And Now For Something Completely Different: Our National Debt

14 Apr

On March 9, 2011, Senator Rand Paul (R, Kentucky) delivered the following address to the Senate on the issue of our nation’s debt crisis and dire need to balance the budget. Below is the transcript of his remarks taken from his website. You can also take a look at his budget proposal here, in which he proposes some actual cuts, instead of smoke and mirrors, that might actually bring our nation back from the brink of bankruptcy. I rarely post anything political on my blog, preferring to talk about Scripture instead, but the Bible is not silent about the need for financial responsibility. Consider,

How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man. (Proverbs 6.9-11)

If not a spiritual issue, our national debt is at least a wisdom issue. And the consequence of doing nothing about a certain disaster is to reap the harvest of a sluggard.

And now, the words of Senator Rand Paul:

We are discussing and debating two different alternatives, one from the other side of the aisle and one from our side, about what we should do about the budget deficit.

We have projected a $1.65 trillion deficit in the next year.

I think both alternatives are inadequate and do not significantly alter or change our course. On the Democrat side, we have a proposal to cut about $5 billion to $6 billion for the rest of the year. To put that in perspective, we borrow $4 billion a day.

So the other side is offering up cuts equal to one day’s borrowing.

I think it’s insignificant and it will not alter the coming and looming debt crisis that we face.

Now, on our side of the aisle, I think we have done more, the cuts are more significant, but they also pale in comparison to the problem.

If we were to adopt the president’s approach, we would have $1.65 trillion deficit in one year. If we were to adopt our approach, we’re going to have a $1.55 trillion deficit in one year. I think both approaches do not significantly alter or delay the crisis that’s coming.

Now, it’s interesting when we talk about cuts, everybody seems to be giddy around here, saying this is the first time we have talked about cuts.

Well, it is better and it sounds good, but guess what? We’re not even really cutting spending. What we’re talking about is cutting the rate of increase of spending. The base line of spending is going to go up 7.3 % according to the CBO.

We’re talking about reducing that increase to 6.7% increase. We’re talking about cutting the rate of increase of government. The problem is it’s not enough.

Our deficit is growing by leaps and bounds. Our national debt is $14 trillion. Our national debt is now equal to our entire economy. Our gross domestic product equals our national debt.

The president, I think, is tone deaf on this.

We had an election, and in the election, the people said we’re concerned about out-of-control spending, we’re concerned about massive deficits, we’re concerned about passing this debt on to our kids and our grandkids.

The president recently proposed a 10-year budget, a 10-year plan for spending. He proposes that we spend $46 trillion. That means they aren’t getting it.

You have – in Washington, official Washington is not getting what the people are saying, and they’re not getting how profound the problems are.

Spending $46 trillion?

The president’s plan will add $13 trillion to the debt, and the Republicans say ‘oh, well ours is a lot better.’ Theirs will add $12 trillion to the debt.

I think it’s out of control, and neither plan will do anything to significantly alter things.

We’re spending $10 billion a day.

In order to reform things, in order to change things around here, we will have to come to grips with the idea of what should government be doing, what are the constitutional functions of government, what were the enumerated powers of the Constitution, what powers did the Constitution give to the federal government, and then examine what we’re actually doing. What are we spending money on that’s not constitutional or shouldn’t be done here or should be left to the states and the people respectively?

Once upon a time, our side believed that education was a function of the states and the localities. It’s not mentioned in the Constitution that the federal government should have anything to do with education.

Does that mean we’re opposed to education? No, we just think it should be done at a state and a local level.

Ronald Reagan was a champion of eliminating the Department of Education. It was part of the Republican Party platform for 20 years. But then we got in charge after the year 2000, and we doubled the size of the Department of Education.

If you are serious about balancing the budget, if you are serious about the debt, you have to look at taking departments like the Department of Education and sending it back to the states and the localities.

You have to look at programs that are growing by leaps and bounds like Medicaid and food stamps, cap them, block-grant them and send them back to the states. The states can manage these things better. The more close they are to the people, the better managed they will be.

The other compromise that needs to occur – and this is something our side needs to compromise on.

Our side has blindly said that the military should get anything it wants, and it’s a blank check.

What do you want? Here it is. We have increased military spending by 120% since 2001. We have doubled military spending.

Now, I’m for a strong national defense. I believe that it is a constitutional function of the federal government to provide for our national defense. I think it is the pre-eminent power, the pre-eminent enumerated power, the thing we should be doing here. But even that being said, we cannot every eight years double the Defense Department, double the military spending.

It’s also ultimately the compromise.

Within the space after few years, everyone here will come to an agreement, not because we want to but because we’re forced to by the events and by the drama of the debt crisis. It will come. It’s come to other nations.

When it comes to us, the compromise that both sides of the aisle will have to work out is, the other side of the aisle will have to admit we cannot have enormous domestic spending, and our side of the aisle will have to admit that we can’t give a blank check to the military.

We will also have to look at entitlements. Everyone’s afraid to say how we reform entitlements, but there are two inescapable facts with entitlements: We’re living longer, and there is a lot of people that were born after World War II that are getting ready to retire.  These are inescapable demographic facts. We have to address them. If we simply do nothing, if we do not address the entitlements, within a decade, entitlements will account for the entire budget and interest. There will be no money left for anything.

So right now, the argument is about all these other programs. There will be no money left for any of these programs if we do nothing.

It’s going to take both sides of the aisle grappling with this and admitting that the rules and eligibility will have to change for Social Security, and likely for Medicare.

If you do it now, you can do it gradually. If you start now, you can gradually let the age rise for Medicare and Social Security for those 55 and under. If you do it gradually. I think young people have already acknowledged this is going to happen.

You ask young people anywhere across America, ‘do you think you’re going to have Social Security when you retire? Do you think you’re going to get it at 67?’

Most young people acknowledge that it’s broken, it’s broken so badly that the only way we fix it and the only way it can continue is we have to look at the eligibility.

But so many people have said ‘oh, we can’t talk about entitlement. You will be unelected, you will be unelectable if you talk about entitlement reform.’

The president still makes this mistake. He will not lead us. He will not talk and give a leadership role to entitlement reform. Someone must do it. We must stand up and be bold because the longer these problems fester, the longer we allow them to accumulate, the bigger the problems become. The more dramatic the answers must be.

If you look at Greece and these other nations that have faced debt crises, their problem came to a head all of a sudden and they changed the age on Social Security like that.

If we want to do it gradually and let people plan for their future, you need to start now before we enter into a crisis. My problem with the discussion and the debate at this point is that I don’t think either side recognizes the enormity of the problem or the imminence of the problem.

Even people who would be considered to be those of the mainstream – the former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan says 50% of chance that there will be some kind of monetary problems, significant monetary problems, even to the point of crisis in the next few years.

Many people have said Japan is locked in crisis, that crisis is coming because of the debt that they’ve accumulated.

When that comes to America, do we want to have government by crisis?

Already we can’t even pass a budget. We can’t pass appropriations bills. Our bills do not even go to the committees anymore. They just come to the floor and we put a patchwork quilt on them and there’s a chance this ends up being two more weeks. It is not the way you should run government.

If you want to have a significant plan for changing things, send things through the committee. If you want to have a realistic way of running government, have appropriations bills.

If you want to be someone who believes in good, responsible government, for goodness sakes, pass a budget. We didn’t pass a budget last year.

This chart shows how big the problem is. I wish I had a magnifying glass because that’s the only way you could see the other side’s proposal: $6 billion in cuts. It’s one day’s borrowing. It’s not even one day’s spending that they’re talking about. It’s insignificant, it’s inconsequential, and it will do nothing to delay or alter the looming debt crisis.

Look at the other proposal from our side.

It’s bigger – you can actually see it without a magnifying glass – but look how it is dwarfed by one year’s problem.

I recently proposed $500 billion in cuts and when I went home and spoke to the people of my state, spoke to those from the Tea Party, they said, $500 billion is not enough and they’re right.

$500 billion is a third of one year’s problem.

Up here that’s way too bold, but it’s not even enough.

But we have to counterbalance and understand the alternatives here.

If we do nothing, all of the programs that people are so fond of, extolling and saying will be gone.

So I implore the American public and those here to look at this problem and say to Congress, we’re not doing enough; you must cut more.

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Posted by on April 14, 2011 in Uncategorized


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