The Corner

‘An Honest Budget Debate’

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.), top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, delivered the following remarks on the Senate floor Thursday, in which he deconstructs the ongoing debate over the nation’s debt and deficit and discusses some of the myths, gimmicks and falsehoods that have been propagated by Democrats (and the media) throughout. (As prepared):

“One of the things that most frustrates the American people about Washington is how hard it can be to get reliable information and straightforward answers.

Politicians offer a budget proposal and say it cuts taxes even though taxes go up. They even come up with new names to disguise tax hikes—maybe they call them deficit cuts or revenue enhancements or reduced spending in the tax code. We hear people come to the floor and blame our massive deficit on anything and everything but our out-of-control spending—it’s the war in Iraq or it’s a tax cut passed a decade ago or it’s special preferences for private yachts and Learjets.

We can’t have an honest budget if we don’t have an honest dialogue.

So I’m here today to speak the plain truth, as best I can, and to provide some concrete facts for consideration by my colleagues, the media, and the public.

First, I would like to address the myth that the president has a $4 trillion deficit-reduction plan. The only plan the White House has ever put on paper is his February budget, which doubles our national debt.

The president has never put a single spending cut plan on paper and he has no proposal to slash the deficit. If he does, it’s a closely guarded secret. And if such a secret plan does exist it should be made public this very afternoon. I’d like to see it. I’m sure millions of Americans feel the same.

We also have no debt plan from Senate Democrats. In fact, they haven’t even passed a budget in 813 days.

As of now, there is only one debt limit plan on paper. Only one plan available for public scrutiny and review. That’s the plan we are debating today: cut, cap, and balance. It cuts spending immediately, it caps it so it doesn’t go up, and it requires the passage of a balanced budget amendment to ensure Washington ends the deficit spending once and for all. The American people do not trust Washington to pass some grand budget deal with tax hikes that never go away and spending cuts that never materialize.

They are wise to the gimmicks and accounting tricks. That’s why I’ve introduced legislation requiring 7 days to review any bill increasing the debt limit.

In fact, Washington Democrats are resisting cut, cap, and balance because they know there’s no gimmick or accounting trick to get around it.

If this becomes law, Washington will have to end the spending spree. There will be no other option. These are the responsible choices families, cities, and states make every year.

In Alabama, Governor Robert Bentley oversaw an across-the-board cut of 15 percent from the General Fund in the current year because of a constitutional prohibition on deficit spending. For next year, he has proposed cuts of up to 45 percent for some state agencies. Unlike the federal government, our state is legally obligated to live within its means.

Another myth I’d like to address is the idea that our current budget crisis is the result of two wars and a tax cut. Let’s consider that claim. The total cost of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, over the entire last decade, is $1.3 trillion. Again, that’s over the last decade. This year alone the deficit is expected to be $1.4 trillion dollars. War costs represent only 4 percent of total outlays over the last ten years. The total amount of money spent since the president took office is $8.5 trillion dollars. By the end of his first three years in office we will have added $5 trillion to our gross federal debt. We are borrowing almost half of what we’re spending every single day. In the last two years, non-defense discretionary spending has soared 24 percent. The stimulus package alone—enacted into law in a single day in 2009—cost more than the entire war in Iraq. Annual spending when President Bush took office was less than $2 trillion. Today, it’s almost $4 trillion. It will be almost $6 trillion by the end of the decade.

There is only one honest answer to the question over why our debt is rising so fast: out-of-control domestic spending.

Another myth that’s circulating which I’d like to address concerns the budget summary from the Gang of Six. The authors of the summary claim that their approach would reduce the deficit by $3.7 trillion. But my staff on the Budget Committee can only find $1.2 trillion in reduced spending, along with a tax increase of $1 trillion. Where does the other $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction come from? Chairman Conrad, one of the members of the Gang of Six, even says the outline has a $1.5 trillion tax cut. But this is compared against a baseline that assumes a $3.5 trillion tax increase. It’s just an accounting gimmick. The real cost of the tax changes could be an increase as large as $2 trillion.

This is why we need more than a handout—we need legislative text.

The last myth that I’d like to address is perhaps the most important of all. This is the myth that we only need about $2 trillion in spending cuts over the next ten years.

Democrats have said—although no plan has ever been made public—that they could get behind a budget deal that reduces the deficit $4 trillion over the next ten years, half of it comprised of spending cuts. I’m skeptical that even this minimal level of spending cuts would occur. But even if it did, it’s not even close to what is needed to ultimately balance our budget. We are projected to spend $46 trillion over the next ten years. A $2 trillion cut is only about a four percent reduction in spending that is set to increase almost sixty percent.

In just a little over 2 months our debt will equal 100 percent of our GDP—matching the size of our entire economy. It already costs us a million jobs or more a year.

The honest truth is that this president, and this Democrat-led Senate, will never agree to the level of spending cuts in a debt deal necessary to put our country on a sound path.

They are committed to a big-government vision and will do whatever they can to preserve it. This the great debate of our time. And it won’t be settled in two weeks.

But I am confident that the good sense and wisdom of the American people will prevail. I am confident that we will get our spending under control, we will restore American principles of limited government, and we will build a better, freer future for our children.”

Andrew StilesAndrew Stiles is a political reporter for National Review Online. He previously worked at the Washington Free Beacon, and was an intern at The Hill newspaper. Stiles is a 2009 ...


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