Error loading information. You can try again.


a speech in Congress by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), on

Visit CapitolWords for more context.
Full Text Below, adapted from the Congressional Record.

I rise to speak about the issue in front of us. I want to spend a few minutes putting things in context. I won't repeat things I have said routinely on the floor, but I think it is important for the American people to understand where we are in our country.

Using generally accepted accounting principles--these aren't my numbers--we have almost $126 trillion in unfunded liabilities and we have $17 trillion worth of debt. We have a lot of obligations in front of us. If we add up every asset in the United States--all the bank accounts, all the lands, all the possessions, everything we own, plus what we own outside of the United States--it comes to $94 trillion. In essence, we are almost $50 trillion in the hole. That is called a negative net worth.

I appreciate the comments of my colleague from Delaware. I have the greatest admiration for him. I am not one of those who think we should be in shutdown. I also am not one of those who think we should just, without any solution to our problem, raise the debt limit.

I would also note that we don't have to have a budget right now in the Senate because we agreed to the Budget Control Act, which sets the discretionary spending levels for the next 10 years in this country. They are set by law. What is important is that appropriations bills come through the committees--the House first and the Senate second--so that we can address the issues. We didn't do that in the Senate. They did about half of them in the House. We wouldn't have a continuing resolution--which, by the way, I think all of us agree is very difficult for our Federal employees to operate under.

But I wanted to make a couple of points. One is that in July of 2011, after 7 years of oversight, I put out $9 trillion of what I think are commonsense eliminations and changes we could make that today would put us at a $200 billion surplus instead of a $750 billion deficit. Those savings were $3 trillion total in discretionary spending, $1 trillion in defense spending, $2.7 trillion in terms of modernization of our health entitlement programs, and $1 trillion from the Tax Code. We actually have earmarks in the Tax Code for those who are well-heeled and well-connected--a benefit--and the average American gets nothing. There are interest payment savings of $1.3 trillion and a 75-year solvency for the Social Security. That was put out 2\1/2\ years ago. Very little of it has been used. As a matter of fact, most people haven't read it. It was put out in a binder. We didn't print many binders because I am so tight, I don't want to print that many binders, but this is what it looks like. It is online. People may read it and see if it makes common sense. Most people won't.

I am going to spend some time outlining some of the things that came from that and some of the excesses of the Federal Government.

Most Americans know we are not efficient. They understand that we are not doing a good job spending their money, but they have no idea how bad it really is. I have actually spent the last 9 years in oversight of almost every segment of the Federal Government. None of us can be proud of the way we spend the money. Most of it is very well intentioned, honorably intentioned, with minimal oversight, minimal control, with over $150 billion of fraud every year, and I am talking pure fraud, and with $250 billion of real duplication--programs that do exactly the same thing, run by different agencies, with no consideration to streamline those. None of those things have been considered.

We won't even do tax reform to get rid of unemployment for millionaires. What people don't realize is we paid $60 million out over the last 2 years to people who were making $1 million a year. We are paying them unemployment. They hardly need the unemployment check. Yet we won't even regulate those kinds of things.

I think we have failed to do our job, and that is a Republican and Democratic thing. That is us. That is not a partisan statement.

The last time the President signed an individual spending bill into law--an individual appropriations bill--was 4 years ago. Four years ago was the last time he signed an independent appropriations bill into law. That tells you Congress hasn't done its job. We haven't passed them.

According to studies, if you poll the American people in terms of the sequester, less than one in four felt any impact at all from the sequester. And I think the sequester is a terrible way to determine spending. I voted against the Budget Control Act for that very reason, because we are not responsible enough to do the management and the oversight. But most Americans see no impact from it, and that is because in what we do there is so much waste and mismanagement. There is so much duplication, there is so much error that we could easily take that out and most people wouldn't notice it. They haven't noticed it.

Some of our Federal employees have noticed it, but the average American, 76 percent of them have never felt any impact from it whatsoever. They do not even know it happened. There has been no impact on their daily life. Increasing the debt limit and passing another CR isn't going to do a thing to eliminate government waste, fraud, or duplication.

It is time we kind of reassess where we are. One of the reasons I am against a debt limit increase is because it takes the pressure off Members of Congress to make the hard choices. If we raise the debt limit, that means we don't have to make the hard choices and we will run a deficit again and again. Toward the end of this decade, just 7 years from now, the deficits start climbing well above $1 trillion again--$1 trillion a year. Our deficit is growing twice as fast as our economy is--our debt is. It is growing twice as fast as our economy is. So we are going down in a hole.

We ought to be about--Democrats and Republicans--holding hands and saying let's stop this nonsense. Let's put some brakes on ourselves. Let's put in some limitations so we don't continue to fall prey to ducking the very difficult decisions facing this country. Households do that, businesses do it all the time. They assess where they are, they assess how deep the hole is, because nobody gives them the ability to say: You don't have to make those hard choices, we will give you more borrowing power. What they do is make those hard choices. We refuse to do so.

Another example. We just finished year end and there is this syndrome in Washington called ``use it or lose it.''

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record an article from the Washington Post with the lead-in ``As Congress fights over the budget, agencies go on their `use it or lose it' shopping sprees.''