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SBIR/STTR Reauthorization Act of 2011

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, so the chairman knows, my planned time to introduce these amendments is 3:30. That is what they have given me time on. I did want to engage in some of the comments of the Senator from Vermont.

As someone who was on the deficit commission and looking at that, the first presumption was making Social Security solvent was our goal, making it solvent for 75 years. The flaw in the argument given by my colleague from Vermont is the assumption that the IOU at the Treasury for Social Security is good.

It is good as long as people will loan us money. It is not any good if they will not. So when people say, why fix Social Security? We can fix Social Security by taking the very haircut from the people the Senator from Vermont just described and markedly lessening the benefits, even though they continue to pay into Social Security, that they will receive, the billionaires and the millionaires. We can do that. But if, in fact, we do not send a signal to the international financial community that on the largest expenditure we have, that we are going to make it solvent, then we will not be in the market and available and have the ability to borrow the $2.8 trillion.

Now, one other thing on which I would disagree: The Social Security trust fund trustees say Social Security is running a net deficit this last year and will run one this year and for every year forward in terms of what comes in versus what goes out. There is no question I want to keep our commitments. Nobody is talking about eliminating benefits except to the very rich in this country in terms of Social Security. As a matter of fact, the deficit commission raised the benefits in Social Security for the poorest in this country. So we actually did the opposite of what the Senator claims that Republicans might want to do.

What we have to do is to make sure Social Security is viable for the future. And having looked at every aspect of Social Security, I can tell you if we are not able to borrow the $2.6 trillion, the benefits will not be there. The money has been stolen. There is no trust fund. There is no money there. If you read what the head of the OMB said in 1999, he said it is not there.

So what is really happening in Social Security? Congresses, under both Republican and Democratic control, both Republican and Democratic Presidencies, have stolen money from Social Security and spent it. The money is gone. It has been used for another purpose.

So there are two ways of solving this: One is to make Social Security the priority and not fund anything but that until we get it paid back or we can actually refund that $2.6 trillion by going to the debt market, to which we will go every year from now forward under the present plan on Social Security. The rate of taxes between now and 2035 that will be taxed will rise from $106,000 or, I think, $107,000 to $168,000 between now and then. That is a 60-percent increase in the taxes on the wealthy that is planned and programmed right now.

Even with that, Social Security will run a deficit every year, every year now forward. Even with the $2.8 trillion, it still is in a negative cashflow. So to deny the fact, if we do not want to fix Social Security, then what we are saying is we do not want to fix it for our children's children or our children.

Mr. SANDERS. Will my friend yield?

Mr. COBURN. I would like to finish my point. It is not about taking something away, except from the very wealthy, the fix from the deficit commission. That is what it did. We also added back. When you reach 80--and a lot of people may be running out of their combination of what their retirement was plus their Social Security--we give another little bump.

So what the deficit commission did was significantly increase the viability for Social Security for the next 75 years. The Social Security trustees know we have to do this. Everybody knows we have to do this. The question is, Does this Congress owe that $2.8 trillion back to Social Security? Yes. But where do we get the money to repay it?

Unless we can calm down the international financial markets, where we make major changes not just in Social Security but in discretionary spending--$50 billion out of the Pentagon, modifying Medicare, where we get the fraud waste and abuse out of Medicare--unless we do those things, we are not going to be able to borrow the money.

One final fact and then I will yield back to my chairman because I have a meeting to go to. So far, in the last 5 months, who do you think has bought our bonds to finance the deficit? We ran a $223 billion deficit in the month of February.

Who bought them? Was it the Chinese? Who was the biggest buyer? The Federal Reserve bought 70 percent of the bonds we put on the market. What are they doing? They are debasing our currency and creating future inflation which will hurt the very people who are going to be on Social Security because the cost of living index will never truly keep up with the real cost of inflation.

All of us have received letters from constituents wondering why there was no COLA. We know why there was no COLA. When we look at food and transportation costs and what they have done in the last 3 years, that is what is important to seniors--their health care costs, housing costs, food costs. Yet we have a COLA system that does not recognize that we may get into a period of hyperinflation because the Federal Reserve is buying the bonds because nobody else will buy them. Right now, 30 percent are bought in the market.

Final point. The largest bond trader in the world, PIMCO, last week sold every U.S. Government bond they had. They expect the price of the bonds to go down because they expect the interest rates to go up. What happens to us if we don't fix Social Security? If the interest rates are going to be a lot higher on our debt and if they are a lot higher and we owe $14 trillion for every 1 percent increase in the cost of borrowing that we have, it adds to our deficit $140 billion.

I am honored Senator Sanders is adamant about making sure we keep our commitments. But in terms of cashflow, it isn't there. We have to address that. That is the only way we create confidence for the international financial community to say: You have a solvent program for 75 years--the largest segment of our expenditures--and we are going to loan you money. If we don't do that, interest costs are going to be higher, and we are going to pay for it anyway. Right now, we are almost to the point where these decisions will not be controlled by us. I would rather us be in a situation of control.

This is not a partisan issue. There isn't one Senator who wants to take money away from needy seniors. This is about making changes far down the road that will affect people 30, 40, 50 years from now. It makes sense to do that.

I yield the floor.


Mr. COBURN. I thank the chairwoman for her kind words. It is necessary that we move this bill, I agree. I am thankful to Senator Landrieu and the ranking member for the movement on some of the commitments they made to me on programs that don't work within the small business area.

I have multiple amendments, but in due deference to the chairwoman, I will not call those up. I am going to call up two. I wish to explain both of them.

Amendment No. 184. Everybody was excited about the GAO report that looked at the first third of the Federal Government in terms of all the duplication. We don't know the extent of that duplication, and we are going to have to do some hard work to winnow out a lot of savings, but there are a lot of savings. People don't agree with me on my estimate, but nobody knows these programs better than I do. I have been studying them for 6 years. There is at least $100 billion where we can

save the American taxpayers and actually do a better job through redesigning the programs and eliminating the bureaucracies that make them less than effective.

So one of the things we need to do to help GAO is have the agencies report to OMB and to us on a yearly basis on their programs. There are at least 2,100 programs that we know of in the Federal Government. When GAO looks at this, it is very difficult for them to ferret it all out. We only have one agency that publishes a list of their programs every year, and that is the Department of Education. The book is very thick, and it lists all their programs. That will make it much easier for GAO to do the next third.

This is a simple amendment that requires every department of the Cabinet to fulfill to OMB, within a short period of time, all their programs and also report to us. When that happens that will make GAO much more effective in how it brings to us this next group of duplications. So it is a straightforward amendment. I hope it can be accepted.


Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to call up amendment No. 184 and make it pending.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?

Ms. LANDRIEU. There is no objection. But before we do that, I ask the Senator a question. I actually like this amendment, No. 184. The Senator spoke with me about this previously. It has some merit. I thank the Senator for being cooperative.

If he could identify his other number, I would like to suggest that if we can get a Democratic amendment slid in between these, we might call up his two and the Democratic one.

Mr. COBURN. The other amendment is No. 220.

Ms. LANDRIEU. Would the Senator mind explaining that amendment, and I will make sure it is cleared on our side and we will see what we can do.

Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I understand my first amendment is up and pending; is that correct?

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, the clerk will report the amendment.

The assistant legislative clerk read as follows:

The Senator from Oklahoma [Mr. Coburn] proposes an amendment numbered 184.

Mr. COBURN. I ask unanimous consent that reading of the amendment be dispensed with.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

The amendment is as follows:
(Purpose: To provide a list of programs administered by every Federal department and agency)

At the end of title V, add the following:


(a) Each fiscal year, the head of each Federal agency shall--

(1) identify and describe every program administered by the agency, including the mission, goals, purpose, budget, and statutory authority of each program;

(2) report the list and description of programs to the Office of Management and Budget, Congress, and the U.S. Government Accountability Office; and

(3) post the list and description of programs on the agency's public website.

(b) Not later than 120 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget shall prescribe regulations to implement this section.

(c) This section shall be implemented beginning in the first full fiscal year occurring after the date of the enactment of this Act.


Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I will discuss amendment No. 220 now. Is the chairman's intention that I defer calling up that amendment right now?

Ms. LANDRIEU. I may not have an objection. We are trying to get it cleared on our side. If the Senator will explain it, we can get back to him in short order.

Mr. COBURN. Amendment No. 220 is about making sure we don't send good money after bad. When you go to the pump today to buy gasoline that is blended with ethanol, you pay, as a taxpayer, $1.78. As a taxpayer, you pay that before you ever pay the $3.51 we are paying per gallon, through incentives, tax credits, and rebates for ethanol and blending.

This doesn't take away incentives on corn-based ethanol. It says that because we already have a mandate that says 15 billion gallons of ethanol must be available and put through the system this year, no longer is there a necessity to have a blender's credit to the tune of $6 billion a year. So what this does is two things: One, it takes away an incentive that is no longer needed because we have already mandated the ethanol will be there. But it saves us $6 billion that we are paying to firms that are going to do the business whether we pay it or not.

So it is silly to continue to spend $6 billion of American taxpayer money of which almost $3 billion of it will be borrowed money from either the Federal Reserve or from the Chinese to incentivize something that is already mandated to happen.

If we look at ethanol, it is two-thirds as efficient when blended as gasoline. It gets poorer mileage, and there is no savings in terms of carbon output or pollution. So we are incentivizing the use of a fuel that goes against what most people would like to do environmentally. It causes us to markedly increase the cost of food, which we are seeing in our country and around the world today, and we are incentivizing something that is going to happen anyway.

So it is a straightforward amendment. It says on the blender's tax credit we are no longer going to give a credit for something on which we already have a market--we are going to do without it. Some will say that is a tax increase. But when we send $6 billion to a small segment of American industry, and it is not going to impact their sales at all, what is the purpose for having tax credits? If we use tax credits or expenditures to expand the economy and it is not doing that, why would we continue to do it?

As part of the President's deficit commission, we looked at that and said it is a no-brainer. There is no reason we would incent something that is already mandated by law and has to happen. I know it is a controversial subject for a lot of my colleagues from farm States. But the fact is, worldwide sophistication and food preference has markedly increased. This is creating an enormous pressure in taking food stocks out of the human food chain and putting it into the energy chain. So we are not stopping that. There are still all the other credits available, incentives and mandates. But we are saying we should not spend $6 billion of American taxpayer money that we don't have--by the way, we do not have it--for something they are going to do anyway.

The other point I make is that we are now a net exporter of ethanol. A lot of people don't recognize that. Through November 2010, we exported 397 million gallons of ethanol. That is almost 1 billion gallons since 2005. Not counting the blender's credit but all the other credits, we are supporting that to the tune of $1.20 a gallon.

Now we are subsidizing the consumption of ethanol in Europe to the tune of $1.20 a gallon. That makes no sense when, in fact, we have significant energy needs ourselves.

My hope is that we will consider this amendment and that we will vote on it. I recognize it is going to be a close vote. My count is at 55, and I know we have to get 60. I want the other 45 Members of our body to go and explain to their constituents why we are sending $6 billion to something that is going to happen anyway. It is a gift. That is all it is. We don't have $6 billion to spend that way.

The other point I will make is that with the trouble we are in, we are not going to get out of it by cutting $200 billion at a time. We are going to get out of it $6 billion at a time. Senator Begich and I found $1 billion in the FAA bill from earmarks that are tied up. So if we do it $1 billion, $2 billion, $3 billion, $4 billion, $5 billion, or $6 billion at a time, pretty soon it will add up and we will take pressure off our country in terms of funding our debt.

The ultimate course has to be to convince the world that we get it, that we can't continue to borrow 40 percent of our expenditures in the world financial market and expect them to continue to loan us money. It is very straightforward.

My corn farmers in Oklahoma don't like it, and I understand that. It is about doing the right thing for our country. Now is the time to do it.

I yield the floor.


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