanted to. We have offered $100 million in cuts to our own budgets. That is where we ought to start. If we are going to set an example, we ought to start with our own budget. CBO will not score that either.

Why won't they score it? We are clueless to what the real world is about in terms of spending and budgets. We cannot get a score even though the direction in the amendment is to sell off $15 billion in unused properties and physical plants that we know we do not use that cost us $8 billion a year to maintain. CBO is not going to score that either--so that is not going to be scored as savings--and rescinding unspent and uncommitted Federal funds, of which there is over $350 billion sitting in the bank right now that is unobligated. I am not talking about obligated funds. I am talking about unobligated funds, which says we are going to manage our money better. We are going to make it stream. We are not going to let it sit there for so long. We are not going to borrow the money. We are going to borrow it more on a time-as-needed basis, and we are not going to have as much money sitting in unobligated funds.

We are going to have criticism against our first amendment because CBO does not score it. Do you know what. CBO's accuracy is about as good as mine at throwing a baseball: not very good. I cannot hit the strike zone, and neither do they. That does not mean anything against them because we are giving them lots of unknowns. But we have also set up a set of rules that are designed to not give us what we need to have: the real information. No business, no family operates their budgets with such loose rules.

Where are we going? Here is where we are going right now. This chart shows discretionary spending in the United States since 1999. In 2010--and this is in real dollars; this is not inflation-adjusted dollars; it would not look quite as bad if it were in inflation-adjusted dollars--but we are going from $572 billion to $1.408 trillion. And do you know what. That does not count any of the spending--any of the spending--the $500 billion we are going to pass outside of pay-go. It does not count any of it.

So in a time when our country owes $13 trillion--it is going to over $26 trillion in 9 years; that is the path we are on--we are increasing spending, and we are not paying for any of it. We are not making one hard choice. One of the few things that is paid for in this bill continues to fund a commission we do not even need because we just passed the financial reform bill, and yet we are going to spend $1.8 million on the Financial Inquiry Commission. Why would we do that? You talk about throwing money down a rat hole. Why has the commission continued to meet? We have already decided in all our knowledge and all our wisdom we knew how to fix it, even though we did not even fix the underlying causes for the real collapse: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. We did not address it at all. We did not address leverage ratios.

That is where we are going: $1.4 trillion this year, not counting everything we are passing out of here that is not paid for. What does it mean? We heard Senator McCain talk about generational theft. Here is the face of it. Here is little Miss Madeline. When I first put this picture up in the Chamber less than 7 months ago, it was $38,000. It is now $42,000 per man, woman, and child in this country. That is what they owe individually on our net debt. That is not our gross debt; that is our net debt. The $13 trillion does not represent our real debt. That only represents what we owe outside. It does not represent what we owe ourselves.

So she is at $42,000. Extrapolate the increase from $38,000 to $42,000 every 6 months and see what you get. What you get 20 years from now--if you include unfunded liabilities--Madeline, when she is 24, will owe $1,113,000. That is what she is going to be responsible for. So when we hear somebody talk about generational theft, what they are talking about is robbing opportunity.

If you had a 6-percent interest rate on $1,113,000, it is not hard to figure out that is $66,000 a year in interest that Madeline is going to have to pay before she pays any taxes to run the government, defend the country, pay for Medicare for me and the rest of the people in this room, before she owns a home, before she educates her kids. It is thievery.

How hard is it? How hard is it in a $3 trillion budget for us to find the money--find the money--to pay for this war? How hard is it? It is only as hard as we make it. We are risk averse. We do not want to be criticized because some program that had somebody who was for it is not going to be there anymore. We are going to do it. We are going to eliminate those programs. I can promise you we are. The question is when we are going to do it, and how drastic it is going to be, and who is going to make us do it. If we do not do it ourselves, then the priorities are not going to be the priorities of the body. They are going to be the priorities of the world bankers. That is who is going to do it. We are going to do this. We are going to cut spending. The question is, Do we do it now and make it less painful or do we wait until we are forced into it like the Greeks?

I think our history, I think our culture, and I think our children are worth us starting to make those kinds of difficult decisions. It is my hope we will give consideration--I do not care what combination of cuts we make. I just offered some. I am willing for the appropriators to make the cuts. But we no longer live in a time when we can borrow from the future of our children to pay for now.

It has to start. I would ask my colleagues to support that start.

I yield the floor.


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