WASHINGTON—U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee, spoke on the Senate floor today in response to Democrat Senate leaders’ continued characterizations of Republican efforts to reduce spending as ‘extreme.’ Sessions pointed to expert testimony that suggests that changing the country’s debt trajectory will have a positive influence on jobs and economic growth. An excerpt from his remarks follows:
“Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has stated that our national debt is the greatest national security threat to the nation. The primary question of our time is this: Is this true? And if so, what should we do about it?
The American people agree with Admiral Mullen. By a huge margin they say we are on the wrong track. Consumer confidence has fallen in recent weeks.
Alarmingly, financial experts agree and are calling for action—sooner, not later. Erskine Bowles, President Obama’s choice to head his deficit commission, and his co-chairman, Alan Simpson in a written statement submitted to the Budget Committee, declared: ‘This is the most predictable economic crisis this nation has ever faced.’
This is their conclusion, after months of hearings that concluded last December. When asked when the crisis, which would surely involve a double-dip recession if not a depression, would occur, Bowles said two years—maybe sooner, maybe later. Simpson seemed to think it could hit in a year.
These are stark warnings, and the same message is coming from a host of the world’s top financial experts.
The good news is that our country’s strong work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit still exists, and the indications are that despite the economic drag of our huge debt burden, the economy is fighting to rebound, albeit far slower than normal. If we act decisively now to end our wasteful spending habits, we can be confident of growth and progress.
Today’s Wall Street Journal has an op-ed by Nobel Prize laureate, Gary Becker, former Secretary of Treasury George Shultz, and economics professor John T. Taylor. The article embraces the $61 billion in cuts passed by the House and debunks the critics who call these cuts extreme. They directly and categorically debunk the assertion that these spending reductions will result in higher job losses and explain why that is a false view.
But, again, is the debate over spending just another Republican and Democrat squabble? Is it just an attempt to gain political advantage? Sound and fury signifying nothing?
The answer is a resounding ‘no.’ We are spending money we don’t have in amounts dramatically greater than in any time in our history. When this fiscal year ends September 30, 2011, under the president’s budget, we will have spent $3.7 trillion but only taken in $2.2 trillion. This will be the largest of three consecutive deficits exceeding $1 trillion, with next year’s expected to exceed $1 trillion as well.
The money for this debt must be borrowed, and interest on it paid. Nothing comes from nothing. Last year the nation’s total interest payment was $200 billion. For perspective, the Federal highway program costs about $40 billion and Federal education programs cost about $70 billion. Already, interest is the fastest growing expense of our government and is crowding out spending for programs we would like to fund.
But, hold your hat, our current trajectory takes us at increasing speed on our road, as the head of the European Union described it a few years ago, to financial hell. According to the official Congressional Budget Office analysis of President Obama’s 10-year budget, the total debt of America will more than double from $13 trillion to $27 trillion. Our annual interest payment will increase from $200 billion last year to $900 billion in the 10th year. Interest on our debt will cost more than our education, highways, and energy programs combined.
Indeed, our interest payment will surge past defense, Medicare, and Medicaid. This is why expert after expert after expert, witness after witness, Republicans and Democrats, say that the U.S. is on an ‘unsustainable path.’
Yet President Obama’s budget increases all spending levels every year, including discretionary spending, doubling the debt of the United States again, all the while raising taxes by $1.7 trillion. It makes no proposals to put Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security on a sound footing and creates a debt path where his lowest annual deficit is $748 billion, and with his out years deficits soaring so that in the 10th year his budget deficit hits $1.2 trillion…
When a nation’s leaders are aware that their country is facing a crisis, they have no higher moral responsibility than to act to protect the nation from that danger.”