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U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions: Debt is not an asset, spending is not a virtue, and borrowing is not a future."

January 28, 2012

U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee, delivered an opening statement today at a Committee hearing on the U.S. economic outlook.
Sessions’ remarks, as prepared, follow:

“We are now entering the budget season for Fiscal Year 2013. Producing a budget for public accountability and scrutiny represents one of the fundamental duties of a good government and a governing party—particularly during times of economic turbulence and distress. But the last time this Chamber’s majority authored a budget plan and presented it on the floor was in 2009—more than a thousand days ago.

Senator Conrad, I appreciate your thoughtful comments and your expressed desire to work on a budget resolution. I look forward to the opportunity to work with you and hope that we can find common ground.

For too long, Washington has been spending what we do not have and borrowing what we cannot pay back. Our debt is now greater than our entire gross domestic product—pulling down growth today and casting a shadow of doubt on our economic future. Americans were promised that a surge in spending would lead to a corresponding surge in job creation. But I would point out that there are 131.9 million people working today—fewer than there were in 2000, when 132.5 million Americans had jobs. The unemployment rate provides a useful look at one aspect of our economy, but the fact is that we had more people working a decade ago than we do today.

The middle class is being squeezed from all directions. Real wages are declining, food and energy prices are rising, and job prospects remain scarce. Health expenditures for the average family of four—which we were told would come down as a result of the president’s health law—will be $2,400 higher at year’s end than when the law was passed.

After nearly $5 trillion in debt over three years, the government is continuing to grow while the middle class is continuing to shrink.

What makes matters even worse is that what little growth we have seen is fueled by unsustainable borrowing. This is not a solid foundation. The CBO warned us, for instance, that the president’s stimulus package is ultimately a net drag on the economy. We are adopting policies that have not only failed to produce jobs today but that have worsened our long-term challenges—leaving us weaker, not stronger, than before they were adopted.

In his State of the Union on Tuesday, President Obama had a chance to tell the American people the truth about the depth of danger we face. Unfortunately, President Obama missed perhaps his last opportunity to rally the country to make some tough decisions. I was frankly astonished at how little the president spoke of our mounting debt and fiscal obligations—the great challenge of our time. Over ten years, we’ve cut only $2 trillion from $45 trillion in projected spending and $12.4 trillion in new debt. But President Obama outlined no credible reforms or spending controls. He even called for spending half of the money that will be saved from the planned drawdown overseas—which means we will borrow about $400 billion more over the next ten years than currently planned.

My view is that our debt presents a clear and present danger to this country and that we have a duty to confront this danger at once. But spending continues to rise. This year we will spend more than last year, and last year we spent more than the year before. Spending in Fiscal Year 2012 will be $660 billion greater than spending in Fiscal Year 2008.

Though the president will not say so, those of us here today know it to be true: if America were hit with a debt crisis it would be absolutely devastating for the middle class.

I think it’s time to return to sound principles and a strong foundation. That means reducing borrowing, controlling spending, and understanding that growth comes not from the public sector but the private sector. More taxes simply extract from the productive private economy to fund wasteful spending and the continued expansion of the government.

Instead, we should focus on creating jobs without adding to the debt. That means more domestic energy exploration, fewer burdensome regulations, a streamlined tax code for the 21st century, more free-market competition in health care, and a trade and immigration policy that serves the national interest and defends the interests of American workers. It also means making the government leaner, less costly, and more efficient.

The president says he wants an ‘America built to last.’ But we can’t do that with borrowed money. Debt is not an asset, spending is not a virtue, and borrowing is not a future.”

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