Thursday, January 17, 2013


The National Debt Clock a couple of years after
this speech soon after this speech was delivered

I came across a statement made on the Senate Floor about an proposed increase in the debt ceiling made on March 16, 2006.  I've updated it a bit and included both some highlights (in red) and some annotations (in green) to bring it up to date.
Mr. President, I rise today to talk about America's debt problem. 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.
In my first two years federal debt increased by almost $3 trillion that amounts to a 10% advance in the percentage of GDP/debt in just two years.   By any measure that is a pretty stiff advance.  Over the past 5 years, our federal debt has increased by $3.5 trillion to $8.6 trillion ballooned to more than $16 trillion - or just a bit under double what I stated the debt was in 2006. (and then I thought it was a problem)  That is ''trillion'' with a ''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 5 years, between now and 2011, the President's budget will increase the debt by almost another $3.5 trillion.  If you divide all that up and assign it on a per capita basis - that amounts to more than $52,000 for each of us.  That would be bad in itself, but there is more, our debt estimates do not include the unfunded liability of federal pension obligations ($7.3 trillion) or the long term liabilities of the Social Security Trust Fund ($18 trillion) or the projected Medicare deficiencies ($24 trillion).  When you add all of that up it comes to more than 100% of our combined net worth.  
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. According to Erskine Bowles that is expected to grow to $1 trillion by 2020. 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. . . .  Put another way debt payments are now the fourth largest spending category in the federal budget.
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 My administration did more than that in just 5 4years, a lot more. 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.
No, I won't even ask you to guess who said this (even unannotated).

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