A deficit hawk's courageous stand
Below is a prescient speech given on the Senate floor years ago warning of the coming debt crisis. It was delivered when the national debt was $8 trillion less than it is today. It is reproduced here without comment. The fact that we are here today to debate raising America's debt limit, is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can't pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government's reckless fiscal policies.
"Over the past 5 years, our federal debt has increased by $3. 5 trillion to $8. 6 trillion. That is $8 trillion'' with a Capital T.'' That is money that we have borrowed from the Social Security trust fund, borrowed from China and Japan, borrowed from American taxpayers. And over the next five years, between now and 2011, the President's budget will increase the debt by almost another $3. 5 trillion.
"Numbers that large are sometimes hard to understand. Some people may wonder why they matter. Here is why: This year, the Federal Government will spend $220 billion on interest. That is more money to pay interest on our national debt than we'll spend on Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program. That is more money to pay interest on our debt this year than we will spend on education, homeland security, transportation, and veterans benefits combined. It is more money in one year than we are likely to spend to rebuild the devastated gulf coast in a way that honors the best of America.
"And the cost of our debt is one of the fastest-growing expenses in the Federal budget. This rising debt is a hidden domestic enemy, robbing our cities and States of critical investments in infrastructure like bridges, ports, and levees; robbing our families and our children of critical investments in education and health care reform; robbing our seniors of the retirement and health security they have counted on.
"Every dollar we pay in interest is a dollar that is not going to investment in America's priorities. Instead, interest payments are a significant tax on all Americans=8Ba debt tax that Washington doesn't want to talk about. If Washington were serious about honest tax relief in this country, we would see an effort to reduce our national debt by returning to responsible fiscal policies.
"Our debt also matters internationally. My friend, the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, likes to remind us that it took 42 Presidents 224 years to run up only $1 trillion of foreign-held debt. This administration did more than that in just 5 years. Now, there is nothing wrong with borrowing from foreign countries. But we must remember that the more we depend on foreign nations to lend us money, the more our economic security is tied to the whims of foreign leaders whose interests might not be aligned with ours.
"Increasing America's debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that - the buck stops here.'' Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.
"I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America's debt limit.
From the Congressional Record Sen. Barack Obama March 16, 2006.
Perry Green Manchester
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