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Public Statements

Spending Cuts in the Federal Government

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. BISHOP of Utah. Let me try and hit, for just one moment, two potential areas to address that particular question, and it goes back to the fact that we did read the Constitution on the floor today.

You know it's amazing, as P.J. O'Rourke once said, that the Constitution is 16 pages, which is the operator's manual for 300 million people. The operator's manual for the Toyota Camry, in contrast, is four times as large, and it only seats five.

But you also contrast that with what we have done in the lame duck session when the Senate's omnibus spending bill, it's not 16 pages, it was 1,924 pages. Those are the kinds of issues we're talking about. And I think if we really want an answer of how we make those decisions, we go back to the document that was read this morning.

The general welfare clause today usually puts the emphasis on the word ``welfare.'' When they wrote that thing, they put the emphasis on the word ``general.'' What the Federal Government should do is that which affects all of us.

Monroe, Madison, Jackson vetoed road projects because they said those road projects didn't meet the general welfare. When Savannah burned to the ground, Congress had a great deal of empathy for Savannah, but it did not actually appropriate any money for Savannah because they said giving money to Savannah to rebuild would simply help Savannah and was not general welfare.

Now, I made this speech once on the floor a couple of years ago, and I got a nice letter, kind of, from a lady in Alabama who took me to task and listed all the programs that she thought were viable and good and she wanted continued. And I said, ma'am, you actually missed the ultimate point. The point is not should these programs be available for citizens. The point is, who should be responsible for providing those programs?

Not every idea has to germinate, be funded, be appropriated, be regulated from Washington. The States are equally competent. And if, indeed, we divided our responsibilities together, we could provide better services for the people for a cheaper price.

Now, Mr. Akin, if I could just give one second of a simple example. David Walker has written a great book called ``The Rebirth of Federalism,'' where he simply made the effect that dangling money we don't have in front of cash-starved States does not necessarily help out the States or us, or the taxpayers who have to foot the bill for both levels of government.

For example, he said when we put conditional grants to States with strings attached that eventually become regulations and mandates, it undercuts both the inter-level cooperation between those two bodies, and it is a term he invented called ``creeping conditionalism,'' which means the cost to the taxpayer actually increases.

By doing his estimates, the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1986 cost the States $2 billion to $3 billion more than the States would have spent to provide their own safe drinking water. From '83 to '90 he estimated that the regulations imposed by the Federal Government was $9 billion to $13 billion more in local taxes that did not provide a benefit to the citizens. It was just the creeping cost to them.

So our mandates, supposedly with free money given to States, end up costing the taxpayer not only for the free money we don't have, but costs the States to do more than they would have done or needed to do to actually address the problem.


Mr. BISHOP of Utah. Thank you.

I do appreciate the Congressman from Georgia talking about the difference between ``provide'' and ``promote.''

Let me just go with one historical example of how that works, because I think in one of your earlier questions it was said, How are we actually going to handle this spending problem? Part of it is we have to think outside the box and make some things that have been common assumptions not necessarily have to survive.

And instead of going with some issues that we're funding right now, which may be too close to people, let me just go back to history. In most of the history books that I do, that I have seen, when we taught high school history, they always talk about how this nation came together with the uniting of the railroads, the UP and the Central Pacific joining together and how the Federal Government subsidized that process and was the only viable way of getting that done. We provided the railroad system.

One of the concepts, though, as I was reading another book that took a closer look on this issue is that not only did the Federal Government help with this railroad building craze but the idea that the Federal Government became involved changed the mechanism in which railroads were built and the kinds of ways they were built.

We paid railroads for every mile of track that was laid, which meant you gave them more money if they went to a mountainous route than on flat land. So many of those routes took a very circuitous route going through some elevated terrain because they got more money than if they had just taken a simpler flat route. One of the, I won't mention which one but they refused to put up masonry supports. They put up wooden culverts only for their train tracks. In the winter they laid track over ice which meant as soon as the thaw came, the tracks disappeared. Much of our railway system had to be rebuilt within 2 years of its actual completion.

I live in the State of Utah and my only national monument is the Golden Spike National Monument in my district in which both the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific came and they passed one another continuing to lay track because they were paid for it by the Federal Government, until Congress finally told them not to track off and link up somewhere; and they picked Promontory Summit which is in the State of Utah in my county to finally link up.

Ironically enough, in 1893 James Hill built--maybe the Madam Speaker has the name of this railroad--Northern Railroad that went from Chicago to Seattle. He did that without any government subsidies whatsoever. He paid private property for renting his lines even during the panic. It survived. It was functional. It was profitable.

Sometimes we make assumptions that only the Federal Government has the ability of doing things when in reality we don't. And we forget that once again if we were to make States a true partner with us in projects, States

have the ability of being creative, much more than we do; they have the ability of providing justice for its circumstances much more than we do; and more importantly if the States make a mistake, it doesn't harm the entire country. I think ObamaCare may be one of those particular examples, where State creativity was going on a proper road with some wonderful ideas that were stopped dead in their tracks, no pun intended, by ObamaCare.


Mr. BISHOP of Utah. I appreciate that very well, because, to be very honest, this is not an easy task which this Congress faces. We have spent probably eight or nine decades digging the hole which we are in. To think that there is a simple way of getting out of it is naive. To think that in one year we could get out of this is maybe also naive. We have to think in terms of moving forward in a general direction that would go there.

I am very proud that the rules that were passed yesterday will enable this body, if we decide to do it, to take the time to think outside the box with new ideas. The idea that for the first time since the 1960s we have set aside a specific time during the day so that the committees could function will allow every Member on this floor to sit and work in a committee to come up with ideas to reach this goal of how we can control or at least limit the runaway spending that we have had.

Mr. AKIN. I need to stop and interrupt just a minute here, because you will never say this, but, Congressman Bishop, you were one of the main people that helped put that rule in place and I think the whole country needs to say a big ``thank you'' to you, because what you are doing is trying to make Congress just a little more efficient and do a few commonsense things.

A lot of people might not say this thinking outside the box, but the box is small down here sometimes, and you have provided us with the idea that we are actually going to get into some of these questions and we are going to approach them in a systematic kind of way. We are going to take time and not have votes running all day long so people can't focus on their work, and say now, systematically, what do we have to do to deal this problem?

I congratulate you on the first step, and also the rules package that says you have got to have a constitutional justification for everything you bring to the floor. I think we are starting on the right spot.

Mr. BISHOP of Utah. You make me embarrassed right here. I wish I could take full credit for the time management plans that we are implementing here. I may have said it, but somebody else had to make the decision to go forward with it. I think it was the right thing to do because it requires us, instead of running around in circles like a bunch of squirrels on a treadmill or chipmunks on a treadmill wasting a lot of time, we try to focus our energies so that when we are on the floor it makes some kind of difference.

Let me just give one other historical example of what I think we need to be doing and dedicate ourselves, since I have been throwing out too many already.

I believe it was in the first Congress that the issue came up of postal roads, where to draw the line, where would the postal roads for the new Post Office go. There is some kind of economic benefit of having actually mail dropped along a route.

But Congress, eager to get out, said let's just allow the President, the executive branch, to decide where the postal routes will be, which seems to be a logical thing to do. And I believe it was Congressman Paige, I hope from Virginia, who stood up and said, no, our job of Congress is to legislate, which includes taking the time to agree on where those postal routes will go. It is not our responsibility to give it to an executive branch or a bureaucracy or some other group to come up with all the details. And he forced Congress to stay there, and they did their job.

Too often we as Members simply have the tendency of coming up with a grand and noble idea, and they say all right, we will empower. I think the language in the TARP bill is a perfect example of where we empowered the Secretary of the Treasury to make all kinds of decisions which were legislative decisions by their very nature.

Well, I hope what this schedule allows us to do and what you were talking about is to say we have a great deal of work to be done here. We are still looking at ideas. I am sure there are great ideas that are out there that will be coming from the people as time goes on, but we have to make sure we dedicate the time to not simply running around in circles playing silly games, but coming here and zeroing in on our task.

It was said by you, it was said by the gentleman from Georgia as well as the gentleman from Louisiana, it is the spending. That is our problem. That is what is hurting jobs, that is what is hurting Americans, that is what is bloating our budget. We need to zero in on that, and until we do that, we will never come close to meeting what the American people expect the Congress to do, nor what we really morally need to do.

I yield back to the gentleman.


Mr. BISHOP of Utah. If I could just add one comment to that as well. I think it is very clear that we need to say it is not that the Federal Government will always be bad and is incompetent at doing things. The problem the Federal Government has is the size of the Federal Government.

Any big industry has waste, fraud, and abuse, and that is one of the reasons why if we could coordinate and work with local governments--that is why the old cliche that the government that is best is the one that is closest to the people. It is not necessarily that they are smarter or better; it is because they don't have the problem of size in a one-size-fits-all issue and they have the freedom to be creative.

As you were talking about, especially with the entitlements, this is an area in which creativity is going to be the most important element. And some things, especially with the cost of Medicare, are driven by one-size-fits-all Federal mandates and Federal decisions, when allowing creativity could help us solve this problem.

I also want to say one other thing too when your comment about the general defense is so significant. It is not because we are funding for the defense of the America today. The decisions we make, the plans we make for defense today will not come to fruition for another 10 to 15 years, and indeed, the ability for us to have diplomacy in the future depends on wise decisions that we make today.

I appreciate the gentleman from Missouri coming with this issue. This is something that the people care about, something that the Congress cares about. I think the fact that we just passed a 5 percent cut on ourselves with overwhelming bipartisan support says that this is the direction we should be taking, and we should continue to talk about this over and over and over again. I appreciate you allowing me to be part of this.


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