PAYING DOWN THE DEBT; Congressional Record Vol. 161, No. 185
(House of Representatives - December 18, 2015)

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[Pages H10703-H10706]
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                          PAYING DOWN THE DEBT

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under the Speaker's announced policy of 
January 6, 2015, the Chair recognizes the gentleman from Georgia (Mr. 
Price) for 30 minutes.
  Mr. TOM PRICE of Georgia. I thank the Speaker for the recognition and 
the opportunity to address the House on this the final hour of the 
final day of the final week of the final month of this year in 
  It has been a remarkable year. The Congress--the House especially--
has seen some remarkable changes. I would like to share with you a 
little perspective on where we find ourselves now from a budgetary 
  For the last year, I have had the privilege of chairing the Budget 
Committee in the House of Representatives. That is the committee that 
deals with all of the spending that occurs in our Nation from the 
Federal Government standpoint.
  I would like to start by saying: What is it defining the goal that we 
have at the Budget Committee and in the Republican Conference here in 
the House of Representatives?
  That goal is broadly to create the greatest amount of opportunity and 
the greatest amount of success for the greatest number of people so 
that the greatest number of American Dreams can be realized in a fair 
and a compassionate system.
  That is kind of the 60,000-foot view that we have here in the House 
of Representatives at the Budget Committee among Republicans who have 
allowed me the privilege of chairing the Budget Committee.
  So from that point of view, in terms of the perspective of where we 
find ourselves and what our goal is, what does that have to do with the 
budget? What does that have to do with the numbers that get crunched in 
this town all the time and that we just finished a remarkable week 
talking about how to get the progrowth policies that are so necessary 
to get our economy growing and how do we move forward from a spending 
  Folks all across the country have differing views about how that 
ought to be done. But I think it is helpful to kind of step back and to 
look at the overall picture, the big picture.
  From a spending standpoint, the Nation understands and appreciates 
that Washington spends a lot. $3.8 trillion is the amount of money that 
your Federal Government will spend in this fiscal year. That is 3.8 
with too many zeros after it. It is hard to get your arms around the 
amount of money that that is. But it is important for all Americans to 
appreciate kind of how that breaks down.
  The point I want to begin with is this point about mandatory spending 
and discretionary spending. Folks tend to think mostly, if they don't 
know how Washington works, that this $3.8 trillion is the money that 
Congress deals with every single year. Right? It is the spending that 
goes out the door here in Washington every single year and that 
continues to grow and grow and grow. We will go over some of those 
  The fact of the matter is that this spending is broken down into two 
major categories. One is called mandatory. I prefer the word automatic 
because it really isn't mandatory. That is the spending that has 
occurred and continues to occur because Congress, along with the 
President, at some point in the past has defined a certain amount of 
spending or certain programs that need to be continued year

[[Page H10704]]

after year after year, regardless of what Congress does or until and 
unless Congress changes those programs. These are programs like Social 
Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. There are a lot of other mandatory 
programs. These are important programs. There is no doubt about it.
  The money that goes to those programs goes to them based upon an 
individual in this country qualifying for those programs based upon 
either their income or their age or some other circumstance. The amount 
of money to be spent on those programs doesn't change at all unless the 
House, the Senate, and the President agree to change it.
  That is the mandatory side or the automatic side. I prefer, again, to 
call it automatic because it is automatic spending that occurs. It is 
only mandatory in that Congress in the past decided that that is what 
ought to be done. It doesn't bind us to it, but we have to come to some 
agreement, as a Congress and President, the legislative and the 
executive branch, in order to change that.
  When you look at this chart here, what we see is that the mandatory 
programs--or the mandatory spending, automatic spending, is in red. All 
other spending, which is the discretionary spending, is in blue. This 
is 1965, 2014, and 2040, the three different pie charts.
  We see that, in 1965, 50 years ago, the amount of mandatory 
spending--that is the automatic spending that occurs year after year 
after year unless Congress and the President agree to change 
something--the amount of mandatory spending as a percent of spending 
was about a third. About a third of all spending for the Federal 
Government 50 years ago was mandatory spending. So two-thirds was 
  Now, what is discretionary spending? If you think about all of the 
spending that occurs in Washington, everything that occurs in 
Washington that people like and want and desire, some people want to 
change some of it and some people want to raise some things and lower 
other things.
  But if you think about everything that Washington does with the 
exception of Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and some other more 
minor mandatory programs--those are the ones on the automatic side--if 
you think about what Washington does, all of the rest of that is the 
blue that is the discretionary spending.
  What is that? You can just march through the agencies of the Federal 
Government and define what those are. It is transportation. It is 
commerce. It is justice. It is the court system. It is roads. It is 
highways. It is infrastructure. It is education. It is energy. It is 
all of the things. It is defense. It is a remarkable amount and needed 
amount that we spend in the defense arena. All of those things--all of 
those things--are the discretionary money.

                              {time}  1115

  That is the blue on this graph. Remember that, in 1965--50 years 
ago--that was two-thirds of the Federal budget.
  Now fast forward to 2014. They are, essentially, the same numbers as 
today; although, the blue has decreased a little more. The mandatory 
side, the automatic side, is now two-thirds--not one-third but two-
thirds--of the spending that comes out of the Federal Government, which 
means those programs have continued to grow. Again, those are important 
programs--Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security--and we will address 
the challenges that they have in a moment.
  The spending there has grown to two-thirds of Federal spending, which 
means that the blue portion, the discretionary portion--that portion 
that people think about when they think about what the Federal 
Government spends money on, which is, again, defense and infrastructure 
and education and energy and all of the things that the Federal 
Government does--has been squeezed, if you will, to one-third of 
overall spending at the Federal level.
  What does that mean? That is the genesis. Is this important to 
anybody out there across this great land?
  It is the genesis for the battles that we have had on the level of 
spending for defense--yes--or for highways or for infrastructure or for 
education or for anything that we debate and discuss so as to try our 
best to represent the American people in a positive way about what kind 
of money and the number of resources--hardworking taxpayer money--ought 
to go for those programs. That money is getting decreased.
  The Federal Government's challenge is to be able to figure out how to 
turn this around because, in a few short years, the mandatory side will 
be three-quarters of the spending out of Washington, which means that 
that discretionary part--that part that people count on to try to grow 
the economy and make it so that, again, the greatest number of American 
dreams can be realized by the greatest number of folks in a fair and a 
compassionate system--will get further and further and further 
diminished. So there is the challenge that we have, and the difficulty 
is getting folks to address the mandatory side.
  Now, someone might say: Well, those programs are important. And they 
are. Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security--those programs--are 
important. So why not just leave them as they are? People are doing 
just fine. They think things are rolling along relatively well. Why not 
just leave them where they are?
  Here is the dirty little secret about those programs: They are all 
going broke. Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security--all of them--are 
running out of resources over a period of time.
  What does that mean? That means that the promises that the Federal 
Government has made--to seniors regarding health care, to individuals 
who take utilization of the Medicaid system, to seniors who have access 
to Social Security resources to try to make it so that their retirement 
years are more secure--will not be there. All of those benefits to 
those individuals that the Nation has promised to them will not be 
there. They will not be there at the level that has been promised.
  You get some folks who say: Well, the length of time that it will 
take for us to have any real challenge in that arena is just too long. 
You don't have to worry about it. We have got more than enough time to 
take care of it.
  The fact of the matter is, Mr. Speaker, it is right around the 
corner. From Social Security's standpoint, the disability program was 
destined to become insolvent next year. What did we do recently? We 
plugged the hole. We didn't solve the problem. We plugged the hole, but 
that doesn't make it so that it is any less likely that it will be a 
greater problem as the years go on.
  Medicare. As a physician, I can tell you that the Medicare system is 
incredibly important to seniors across this great land. The Medicare 
system will run out of resources in 2030 to cover the services that 
have been promised. That is 14, 15 short years away.
  When you think that 15 years is too far in the future, just think 
about the challenge that we had during Y2K, when the millennium turned 
over. That was just 15 years ago. Most folks remember that. Most folks 
remember the challenge that we had during that period of time. The fact 
of the matter is that 15 years is not a long time; so Medicare's going 
broke in 15 years is something that we ought not ignore.
  Social Security. When does Social Security go broke? In 2034, which 
is 4 years after that--a very short period of time. Again, what does it 
mean if Social Security goes broke? It means that the benefits that 
have been assured and promised by your Federal Government are not going 
to be able to be provided to seniors. We think that is wrong. We think 
that is reckless and immoral to not do anything to fix that. We think 
it is important to save and strengthen and secure Medicare, Medicaid, 
and Social Security.
  You ask: What does that have to do with the budget? That gets us to 
what the Budget Committee did this past year, and I can't tell you how 
proud I am of the work that was done on behalf of the Republican 
majority here in this House of Representatives.
  What did we do? We put in place, adopted a budget that would solve 
the challenges that we have in a way that gets us to a balanced budget, 
that gets us on a path to paying off the debt, that puts us on a path 
to solving, saving, strengthening, and securing Medicare, Medicaid, and 
Social Security, and that defines what the role of the Federal 
Government ought to be for all of the discretionary programs in that 
blue area.

[[Page H10705]]

  Where does the spending occur from the Federal Government level? This 
is a pie chart that defines, again, the mandatory side and the 
discretionary side of our spending. Remember, about two-thirds of 
spending at the Federal level is the automatic side. What are those 
programs? It includes Social Security.
  In 2014, which is the last full year that we had full numbers, there 
was $845 billion for Social Security. Medicare: $505 billion for 
Medicare. Medicaid: $301 billion for Medicaid. Other mandatory 
programs--which are the others that I have talked about, which are 
things like food stamps and the like--are at $448 billion. Interest on 
the debt, which is this one, is about $221 billion.
  Let's talk about interest on the debt for a moment. This is money 
that is spent to cover the interest on the debt that we already have. 
The United States has a debt of about $18.2 trillion; so the interest 
that we pay on that annually now is about $221 billion. It is destined 
to increase enormously over the next few years, and that has huge 
consequences, again, on trying to find the greatest amount of 
opportunity and the greatest amount of success for the greatest number 
of folks so that the greatest number of American dreams may be 
  How much is it going to increase? This is looking at just 10 years. 
The amount of interest--and that is if interest rates stay relatively 
reasonable--on the national debt, on the Federal debt, will be $800 
billion. It will be close to $1 trillion that is going to be spent just 
on interest. That is more than on defense. That is more than on 
Medicaid. That is more than on Medicare. That is more than on 
education. That is more than on transportation. That is more than on 
science and space and technology.

  Again, all of those things that the American people say that they 
want and desire are going to be crowded because of the mandatory 
spending--the automatic spending, yes--but the interest on the debt is 
approaching $1 trillion a year.
  Mr. Speaker, what we are trying to do on the Budget Committee is to 
say to our colleagues and to say to the American people that that is an 
irresponsible use of hard-earned taxpayer dollars to have that level of 
debt. It means that $1 trillion a year of that hard-earned money by the 
American people, who send it to Washington and expect that it is going 
to be used in a responsible way, is going to go toward interest on the 
debt. That doesn't do a thing to send a kid to college, to buy a house, 
to pay the rent, to start a business. Any of the kinds of things, 
again, that the American people say they want are harmed by that level 
of spending on interest on the national debt. That is why this is so 
  These numbers mean that the amount of opportunity and the amount of 
growth in our economy that will be available to make it so that those 
American dreams can be realized get lessened, and that is why it is so 
imperative that we address the challenges that we have from an economic 
  Some people would say: Well, that really isn't a problem. All we need 
to do is to raise taxes--right?--to take more money from the American 
people. That is how you solve this problem.
  Mr. Speaker, as you know, the level of revenue--the amount of money--
coming into the Federal Government now is at its greatest point ever in 
real dollars. There is more money being sent to Washington by the 
American people and by businesses and folks all across this great land 
to fund the government--more money than ever--than in the history of 
our society. That is a phenomenal statement because what that means is 
that, if one believes that one just ought to raise taxes on people and 
take more hard-earned money, then what is the limit? What is the goal?
  Our goal, again, is to create the greatest amount of opportunity for 
the greatest number of individuals and to create the greatest amount of 
success so that the greatest number of American dreams can be realized 
in a fair and a compassionate system. That is our goal. We don't 
believe that that goal is furthered by taking more money from hard-
earned American taxpayers.
  The challenge is how you solve that. How do you make it so that you 
don't get to a point at which $1 trillion a year is going to cover 
interest on the Federal debt?
  Here is a depiction of how that is solved. This is what I call the 
smile chart. You can see the smile. The fact, however, is that the 
smile is the blue line there and not the red line. This axis here is 
the level of debt held as a percent of the gross domestic product. On 
the lower axis, on the X axis, it goes from 1940 to 2040. Then the dark 
color here is the graph of what level of debt we had as a Nation from 
1940, which was at the beginning of World War II, until now. You see 
that it goes up and down.
  The largest amount of debt that we had in this area was just after 
World War II, which was when we covered the expenses for the war. It 
tended to tamp down, and it got into the 20 to 30 percent range of the 
gross domestic product. That is kind of the range at which economists 
tell you is the sweet spot for how you get the economy growing and 
rolling and expanding and creating jobs and opportunities.
  You see over there, just after 2010, the incredible increase. That 
was this President and the Federal Government's response to the 
economic challenge that we had. What did they do? They printed a lot of 
money and increased the amount of debt--a huge increase in the amount 
of debt.
  Now, the red line is where their projections go. It is where the 
President and his party's projections go with current programs. Again, 
those are the programs that we have discussed. That is where their line 
goes on debt, which expands incredibly. We don't get to that point on 
that line because the economy won't tolerate that. It won't accommodate 
that in a way that makes it so that people are going to be able to even 
find a job, because you can't take that much money out of the economy 
and expect the economy to work.

                              {time}  1130

  So what we did was put in place our budget, adopt a budget, along 
with the Senate, that is the blue line. And that means that what we 
would do is figure out how to solve these challenges, get us on a path 
to paying off the debt.
  You have got to have a surplus before you can begin to pay off the 
debt. But we have got to get on that path to paying off the debt so 
that we aren't utilizing the incredibly hard-earned taxpayer money 
simply for the kind of things that don't benefit anybody at all; and 
that is, interest on the debt. You cannot continue to have this level 
of spending.
  We are incredibly excited about the opportunities that we have. We 
have got a lot of challenges in terms of having our colleagues come 
onboard and the American people recognizing that these problems are 
real and they are real right now.
  We began a program in the Committee on the Budget called Restoring 
the Trust for All Generations. Mr. Speaker, if you had an interest, you 
could go to our Web site at and look up the 
program that we have, Restoring the Trust for All Generations, an 
effort to try to build the critical mass of individuals necessary to 
say: Yes, we want that greatest amount of opportunity and success for 
folks so that American Dreams can be realized in a fair and 
compassionate system.
  We recognize that in order for that to occur, we simply must address 
the mandatory, the automatic spending issues that are so challenging 
for us. In order to do that, we have got to make certain that we save 
and strengthen and secure Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and 
other mandatory programs in a way that makes sense to the American 
people and put us on a path to being able to solve these challenges.
  I am extremely excited about the opportunities available to us. I am 
frustrated that we haven't been able to get to them sooner than now. 
But I want to assure you, Mr. Speaker, that your Committee on the 
Budget and the individuals on that committee and the individuals in 
this Conference, I believe, recognize the challenges that we have and 
are looking forward, with great anticipation, to 2016, to the 
leadership from Speaker Ryan and the admonition that he has provided 
for us to say: Look, we have got to make certain

[[Page H10706]]

that we define what the legislation is that solves and saves and 
strengthens and secures these programs. We have got to get ourselves on 
that path to make it so that we can get to a point where we have, 
indeed, balanced the budget without raising taxes and get ourselves on 
a path to paying off the debt.
  If we are able to do that, Mr. Speaker, then we will, in fact, be 
able to stand proudly before the American people and say: What we have 
done is provided that amount of opportunity and that amount of success 
for the vast number of the American people so that American Dreams can 
be realized.
  Mr. Speaker, I wish all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 
and look forward to that new year, again, with great anticipation.
  I yield back the balance of my time.