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Public Statements

The Supercommittee

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. DeMINT. Madam President, I was just listening to the news in my office, and I heard the report that the United States has gone over $15 trillion in debt. Of course, that is just our short-term debt. It doesn't really include our unfunded liabilities, which some estimate to be $100 trillion. But, nonetheless, $15 trillion is the size of our total economy--a condition that would mean certain bankruptcy for almost any business.

All of us in these Chambers have stood in awe, I guess, looking across the Atlantic at Greece and Italy and some of our European trading partners, and it seems amazing to us that despite their terrible fiscal condition, the politicians in Greece cannot even cut spending. They talk about cutting it, but the government employees are out in the street demonstrating, and one just has to think, can't they see what is happening? Why do they want to keep spending? It is like there is an addiction.

But here we are in the land of the free, the city on the hill for the world as far as the country that sets the example for free markets and free enterprise--a country that has fought wars to keep the rest of the world free--and here we are in a situation where we have to borrow well over $100 billion every month just to keep the lights on in this place, just to keep our country going.

All year long, we have been having these public showdowns about how we need to cut spending. We have threatened government shutdowns over the continuing resolutions and over increasing the debt limit. One would think that by this point we would be cutting spending to some degree. We have established this supercommittee, supposedly to deal with our huge deficits. Yet we are passing spending bills this week--today--that increase spending versus last year. Last year, we spent 5 percent more than the year before.

In reality, in some ways, our country is worse off than Europe because we have Federal debt, we have State debt, we have municipal debt, we have counties declaring bankruptcy, we have States approaching bankruptcy, and yet we continue to spend more now than we did last year. After all of the fuss and fighting and brinkmanship and supercommittees, we can't seem to cut anything here. In fact, we are increasing spending.
The goal of the supercommittee is not to cut spending; it is not to cut our debt at all. The goal of the supercommittee is to reduce the amount we are going to borrow over 10 years--maybe reduce it from $10 trillion to $8 trillion or $9 trillion.

We are not even on the same page with reality right now. We have increased spending so dramatically over the last few years--we have added $4 trillion to our debt since President Obama came into office, we passed a $1 trillion stimulus, and we passed ObamaCare, adding trillions of dollars in spending.

Instead of talking about cutting, the debate now seems to be, how can we take more from the American people in taxes to feed our addiction? We have focused our guns on those very people who create our jobs and create most of the opportunity in our country, people who are already paying the largest portion of national taxes of any country in the world because we have shifted so much of the tax burden onto the top income earners. We are blaming them for the wealth gap when, in fact, the real blame for the wealth gap comes from the government taking so much out of the private sector, regulating with such a heavy hand, and having the second highest corporate tax rate in the world.

The problem with the middle class is not those who are making too much money; it is a Federal Government that doesn't understand that the more we spend and borrow, the fewer jobs there are going to be in our country today. Yet that is the big argument here. Instead of cutting spending, we are actually talking about taking more from hard-working American taxpayers and bringing it in here and giving it to the people who have created that $15 trillion in debt. How could anyone make sense of that?

It is really pretty amazing, after all the promises we have made to the American people, that we are watching our debt go up like this--passing $15 trillion--and we still can't talk about any substantive cuts.

Let me give one example of something that makes so much sense. Over the last two decades, we have seen welfare spending increase nearly 300 percent. There are 77 means-tested welfare programs, and over the last couple of decades, since welfare reform, the spending has increased nearly 300 percent. That is more than the combined increase of Social Security and Medicare. It is more than the increases in education or in defense. Are we helping people? Not at all. We have more people in poverty than we ever have had, and we are discouraging self-sufficiency while

encouraging dependency on government.

In the last 4 years alone, we have nearly doubled what we are paying for food stamps, from $40 billion to $80 billion in this year's budget. If all we did was return welfare spending to 2007 levels, we could save almost $2.5 trillion over the next 10 years. That is twice the goal of the supercommittee in cuts. But are we even thinking about it? Is it even on the table? Absolutely not, because the one thing I have seen with this place is we are very good at getting bipartisan agreement on increasing spending in areas of need, but we seldom see bipartisan agreement on any cuts. Would we look at responsible caps on welfare spending? Not even a chance. It is not even on the table with the supercommittee discussions.

With Medicaid alone, if we return spending to 2007 levels, we could save more than the goal of the supercommittee of $1.2 trillion, but we are not willing to discuss cuts.

I think it is a sad day for America that we are plowing past $15 trillion, pretending to be responsible to the American people, while last week and this week and on into the rest of the year, we are going to be passing spending bills that spend more than we spent last year. At the same time, we are supposedly in a recession, Americans are tightening their belts, many are out of work, and what we are talking about here is, let's continue to spend and take more from hard-working, tax-paying Americans so we can keep our spending addiction going here in Washington.

It is utterly irresponsible, what we are doing. All the President can do is point at those whom he calls millionaires, who are generally the people who are creating the jobs, running the small businesses, and having the most to do with creating the investment that makes our economy grow, and try to blame them for the problems we create here in Washington.

It is time we keep our promises to the American people. I know it is hard for some in these Chambers to cut spending because dependency on government often means a dependable vote for many politicians. It is time we look at the future and the debt that we are loading onto ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren. This country will not survive the types of policies we are producing here in Washington today.

This supercommittee should look at real cuts in spending. If our Democratic colleagues are not willing to go along with responsible spending caps on programs such as welfare, then we need to walk away from the table and take our case to the American people and tell them what is really the truth, which is that the elections in 2012 may be our last chance to turn this around. We cannot keep spending at this level and keep taking more and more from the private sector, from the job producers in our country, bringing it here to Washington, and spending it on wasteful programs that are fraught with fraud and duplication and not even ever consider cutting any of them.

Last week, Dr. Coburn had a couple of amendments to an appropriations bill that had some very small cuts to what had been deemed wasteful, ineffective programs. On one of his amendments, he only got 13 votes. So this is clearly a bipartisan problem.

We need to cut spending. Washington has a spending problem, it does not have a low-tax problem. It is time we focus our attention on reducing the size and scope of the Federal Government and having it live within constitutional boundaries. We need to eliminate programs that are wasteful, return others to the States, and trim our budget to the point where we can pay for what we are spending so that we will not keep adding trillions and trillions of dollars of debt on to our country and our citizens and our next generation.

Madam President, I yield the floor, and I note the absence of a quorum.


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