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Public Statements

The National Debt and Fiscal Responsibility

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. LANCE. Mr. Speaker, as our Nation's debt now approaches its current $14.29 trillion limit, many Americans rightfully ask: How did this happen?

In the past decade alone, Congress has authorized an increase in the debt 10 times. When Republicans had controlled the White House and Congress, it was Republicans who voted for it. When Democrats have controlled the White House and Congress, it has been Democrats who have voted for it.

The Federal Government has only managed to balance its budget five times in the last 50 years, most recently with President Clinton, a Democrat, and Republican control in the House of Representatives. Washington now borrows approximately 40 percent of every dollar it spends. Foreign investors hold half of our Nation's $14 trillion debt--not only from China, but from Great Britain, Saudi Arabia, and other places as well. Admiral Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has called the national debt "the single biggest threat to our national security.''

For the first time in modern history, last year's Congress passed no budget, no fundamental blueprint for spending, and no final decision on spending levels through the appropriations process for the entire fiscal year. We've been operating under a series of continuing resolutions, which has led to uncertainty as to Federal levels of spending and as to tax rates, which in turn has led to a lack of hiring in the private sector, with an unemployment rate of 9.2 percent, which in turn has led to less revenues in Federal coffers--a vicious cycle that cannot continue.

Any agreement to President Obama's request to increase our borrowing limit should include a real plan to bring our fiscal house in order and reduce the Nation's unsustainably high levels of Federal spending, debt and deficits. This should include substantial reductions in current spending--at least $100 billion in fiscal year 2012--limiting Federal expenditures to a certain percentage of gross domestic product.

The historic norm has been 20 percent over the last generation. Tragically, we're now at 24 percent--and safeguards that will restrict future spending, such as a balanced budget amendment, which is contained in 49 of our 50 States.

Also, we must put partisanship aside and include reforms to save Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. If we do nothing, for example, regarding Medicare--and the President's budget in the winter did nothing--the program will begin to go bankrupt in 2024, 13 years from now. That is simply unsustainable and unacceptable.

When I was a boy and a young man, the fundamental issue confronting the Nation was the threat of the Soviet Union and international communism, the focus of evil in the modern world, as President Reagan said.

The fundamental issue confronting the Nation in the 21st century is fiscal responsibility. Will our children live in a diminished America? Will the promise of America that each generation will do better than the generation before it continue to exist? Will we continue to lead the world or will leadership pass to China or India or to some other place?

This is the great issue confronting the people of the United States, and it is the great issue confronting us here in Congress as well. Let's get our fiscal house in order.

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