Chairman Enzi: Confront spending, make tough decisions

U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, spoke this morning on how the president’s FY2016 budget proposal lacks needed fiscal reforms and only accelerates the nation’s plunge towards higher interest payments and more debt.

In his opening statement before the Senate Budget Committee, Enzi also highlighted how we need to be working toward a balanced budget, not rehashing old ideas of taxing more and spending more.  It’s time for a new direction according to the Chairman.

Enzi’s full statement as prepared for delivery follows:   

Good morning.  I’ll call this hearing to order.      

Today, we will take testimony from OMB Director Shaun Donovan on the President’s budget plan for the upcoming 2016 fiscal year.  

When it comes to the budget, we all know that we’ve lived for too many years with too many blown deadlines, failed submissions, heightened crises and last-second deals. 

Together, both parties, both chambers and both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue have allowed this way of doing business to become the new normal of how we operate.     

It’s long past time to restore regular order to our budget process, and that begins with following the budget timeline laid out in law.  Yesterday, after six years, the President’s budget was released on time. My congratulations to mister Donovan who headed up that effort. I appreciate the work you and your team did to make that happen.  Being on time is a first small step towards restoring regular order on the budget.  And it can help our constituents understand a little better what is happening in Washington.

However, our constituents also understand these truths about the government in Washington:  

It spends too much. 

It taxes too much. 

It regulates too much. 

It borrows too much. 

And their biggest worry is we owe too much. 

Every year since he took office, the President has proposed the same approach to the fiscal challenge facing our government:

He wants to spend—more.  

He wants to tax—more. 

He wants to regulate—more.  

He wants to borrow—more. 

He wants us to owe—more, and more, and more.

His plans always end with every American holding the tab, stuck with deficits and debt as far as the eye can see. Incidentally I don’t like that word deficit. It gets confused with debt. Deficit is our overspending.

I promised at our first hearing that I would follow the numbers.  Looking at the President’s budget, here’s what the numbers show:   

First, the tax man cometh.  Under the President’s proposal, taxes head higher—a total of $2.1 trillion higher.  This boost comes on top of the $1.7 trillion in taxes he’s already imposed during his presidency and I can tell you that nothing good ever comes to individuals from $3.8 trillion in additional taxes.

Next, spending explodes.  The President wants to add $259 billion of new spending in the next fiscal year, and $2.4 trillion over the next ten years, a 65 percent increase.

Let’s see — $2.1 trillion in higher taxes, $2.4 trillion in higher spending. That’s still overspending.

The president hides what he is doing when he talks about reducing the deficit; sounds like the debt will go down. No, the deficit is the overspending that we do. Did you ever hear of anybody being able to buy something with the interest they save?

Then, interest payments skyrocket.   Annual interest cost would nearly triple, from $229 billion today to $785 billion in 2025. And I think that is at a pretty conservative interest rate. Interest remains the fastest-growing item in the budget, but provides little in the way of benefit to our constituents. At the end of his plan, annual interest costs would be larger than the President’s proposed spending for national defense, Medicaid, or the combined total of all non-defense agency spending.

Finally, the President’s plan adds $8.5 trillion to the debt.  Over the next ten years, cumulative overspending would amount to $5.7 trillion in new debt, with the Federal debt climbing to $26.3 trillion in 2025.  Based on projected population figures, this would mean every man, woman and child in America would owe almost $76,000 in payments on President Obama’s debt. That is compared to $56,000 per person today. That is $20,000 per person more that everybody in America is going to owe. I mean the child who is born today is figured into that same cost, that same debt.

Altogether, these were not the numbers I was looking for.

I meant it when I said last week that we must confront spending.  Bring the deficit to an end. And, ultimately, balance the budget.  The President’s proposal fails all three elements of our mission.

I’ll listen to the administration make its case on why it’s best to ignore balancing the budget.  But with 24 States already agreeing that the solution is to gather together to write a balanced budget requirement into our Constitution, and with more States thinking about it, this is a mission we don’t dare duck. 

Yes, 24 states have already passed a constitutional convention to balance the budget. More than 10 others are in the process of passing the same one. Twenty-four plus 10 is 34, that’s enough to have a constitutional conventional and force us to do it.

We also can’t fail our constituents.  

Our nation needs a larger and more successful private sector, not a larger, more intrusive and fiscally foolish Federal government.  

The latest quarterly GDP figures released Friday, and I don’t think GDP means much to the rest of the nation. What they are interested in is how much we take in, how much we spend and how much more debt that results in.  But the latest quarterly GDP figures released Friday demonstrate firmly that in the United States, more Federal spending, more Federal deficits, more interest costs, and more debt do not yield a robust economy. 

Our economy still bobs in the backwater of too-slow growth.  While the jobless rate edges down, and equity markets head up, the number of people who are underemployed, or have abandoned looking for work, continues to be too high.  Wages are stagnant.  Household wealth has collapsed.  Too many worry that the American dream is no longer theirs, and won’t be there for their children and grandchildren.

Failure of our economy to recover is the President’s record over the last six years.  He has left too many Americans behind. 

But in looking ahead, families and individuals need a Federal government with a fiscal plan that helps create the climate for good jobs and good wages.  Americans need to have confidence that there is work to be had, jobs to be found, and paychecks to be earned. 

Most importantly, they need to know that a strong and successful future is theirs again, all around the country.

It’s not too late for the President to join us in making the future brighter, by submitting a new plan that doesn’t mortgage our future to pay for the present.   

If the President changes course, we can work together to ensure that Americans have the strongest possible economy, so competition to hire employees drive up wages and benefits.

We have a solid economy.  And economy in government. 

I said that people don’t understand the GDP, but they do understand us spending more than we take in. We maxed out our credit cards, we don’t have a mortgage payment. Maybe we should have a mortgage payment where we monthly pay down some of our debt and use the interest we saved to pay down even more. That’s how people buy houses. I looked at the numbers on that. There is no possibility of that at the present time.

We keep coming up with brilliant ideas for new ways to spend to fill in gaps and gifts that we haven’t been giving. We don’t really take a look at what we already have and need to weed out things that don’t work. We pretend everything we do is perfection and with guilty conscience we try to do more, instead we should be doing better.

We have over 250 programs that have been authorized, of those 150 of them are no longer in authorization, but we continue to spend the money on them even though we don’t look at them to see what they do and how they operate and what they should be doing, and if they ought to even exist anymore. That means we have exceeded the time we guaranteed we would pay for them

Last year we had to vote on $111 billion in spending. I prefer to say $111 billion in spending because I think it is more honest than $1.1 trillion. We spent $468 billion more than the $111 billion. If we over spend by 50 percent aren’t we buying like it is a department store sale.

Colleagues, that’s the sort of change Americans can really believe in.