Weekly remarks: GOP's Orrin Hatch says U.S. can't afford new spending; Obama calls it investing
Good morning. I’m Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah.
Last week, the nation, and the world, celebrated the centennial of President Ronald Reagan’s birth.
Ronald Reagan once told Americans that they faced a time for choosing. The choice then was between the constitutional liberty of free men and women, and a future of higher taxes, bigger government and less opportunity for families and businesses.
Last fall, American citizens again had a choice to make. Would they ratify the agenda of trillion-dollar deficits and an out-of-control debt that the president imposed on the nation? Or would they ...
The American people made their choice in electing historic numbers of conservative Republicans to Congress and in sweeping victories at the state and local level.
Now it is a time for President Obama to choose.
Will he listen to the people, reduce the size of government, and get our spiraling spending and debt under control, or will he become the guardian of an unsustainable status quo?
Next week we will find out what choice President Obama makes, when he releases his budget.
Unfortunately, early indications are that he and his Capitol Hill allies are not taking the nation’s spending-fueled debt crisis -- the most critical challenge facing our nation today -- with the seriousness it deserves.
Our massive debt must be confronted immediately. America cannot afford to kick this can down the road any longer. And this challenge cannot be solved with higher taxes that will only result in lower economic growth and less opportunity for our children and grandchildren.
The president’s proposal for a freeze in government spending might give the White House a nice talking point. But it is a totally inadequate solution to our nation’s spending problems.
Over the past two years, the administration increased discretionary spending by 24%. If you count the so-called stimulus package, spending is up nearly 84%.
These levels cannot continue. Business as usual is unsustainable, and job creators know that higher debt today means higher taxes tomorrow.
And if the president's new budget simply freezes his last budget, he’ll stifle job growth by continuing to spend too much, tax too much, and borrow too much.
It is beyond irresponsible to saddle the next generation of American citizens with the responsibility for paying back our debt.
By itself, the president’s takeover of the nation’s healthcare system will cost $2.6 trillion. And if this new entitlement is like every entitlement before it, the price tag is just going to grow.
Our total debt is over $14 trillion. At over 90% of the size of our economy, this is the highest level since 1950.
Think about that. We are spending at a level not seen since the Second World War. By 2021, our public debt is expected to hit $22 trillion with the federal government paying nearly $1.6 trillion every year in interest payments alone on this debt. We are approaching a real crisis.
Not only does the President want to set these spending levels in stone, he’s now talking about new so-called investments -- saying it 10 times in a speech on Thursday -- which is just code for billions in new Washington spending.
This week, the vice president, advocating for massive new federal expenditures, told Americans to get a grip and get on board with this new spending spree.
With due respect to the vice president, the American people’s grip on this situation is just fine. They know we cannot afford these so-called investments that are financed with taxpayer dollars.
Decisions to reduce spending are not easy ones.
But with leadership, big things can be done. Look at what Gov. McDonnell has done in Virginia, and Gov. Christie in New Jersey. They have taken on big spending, and they are winning.
The bottom line is we are a nation working on borrowed time -- we have to make some significant changes in order to compete.
We need to reform our tax code. We need to roll back regulations that hinder businesses large and small.
We need to begin a debate about reforming Social Security and Medicare, so they will be there for our children to depend on when they retire.
We need to ratify free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama that will open markets for American innovators and spur job creation in Utah and around our country.
And we need to stop imposing unaffordable financial burdens on our states, like the ever-increasing federal expansion of Medicaid.
Yet all of these things will take presidential leadership, and so far the president and the Democrats are missing in action. Indeed, the White House is floating a proposal that could increase the cost of hiring and retaining workers.
Next week, a great debate will begin. The president will send his budget to Congress. And once more Americans will face a time for choosing. Do we accept a future where our children and grandchildren are left holding trillions in IOUs? Or do we get our fiscal house in order, cut spending, and reduce tax burdens on all Americans?
I expect that Americans will choose the course of greater freedom and more opportunity.
The question is whether the administration will choose to listen to the American people or continue our current spending crisis. Thank you for listening and God bless America.
A few months ago, I received a letter from a woman named Brenda Breece. I wanted to share her story because it speaks to what a lot of families are going through –- and it offers a good example of the kind of responsibility that’s needed in Washington right now.
Brenda is a mom and a special-ed teacher from Missouri. Her husband, David, was employed at the local Chrysler plant for nearly four decades. They’ve worked hard their whole lives. But like a lot of folks, they’ve taken some hits over the past few years. When the Chrysler plant closed, David had to take early retirement. His pension helps, but it’s half of what he earned before. Meanwhile, because of budget cuts, Brenda has had to buy school supplies for her students out of her own pocket –- because it’s her job and she cares about those kids.
Money has been tight, but they are doing the best they can. And like so many families, they are sacrificing what they don’t need so they can afford what really matters. This is what Brenda told me. “I feel my family is frugal,” she said. “We go to the movies ... once a month, but usually we just wait for them to come out on TV. ... I watch the food budget. ... We combine trips into town [and] use coupons ... and we trim each other’s hair when we need a haircut.”
So Brenda and her husband know what they can do without. But they also know what investments are too important to sacrifice. Their daughter, Rachel, is a sophomore in college with a 4.0 grade point average. The tuition is a big expense. But it’s worth it, because it will give her the chance to achieve her dreams. In fact, Brenda is looking for a second job to ensure, as she told me, “the money is there to help Rachel with her future.”
Families across this country understand what it takes to manage a budget. They understand what it takes to make ends meet without forgoing important investments like education. Well, it’s time Washington acted as responsibly as our families do. And on Monday, I’m proposing a new budget that will help us live within our means while investing in our future.
My budget freezes annual domestic spending for the next five years -– even on programs I care deeply about –- which will reduce the deficit by more than $400 billion over the next decade. This freeze will bring this type of spending to its lowest level as a share of the economy since Dwight Eisenhower was president. We’ve stripped down the budget by getting rid of waste.
For example, we’re getting rid of thousands of government-owned buildings that sit empty because they aren’t needed. I’ve also proposed freezing salaries for hardworking government employees, because everyone has to do their part. And I’m going to make sure politics doesn’t add to our deficit, by vetoing any bill that contains earmarks.
And yet, just as the Breece family is making difficult sacrifices while still investing in the future –- by helping their daughter pay her tuition –- my budget does the same. I’m proposing that we invest in what will do the most to grow the economy in the years to come. This means job-creating investments in roads, high-speed trains, and broadband.
This means cutting-edge research that holds the promise of creating countless jobs and whole new industries, like clean energy and biotechnology. And it means improving our schools and making college more affordable –- to give every young person the chance to fulfill his or her potential, and receive the job training they need to succeed. Because it would be a mistake to balance the budget by sacrificing our children’s education.
So, after a decade of rising deficits, this budget asks Washington to live within its means, while at the same time investing in our future. It cuts what we can’t afford to pay, for what we cannot do without. That’s what families do in hard times. And that’s what our country has to do, too. Thank you.
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Photos: (from top)
U.S. Capitol building. Credit: Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press
Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah). Credit: Associated Press
President Obama. Credit: Pete Souza / White House