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Public Statements

The Promise of America

Floor Speech

Location: Washington DC

Mr. WOODALL. I'm conflicted as I come to the floor today, Mr. Speaker. I'd actually planned to talk about tax reforms this morning. The Ways and Means Committee for the first time in 10 years is holding a hearing on the Fair Tax next Tuesday, July 26. The Fair Tax is a proposal that abolishes the income tax system in this country that punishes people based on what they earn and creates a consumption tax that rewards people based on how much they save. And as we talk about poverty here this morning, as we talk about how to get folks back on their feet, the problem in this country, Mr. Speaker, is not that we don't bring in enough revenue. It's that we spend too much money. There is a bias in our culture now towards consumption as opposed to thrift.

Now, when did that happen? I wish I were a better student of history. I know that Ben Franklin shared with us that ``a penny saved is a penny earned.'' I know that our colleagues in the past said if we talk about a million here and a million there, pretty soon we're talking about real money.

My grandfather was a United Methodist minister in the South Georgia Conference. He was a Navy chaplain during World War II, and went down and worked the South Georgia circuit after the war. They'd get together and get all the little nubs of the candles that they would have during the year and melt them all together to put together those Christmas candles. I don't know if you all grew up with one of those Christmas candles in your home, but they couldn't afford to go out and buy a candle. They had to put together all the nubs and put in the wick themselves.

My dad tells the story of a lot of cold winters and a lot of very hot summers. He tells the story of every time the Klan would threaten to come and burn a cross on the lawn, my grandfather would sit out there on the front porch in his rocking chair with a shotgun. If you can picture that: a United Methodist minister, a man of peace, sitting out there on the porch with his shotgun, but that's the way things were in that part of the world and in those days.

And then he went on to become the superintendent of the United Methodist children's home in the South Georgia Conference. He died about a decade ago without two nickels to rub together, but it was the largest funeral I had ever seen in my life, because he touched people, he nurtured people, he reached out to those who didn't have anyone else to advocate on their behalf. His entire career he spent building people up. His entire career he spent reaching out to those who had no one and being their ``someone.''

As this discussion goes on here this morning, I promise you there is not a bureaucrat in Washington, D.C., there is not an agency funded by Federal dollars, that loves people like my grandfather loved people. There's not one. There is not one bureaucrat in Washington, D.C., and there is not one agency under Federal control that loves children the way my grandfather loved children.

Folks, we have a choice each and every day that's going on in this debate that we're having over deficits, debts and defaults. Freedom and security. My big fear is not that there's going to be a default on United States debt. My big fear is that there's going to be a default on the promise of America. My big fear is that the government is doing so much, that we as people may think that we get to do so little, that government's not taking care of anyone. The government is taking from people who would have taken care of someone and is stealing that responsibility for nurturing our neighbors.

It is not the government's job to feed the hungry in my community. It's my job. It's not the government's job to reach out to the least of these. It's my job. As we're talking about children here on the House floor today, as we're talking about the most vulnerable of these, I think back to Steny Hoyer's words in 1995, that when it comes to balanced budgets, when it comes to running up deficits, the person who gets hurt the worst when reckless government spending goes unchecked are the least of these, are the children. I agree with him a hundred percent.

What are we teaching our children today? What are we teaching our children about our responsibility as individuals to take care of one another? Where is the proposal? I've been in Congress 7 months now. There has not been a single proposal to encourage individuals to take care of one another. Time and time again what there are, are proposals to take away the responsibility from individuals of taking care of one another and to transfer that responsibility to government.

Now, I say that with passion. I know, Mr. Speaker, as you know, that everyone who brings those proposals to the floor brings it with a full heart. I do not question the motivations or the intentions of anyone who is reaching out to the least of these. I only question the results.

Mr. Speaker, the longest and most expensive war in this country's history is not the war in Afghanistan. It is the war on poverty, and the government's results are poor. We need to put it back in the hands of individuals.

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