A picture of Senator Mitch McConnell
Mitch M.
Republican KY

About Sen. Mitch
  • Spending Reform

    by Senator Mitch McConnell

    Posted on 2013-01-30

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    McCONNELL. Madam President, a few weeks ago, President Obama reportedly said America does not have a spending problem. Well, of course, we know that is not accurate. This is completely at odds with what independent experts tell us and what is perfectly apparent to anybody who is alert. Last week, I brought this chart behind me to the floor to illustrate the point.

    As everyone knows, we are running trillion-dollar annual deficits. What this chart shows is that the gap between government spending and revenue just keeps getting wider and wider and wider. So let's take a look at it.

    The occupant of the chair is relatively new to the Senate but not new to the facts. The green area here represents both historic and projected tax revenue. The dark blue area--as you can see, the really kind of flat lines out here to 2040--is the new revenue the President received at the end of the year as a result of operation of the law. The tax rates sunsetted, expired at midnight on New Year's Eve. The Congress then wisely continued the current tax rates for 99 percent of Americans, made those rates permanent so we would not have another event like New Year's Eve where we came to an abrupt conclusion. Most importantly, for States such as the State of the occupant of the chair and my own, a $5 million per person exemption on the death tax was made permanent and indexed to inflation.

    The President wanted more revenue than that and continues to talk about more revenue. So if we take all the revenue the President said he wants to get, over and above the revenue he got as a result of the law expiring--that is this dark blue area--if we gave him every bit of new tax revenue he wanted over and above that, we would have this light blue area like this.

    So we can see, colleagues, that even if the President got all the revenue he wanted, it only produces this much in a pretty flat line going way out into the future.

    So, clearly, what one can conclude from this--whether you think the revenue the President got is enough or you think the President ought to have as much revenue as he wants--factually, it does not solve the problem. It does not solve the problem because we do not have this problem because we tax too little; we have it because we spend way too much because the red area is the spending trajectory.

    So it is perfectly obvious for anybody who is not going to ignore the facts that this is not a revenue problem; this is a spending problem. And until we solve this problem, we cannot leave behind for our children and our grandchildren the kind of country our parents left behind for us.

    This, my colleagues, is the Europeanization of America. This is the pathway to Greece and Italy and Spain, and maybe now even France as [[Page S371]] well--perpetual high unemployment, an economy kind of in a death spiral that just kind of bumps along like ours, which is now bumping along at a 1.5-percent growth rate.

    It is time to get serious about solving this problem. This ``red'' rises like a mountain over a relatively flat plain of green.

    Now, I know there is almost an article of faith on the other side with some--maybe not all--that it is a revenue problem. Clearly, it is not a revenue problem. More to the point, tax revenue as a share of our gross domestic product is today about the same as it has been over the last four decades. Spending, on the other hand, averaged just 18.5 percent over that same period but today stands at about 23 percent of gross domestic product--one of the highest spending levels since World War II. It is about to get much worse, growing to nearly 40 percent of GDP in just a few decades--40 percent of GDP. There is simply no other way to solve this problem--no other way to solve the problem--than to get our spending under control.

    A significant portion of the dramatic spending increase to come is the result of tens of millions of baby boomers reaching retirement age. We know this. Erskine Bowles, the Chairman of the Bowles-Simpson Commission, said it was the most predictable crisis in American history.

    We are in a position to do something about this. We should. But that is only one part of the problem. It is the biggest part of the problem, but it is only one part of it. We need to shine a light into every corner of the budget, especially the dark corners that often evade real scrutiny. Programs that do not work should be scrapped, and when considering those that do, we still need to ask the question, Can it be done better, faster, more efficiently? We need to root out waste, which will serve as the first real test of the Democrats' seriousness in this debate. I mean, why is the Federal Government funding Chinese studies on pig manure--why--and research into the smoking habits of Jordanian college students and reality TV shows in India? Are our friends on the other side prepared to cut this kind of waste? Because if they are not, if they demand a 1-to-1 ratio between tax increases and pig manure cuts, then there is really no hope of ever putting our country back on the path to prosperity.

    The Senate will soon begin consideration of H.R. 325. If it passes, we will have a few more months to come up with the kinds of spending reforms necessary to secure a longer extension of the debt ceiling. That extra time will give us a chance to break the Democrats' other bad habit of leaving everything--literally everything--until the last minute. But we can only do it if we get to work now and return to what we call around here the regular order. Remember, regular order is how the Senate is supposed to function. Committees are supposed to be allowed to evaluate legislation. Amendments are supposed to be considered. The public is supposed to have a chance to scrutinize the proposals that are actually before us.

    Look, I know that solving the debt challenge is not going to be easy. Putting our country on a sustainable fiscal and economic path is going to require both parties committing to serious spending reforms. But this is a challenge we must overcome. By doing the hard work today, we can avoid a European-style catastrophe tomorrow. By reforming the functions of government that no longer make sense in 2013, we can do more than just control spending, we can encourage private sector growth and job creation and finally get the economy back on its feet. And by ridding ourselves of this massive burden of debt, we can remove the greatest obstacle to recovery.

    As I said yesterday, this is ultimately a conversation about growth and opportunity. It is not a conversation about austerity. It is one that Republicans are eager to have. For those who want to pretend our country does not have a spending problem, this is a pretense which is not borne out by the facts. Now is the time to face reality. We have known this for literally years. When are we going to face it? There is no better time than now.

    We can take on this challenge together if both sides are ready to do the necessary work to reform spending, but we need to get started today--not next week, not in April--today.

    I yield the floor.


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