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Public Statements

Executive Session

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. DeMINT. Mr. President, I will speak for a few minutes on the farm bill, which we are debating this week.

Four years ago, President Obama was elected on the promise of change, the promise to cut the deficit in half in the first term, and to get unemployment, before the end of his first term, to a low of 6 percent. We all know what happened to those promises.

Two years ago, a wave of Republicans were elected with the promise of cutting spending, borrowing, and debt. Yet debt has continued to explode, as has spending. We were promised change, but we got more of the status quo--a lot more of it. We got a lot more spending, borrowing, and debt--to the point where most Americans, at this point, are deeply concerned about the future of their country.

Americans are still demanding change, and for good reason. We must change the way business in Washington is done because we are nearly $16 trillion in debt. We talk about the debt all the time, and these numbers are facts. We are poised to spend nearly $1 trillion more on a massive farm bill that some people in Washington have the nerve to tell the American people saves money.

I want to talk a little bit about that because we obviously need to save money. But despite all the fuss about the need to cut spending, the debt ceiling debate, and the fact that we are actually cutting our military defenses to the bone because of our overspending in other areas, let's look at what we have done this year as a Senate. We passed a highway bill that spent $13 billion bailing out a highway trust fund because we spent too much there. We have spent another $140 billion in corporate welfare reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank. We passed an $11 billion Postal Service bailout. Now we are working on a $1 trillion farm bill.

No one here can bring up one bill where we have actually cut spending. Yet we know our country is going off a fiscal cliff. The farm bill supporters are telling us this bill saves money. Unfortunately, we are using the same smoke-and-mirror accounting that is often used in Washington--a lot of gimmicks that make it appear less expensive--and it is an affront to the American people who are demanding less spending and debt.

There is absolutely no connection between what some of my colleagues are telling their constituents back home and what they are doing in Washington as far as cutting spending. They talk about cutting spending, but now they want to pass this farm bill.

The farm bill we are debating today is projected by the CBO to cost about $1 trillion over the next 10 years. The last farm bill cost $600 billion. This is a 60-percent increase.

If we look at these numbers on the chart, you can understand the rest of the debate. The Congressional Research Service has confirmed these numbers. In 2008 we passed a farm bill that was projected to spend $604 billion over 10 years. The bill we are considering today is projected to spend nearly $1 trillion--$969 billion. Yet the folks who are speaking about the farm bill here are telling us this saves some $20 billion. Only in Washington could they look at you with a straight face and say this saves money.

Let's talk about how they actually get that figure.

In 2008 it was about $600 billion. This farm bill is about $1 trillion. What happened in the meantime was mostly the President's stimulus package, which spent about $1 trillion. It had a lot of money in it for food stamps. It was a short-term, temporary stimulus, supposedly with a lot of new money for food stamps.

Between 2008 and now, we have increased food stamp spending about 400 percent--400 percent. I think that number actually goes back to 2000. During periods of good economy and low unemployment, we increased food stamps, and we have continued to increase that dramatically over the last few years. There was supposed to have been a temporary increase in food stamps. We are actually locking in that spending permanently with this new farm bill. But since it is slightly lower than this temporary increase, the folks speaking to us today are saying: This is big savings, America. We are saving money on the farm bill. It is actually a 60-percent increase in the last farm bill.

There is only one question: Does this bill really save money? The answer is absolutely not. Instead of doing the reforms we need in the Food Stamp Program, which, frankly, is about 75 percent or more of this bill, we are passing a farm bill that locks in what is supposed to be a temporary spending level for food stamps over the next 5 years.

What is really in this farm bill? A lot of it is food stamps. There is some foreign aid. There are some things for climate change. There is housing and foreclosure. And there is broadband Internet. It is a catch-all for a lot of things. But in order for us to get what we need for the pharmaceutical industry in America, we have to agree to this huge additional increase in these other programs.

The stunning expansion in the Food Stamp Program is particularly concerning because more than one in seven Americans is now on the Food Stamp Program. The number of people on the program has increased by 70 percent since 2007 and 400 percent since 2000. This, again, was when our economy was good and unemployment was low. We were still increasing.

Unfortunately, many politicians are using the food stamps to buy votes. The small part of the bill that actually deals with farming replaces one form of corporate welfare for another. The bill eliminates the controversial direct payment system but replaces it with something that many consider far worse--a new program in this bill that is called agricultural risk coverage that promises farmers the government will pay for 90 percent of their expected profits if the market prices decline. Under this scheme, farmers will pay no attention to the laws of supply and demand because the government will guarantee their profits.

Americans want less spending and less debt. All the polls we have looked at--the National Journal poll that came out--said 74 percent of Americans believe the spending on food stamps should stay the same or decrease, and the spending on the farm bill, 56 percent say, should stay the same or decrease. Yet we are increasing it 60 percent.

It is hard to answer the question of why we continue to do this--continue to spend money, borrow money, and talk about the need to cut. Yet for one program after another we

increase spending.

I oppose this bill for the reasons I have talked about. It spends $1 trillion. We need an open debate, which we are being told we are not going to have. We are not going to have all the amendments we are talking about, which we need to fix this program. So if the leader decides to limit the debate and limit the amendments, I will absolutely oppose this bill and do everything I can to stop it.

I plead with my colleagues to start telling Americans the truth. This farm bill increases spending. It doesn't save money. It adds to our debt. It locks in spending on a program we need to change, particularly for the beneficiaries of the Food Stamp Program who are not being helped. They are being trapped in a dependent relationship with government indefinitely instead of us doing what will actually help them get a job and improve their status in life.

I encourage my colleagues to oppose this bill.

I yield the floor.


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