A TURNING POINT IN THE HISTORY OF OUR COUNTRY; Congressional Record Vol. 141, No. 184
(Senate - November 18, 1995)

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[Pages S17423-S17425]
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             A TURNING POINT IN THE HISTORY OF OUR COUNTRY

  Mr. ASHCROFT. Mr. President, I commend the Senator from Washington 
for his clear statement about the kind of challenge that is before us. 
This is a turning point--a turning point in the history of our country. 
Will we decide to discontinue using the credit card of the next 
generation and then after racking up the charges, sending them the 
bill? That is the fundamental decision. It is a decision we have not 
had the courage to make for the last 26 years. Over a quarter of a 
century has passed since we last operated without sending this enormous 
credit card bill to our children and grandchildren.
  This is an issue of freedom. Who will be free to make the decision on 
how the next generations resources will be spent? Will we be free to 
decide how their resources are spent? Or will they be free? It is not 
unlike the kind of decision that was made when this country came into 
existence. The British thought they could tax us and spend our 
resources without listening to us. We referred to it as taxation 
without representation. And spending our resources against our wishes 
was so offensive to us that we drew a proverbial line in the sand. The 
midnight ride of Paul Revere launched this Nation into a period of 
conflict to establish once and for all that one group does not spend 
the resources of another group against the other group's wishes and 
will.
  I believe that this is a fundamental turning point in America. Who is 
going to control the destiny of the next generation? Will they, as free 
people, have the God-given right to shape the tomorrows in which they 
live by deploying their resources in ways in which they see fit? Or 
will they be slaves to the past? Will they be devoting their resources 
to pay for our excesses?
  I think the Senator from Washington has stated the case rather 
clearly. He has pointed out that we have to live within our means, that 
we have to fashion a spending plan that is within the limits of the 
money that we will have. Now, that is always a little bit difficult to 
do in government. You have to project how much money you will have. You 
do not know exactly how much money you will have because you do not 
know how much will be paid in taxes and you do not know the level of 
business activity. So you have to make estimates. You have to have 
assumptions about the level of economic activity in society. You have 
to have forecasting.
  Any time you have forecasting, you run into the same trouble that you 
run into if you are going on a picnic with 

[[Page S 17424]]
your family. No family that I know of is so devoid of good sense as to 
turn the television or radio on to get the weather forecast and there 
is a 100-percent chance of rain and thunderstorms and then see it maybe 
on one or two channels and say, ``There is a series of bad forecasts 
out there; we need to have our picnic. Let us go out on the street and 
find somebody else who might tell us that there is going to be 
sunshine.''
  The truth of the matter is that you have to use honest data in a 
forecast. You cannot go to somebody who does not know anything about 
the weather or somebody who has another agenda, who wants to sell you 
the hot dogs and say, ``Are we going to have weather good enough for a 
picnic?'' You have to have the right forecast. We have to have the 
right forecast if we really want to balance the budget.
  That is really what this business is about when we talk about using 
honest numbers. Are we going to use numbers that are put together by 
nonpartisan individuals who are solely and totally devoted to the 
development of an honest forecast, or are we going to use figures put 
together by people who want to sell the hot dogs and send us on the 
picnic in the hopes that maybe there will be some miracle?
  Well, that is where we are. We believe that using the nonpartisan 
Congressional Budget Office as the basis for the forecast--using their 
numbers and their forecast--is trusting the best source of prediction. 
This source of prediction is so well revered and so well honored as the 
independent and nonpartisan, accurate source, that the President of the 
United States, President Clinton, in 1993, in his State of the Union 
message, said we should stop using other groups like the Office of 
Management and Budget, which is subject to political pressures. This is 
true even if the forecasters are not overt or do not mean to develop 
distorted figures. Sometimes the real desire of people in politics to 
do what they want to do skews their judgment a little bit. They have 
too much of a stake in the fight to be the referee. The President said 
in his State of the Union Message in 1993, ``Do not use other figures, 
use Congressional Budget Office figures.'' I think there is a real 
reason to use Congressional Budget Office figures, because they are 
bipartisan and they do not have a dog in this fight. They can go either 
way.
  As a matter of fact, that is what the Congress has been insisting on. 
At least, that is what those of us on this side of the aisle have 
insisted on--that we use the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office 
forecasting.
  I point out that using the Congressional Budget Office forecasting 
does not make balancing the budget easy. It makes it tough. It makes it 
hard because it is a realistic forecast. If we were to try to solve 
this problem by going and getting another forecast, by going to find 
some other economist that would tell us, ``Do not worry about it, you 
are going to have lots and lots of money, so do not worry about how 
much you spend,'' I think we would be sticking our heads in the sand. 
Then we would suffer the consequences of not knowing when the real 
peril emerged to threaten the future of this country.
  Let me just tell you that I am not totally comfortable with the CBO 
forecast. I am not a professional forecaster, and I am willing to 
accept their perspective. CBO has forecast that for the next 7 years we 
will have 2.4 percent growth every year.

  I really cannot remember a 7-year period when we could have counted 
on that kind of growth before. Almost every time in a 7-year period you 
have some downturns.
  Now, there are those folks who say, surely we will have growth of 
greater than 2.4 percent. I confess, I am willing to bet that we will. 
But I am terribly fearful of the fact there may be times when we are 
below the 2.4-percent growth line.
  The idea we would leave CBO out of the equation and leave the 
leavening influence, the stabilizing influence, the ballast of this 
nonpartisan organization out of the settlement is an idea which is 
frightening indeed.
  CBO, which has made a pretty aggressive estimate that we will have 
2.4 percent growth--and that means overall we will have that kind of 
growth as if there is no upturn or downturn, that we will not ever 
slide below it enough to drag the average down, is pretty aggressive.
  I think as we work with the President toward a balanced budget, and I 
am committed we will work long enough to get a balanced budget, to get 
the commitment--people have been calling me from home saying, ``Do not 
weaken. Do not sell the future of America. Do not jeopardize our 
children and grandchildren one more time.'' We are at a turning point. 
Children born this year already will have, if we do not do something 
about the debt, $187,000 to pay in their lifetime in interest on the 
debt. ``Please do not extend that,'' they are saying. I do not want to.
  We will work together with the President to get something done here, 
but make sure we commit ourselves to 7 years and make sure we commit 
ourselves to reasonable estimates by nonpartisan professionals. Heavens 
knows, with a 2.4-percent 7-year presumption in the mix, to assume 
there will not be some downturn there somewhere would be whistling in 
the dark. It would be planning the picnic in the face of a tornado, but 
going to someone who knows nothing about the weather and saying, ``Give 
me a better forecast. I want to go out in spite of the dark clouds that 
may be on the horizon.''
  Let me add just one other thing as I talk about these forecasts and 
about the Congressional Budget Office, the nonpartisan forecasting 
agency of Government. I know the CBO and OMB and all these letters are 
like alphabet soup, and I am sorry we have to use them.
  If the President says he wants to balance the budget and he uses one 
set of figures, and the Congress says they want to balance the budget 
and we use another set of figures, the President can argue from one set 
of figures, we argue from the other set of figures, the twain shall 
never meet. We never really come to grips. We never have an honest 
debate. We never figure out what we will or will not spend because one 
debate is on the basis of one projected income and another debate is on 
the basis of a different amount of money as projected income. It does 
not provide for rational debate.
  When the families of America balance the budgets around the kitchen 
tables, the husband does not come in and say we have this much money to 
spend and the wife comes in and says ``no,'' we have this much money to 
spend. The first thing we do is agree on how much money we have to 
spend. Not only does that happen around my kitchen table, but it 
happens around virtually every kitchen table in America. It happens in 
corporate America, in businesses, in charitable institutions, in 
churches, and in civic organizations. The first thing you decide is how 
much money you have to spend, and until you agree upon that, you do not 
start the debate about how to spend.
  In Government, we sadly had this position where one part of the 
Government comes in and says we will have this much to spend and 
another part of the Government says we will have this much to spend, 
and they all talk about their independent things, never coming 
together.
  It is time for us to follow the suggestion of President Clinton in 
his 1993 address to the Congress where he said we ought to use the 
Congressional Budget Office figures. He said we ought to use them 
because they are most likely to be correct and they are more accurate 
than other figures.
  The truth of the matter is we need to use them for another reason, 
and that is so we are all debating the same amount of money rather than 
one debating one set of facts and another debating a separate set of 
facts.
  I had the privilege of serving as Governor of the State of Missouri 
for 8 years. We had this insane system of different sets of facts and 
different presumptions when I became Governor. We were able to work 
with the legislature to arrive at a single budgeting forecast so that 
we had what we called consensus revenue estimation. We would get 
together, figure out with an independent forecaster how much money we 
would be talking about, and then the debate meant something.
  The President proposed that in 1993. It is, I believe, time for the 
President to agree to it now in 1995. It is his proposal.
  I ask unanimous consent for an additional 2 minutes. 

[[Page S 17425]]

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mr. ASHCROFT. The President's proposal was that we use CBO figures. 
It was a good idea in 1993. It was a good because they are accurate. It 
is a good idea in 1995 because they are accurate, but it also is a good 
idea because it would give us a common basis for discussion.
  More than anything else in politics we need to start with as much in 
common as we can. We all know that we have ideas and philosophy that 
tends to divide us, but when we start from a common basis of resource, 
we will at least have an intelligent means for discussing how that 
resource is to be divided, used, allocated, and spent for the benefit 
of the people of this country.
  I yield the floor.
  Mr. GREGG. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to address the 
House as in morning business
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. We are in morning business. The Senator can 
proceed for up to 10 minutes.

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