Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Congressman Brecheen speaks on House floor about the gravity of our national debt

Congressman Josh Brecheen Speaks on the Gravity of our National Debt During First House Floor Speech

This text has been adapted from Congressman Josh Brecheen’s first House floor speech. You can watch the full speech here, or below.

Mr. Speaker, I could not stand for a more important topic today and it is what I believe is one of the greatest threats facing our country: our $31.5 trillion national debt.

For the last 40 years, we have been inheriting prosperity from our parents and grandparents and borrowing and stealing prosperity from our children and grandchildren.

Thomas Jefferson once said, “We must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt.” Mr. Jefferson would later describe what he called the abusive state of man. He said the first part of that is public debt, and in its train is wretchedness and oppression.

Our liberty is in jeopardy. We hear of trillions of dollars being tossed around, but it is hard for anyone to fathom the size and scope of a trillion dollars.

For perspective: if I stood on this floor and at a second at a time laid a dollar bill on this podium and I did not stop to eat or sleep, it would take me 31,000 years to count out a trillion dollars.

We all have seen the effects of runaway government spending and our national debt. In 2022, we saw 40-year high inflation. The average Oklahoman spent $7,000 more than they did the year prior to buy the exact same goods and services because of the devaluation of the dollar.

That is the tip of the iceberg. That is what we see. That is what people are feeling. But what is under the water, that we cannot see, is our unfunded liabilities.

Our national debt at $31.5 trillion means that every man, woman, and newborn child owes $94,000 from the second they are born. They will pay it off through a lower standard of living. It is a hidden tax that we will pass on to our kids because of our selfishness.

$1.4 trillion has been a number that has been in my head recently. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that this year's deficit is $1.4 trillion. That means we will overspend our revenue by $1.4 trillion this year. If you go back 40 years ago to 1983, $1.4 trillion is exactly the size of our gross national debt. So, it took us 200 years as a nation to get to $1.4 trillion and this year alone we will overspend by that amount.

The CBO also projected where our interest rates are taking us. Within seven years what we spend just on interest payments—money flushed down the toilet—is roughly going to match what we spend on our entire defense budget.

We are in trouble. Our current debt to GDP ratio is 129%. There are only 11 other countries in the world that have a higher debt to GDP ratio than we do and these are small countries. The small countries that are not a world leader or a shining city on a hill.

Economists are predicting that Medicare will be insolvent in 2028, meaning we will only be able to pay out up to 90% of what Americans are entitled to since they paid into the system. Meanwhile, Social Security is expected to be insolvent in 2033. There will be an automatic 25% cut to social security if Congress refuses to act. 

When you add in the unfunded liabilities of Medicare, Social Security, veterans’ pensions, federal employees’ pensions, and other trust programs, the sum total of debt is $120 trillion. This total debt liability is equivalent to 86% of the combined net worth of all U.S. households and nonprofit organizations, including all assets in savings, real estate, corporate stocks, private businesses, and durable consumer goods like automobiles and furniture.

Benjamin Franklin warned us after the Constitutional Convention in 1787 that the Founding Fathers had given us “a republic, if you can keep it.” And that is important. Because Article IV, Section 4 of our Constitution guarantees every state a Republican form of government.

But, why is a republic important? Our Founding Fathers looked at all forms of government and realized that a republic was different than a democracy in a very important way. Benjamin Franklin described democracy as “two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch,” while “Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.”

And what we are talking about here is the liberty of our country. Right now, we are trading our liberty for debt and dependency. The Preamble to our Constitution literally says that we must “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”

This is a mission statement that was given to us more than 200 years ago and we are failing to live up to it. May God help us obtain the courage to put our national interests ahead of our own personal self-interest and squarely face the problems that are facing our country. 

And I will end with a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. that my old boss Dr. Tom Coburn tweaked a little bit: “Cowardice asks the question, is it safe? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? But conscience asks the question, is it right?”

It is right to secure the blessing of liberty for our posterity. 


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