For Immediate Release:
February 9, 2009
(202) 225 - 3130
(202) 225 - 3130
WASHINGTON, DC – House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor today during a Special Order with Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt on President Bush’s budget legacy of deficits and debt, and the hard choices that will have to be made to restore balanced budgets. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“We are here today to be honest with the American people. They need to know that this economic crisis will not end overnight. And they need to know one of the prime reasons why: the deep, deep fiscal hole we have inherited after eight years of former President Bush’s recklessness.
“In fact, the projected deficit for Fiscal Year 2009 is $1.2 trillion. Two factors have helped create that record-shattering number: the consistent irresponsibility of President Bush, and our efforts to dig out of the economic mess he left us.
“It was not that long ago that you could hear on this floor heated debates about how to spend a projected $5.6 trillion ten-year surplus created by a Democratic President. Who would have thought then that our surplus would be wiped out by one President’s borrow-and-spend foolishness, by five record-setting budget deficits in seven years?
“While Democratic budgets were on pace to eliminate all of our public debt, today we are more indebted than ever in our history. The national debt is now over $10 trillion—and every year, we will be paying hundreds of billions of dollars in interest on it. That is just one more way in which the Bush legacy means large structural deficits for years to come.
“So what does that mean for our economy, and for American families? It is easy to see a budget as nothing more than numbers on a page—and it is just a short step from there to agreement with former Vice President Cheney’s nostrum: ‘Deficits don’t matter.’
“But they do matter, Mr. Speaker—they matter profoundly. Deficits and debt tie up huge amounts of capital—and when it comes to mitigating a financial emergency in its early stages, they tie our hands, too. Republican fiscal policies have also made massive borrowing seem normal and acceptable. They have set the disastrous example that it is just as acceptable for a household, as for a government, to live far beyond its means.
“And just as surely as unchecked borrowing can pay for unsustainable luxury today, the bill will come due tomorrow. In 2006, Comptroller General David Walker told us that American irresponsibility, public and private, ‘will gradually erode, if not suddenly damage, our standard of living, and ultimately our national security.’ Who can argue with that today?
“Mr. Speaker, there is nothing to gain from pointing fingers at the last eight years. But there is a great deal to gain from looking back honestly at the fiscal choices we’ve made in the past and their consequences. We learn just how much this painful legacy will complicate our efforts to confront this crisis. And we strengthen our pledge to return this Nation to budgetary sanity.
“While economists agree that getting out of this recession will require deficit spending, that spending would be deeply irresponsible without a long-term plan to restore fiscal health. Getting the budget under control is going to require hard choices, choices we’re going to see reflected in President Obama’s first budget.
“It will be a serious document for serious times—because getting back on a sustainable fiscal path is going to take sacrifices from every one of us. But we can call confidently for those sacrifices for two reasons. First, because they will be truly shared, from Members of Congress to every working family. And second, because if we put off our hard choices, they will grow harder and harder by the year—until they are absolutely crippling.
“Last month, we heard our new President declare a ‘new era of responsibility.’ This is what it looks like. This is where we are. Let’s meet it with our eyes open, and make the best of it, together.”