Debt Ceiling Speech Riddle


Try to guess who gave this speech on the floor of the Senate not that long ago:

Mr. President, I rise
today to talk about America’s debt

The fact that we are here today to
debate raising America’s debt limit is a
sign of leadership failure. It is a sign
that the U.S. Government can’t pay its
own bills. It is a sign that we now depend
on ongoing financial assistance
from foreign countries to finance our
Government’s reckless fiscal policies.
Over the past 5 years, our federal
debt has increased by $3.5 trillion to
$8.6 trillion. That is ‘‘trillion’’ with a
‘‘T.’’ That is money that we have borrowed
from the Social Security trust
fund, borrowed from China and Japan,
borrowed from American taxpayers.
And over the next 5 years, between now
and 2011, the President’s budget will increase
the debt by almost another $3.5

Numbers that large are sometimes
hard to understand. Some people may
wonder why they matter. Here is why:
This year, the Federal Government will
spend $220 billion on interest. That is
more money to pay interest on our national
debt than we’ll spend on Medicaid
and the State Children’s Health
Insurance Program. That is more
money to pay interest on our debt this
year than we will spend on education,
homeland security, transportation, and
veterans benefits combined. It is more
money in one year than we are likely
to spend to rebuild the devastated gulf
coast in a way that honors the best of

And the cost of our debt is one of the
fastest growing expenses in the Federal
budget. This rising debt is a hidden domestic
enemy, robbing our cities and
States of critical investments in infrastructure
like bridges, ports, and levees;
robbing our families and our children
of critical investments in education
and health care reform; robbing
our seniors of the retirement and
health security they have counted on.

Every dollar we pay in interest is a
dollar that is not going to investment
in America’s priorities. Instead, interest
payments are a significant tax on
all Americans—a debt tax that Washington
doesn’t want to talk about. If
Washington were serious about honest
tax relief in this country, we would see
an effort to reduce our national debt by
returning to responsible fiscal policies.

But we are not doing that. Despite
repeated efforts by Senators CONRAD
and FEINGOLD, the Senate continues to
reject a return to the commonsense
Pay-go rules that used to apply. Previously,
Pay-go rules applied both to
increases in mandatory spending and
to tax cuts. The Senate had to abide by
the commonsense budgeting principle
of balancing expenses and revenues.
Unfortunately, the principle was abandoned,
and now the demands of budget
discipline apply only to spending.

As a result, tax breaks have not been
paid for by reductions in Federal
spending, and thus the only way to pay
for them has been to increase our deficit
to historically high levels and borrow
more and more money. Now we
have to pay for those tax breaks plus
the cost of borrowing for them. Instead
of reducing the deficit, as some people
claimed, the fiscal policies of this administration
and its allies in Congress
will add more than $600 million in debt
for each of the next 5 years. That is
why I will once again cosponsor the
Pay-go amendment and continue to
hope that my colleagues will return to
a smart rule that has worked in the
past and can work again.

Our debt also matters internationally.
My friend, the ranking member of
the Senate Budget Committee, likes to
remind us that it took 42 Presidents 224
years to run up only $1 trillion of foreign-
held debt. This administration did
more than that in just 5 years. Now,
there is nothing wrong with borrowing
from foreign countries. But we must
remember that the more we depend on
foreign nations to lend us money, the
more our economic security is tied to
the whims of foreign leaders whose interests
might not be aligned with ours.

Increasing America’s debt weakens
us domestically and internationally.
Leadership means that ‘‘the buck stops
here.’’ Instead, Washington is shifting
the burden of bad choices today onto
the backs of our children and grandchildren.
America has a debt problem
and a failure of leadership. Americans
deserve better.

I therefore intend to oppose the effort
to increase America’s debt limit.


Barack Obama.