VIDEO: Udall rails on the debt–and the absolute need to increase revenue as well as cut spending

VIDEO: Udall rails on the debt–and the absolute need to increase revenue as well as cut spending

Senator Mark Udall has become something of a broken record on the subject of the national debt and deficit, and what it will take to solve the problems: bipartisan cooperation, broad spending cuts and targeted tax increases.

In a speech today on the Senate floor:

“…it’s unrealistic to maintain – as the Republicans do – that raising revenues isn’t a part of the debt-reduction equation. We all should be honest enough to admit this simple fact: no amount of spending cuts alone will reduce our deficits without unreasonably harming Social Security and Medicare. For some to say that revenues should not be part of the deficit reduction picture is either a sign that they are not serious about reducing our debt … or they are being disingenuous about the dangerous implications spending cuts alone who have on our hardworking constituents who rely on these important programs,” he said.

Read the entire speech or watch the video below.

Text of Bennet’s remarks:

Mr. President, I rise today because I believe that the fiscal challenges that confront us demand a bipartisan solution. Now both parties approach the issues before us from very different points of view, but time is running out for us to address our nation’s structural deficits and long-term debt. I want the leaders in both parties to show genuine commitment to action, and to set aside the talking points so we can actually get some work done.

If any other members believe that the solution to our deficits and debt demand a comprehensive and bipartisan solution – like the fiscal commission or gang of six – I invite them to come down to the floor and let our colleagues know. We are racing toward a crisis, yet we still cannot relent from the partisanship and political posturing that creates gridlock in Washington. It is childish!

We are having this debate in the midst of a discussion over whether to raise our national debt limit. But more broadly, we are having this debate because the time is upon us to decide the economic future of our country … the country that will be inherited by our children and grandchildren. Quite simply, the United States is not going to win the global economic race of the 21st century – unless we start taking action now …. to improve our economy, grow American jobs, and get our debt under control.

With these challenges facing us, now is the time to put aside our political differences and challenge ourselves to put our country first. Let’s start with a few basic facts. Our national debt is $14 trillion … and growing. Today, each citizen’s share of the debt is over $46,000.

And if we remain on our irresponsible path, the Government Accountability Office projects that by 2050, our nation could owe more in interest on our debt than the entire federal government raises in taxes in a given year. Our skyrocketing debt not only is spooking the international financial markets, it is a serious threat to our national security.

The answer to the question of how we got here certainly isn’t simple. But unquestionably, two unpaid-for wars, two rounds of massive tax cuts, an unpaid-for prescription drug benefit and drastic rescue measures needed to address the most serious economic downturn since the Great Depression all have contributed to our current situation.

The solutions are even more difficult.

And while we may disagree about the path forward, I think we all know in our hearts that we can’t get anywhere unless we all agree to come to the negotiating table willing to compromise to ensure the United States – the largest economy in the world – can honor our bills and begin to pay down our debts. And that’s the problem that brings us to the Senate floor today.

M. President, we began this year with serious and – I believe – earnest conversations about this in not one – but two – groups of lawmakers in the House and Senate. Yet, despite all the talk – and a lot of hard work – rather than nearing an agreement, we seem to be at an impasse.

In the last few weeks, the state of negotiations seems to have fallen apart, with key players choosing to walk away rather than compromise. We hit the same roadblock that always inhibits action when things get tough – politics got in the way.

In fact, it seems like everyone in the world EXCEPT Congress sees that time is running out.

In April, Standard & Poor’s cut the U.S. ratings outlook to “negative,” due to the uncertainty over budget deficits and the debt ceiling. This month, Moody’s piled on, warning that it, too, may downgrade the U.S. ratings outlook to “negative” as early as July – because of concern over gridlock here in Washington. The American people are running out of patience as well.

Back home in Colorado, people are wondering what in the world we’re doing here in Washington. I wasn’t up for re-election in 2010, but I was listening to what the voters were saying. They were telling us that they want us focused on the economy and the debt. And they want us to work together.

Consider the direction I got recently from Curt, a constituent in Arvada, Colorado: “I am counting on you to put the interests of everyday Americans above party politics and join your legislative colleagues on both sides of the aisle in finding sensible solutions to our long-term national debt problem,” he wrote.

Countless Coloradans have sent me similar messages. I want to share another one with you today, from David, a Boy Scout from Evergreen, Colorado, whose words are stronger than mine:
“I think the United States government should stop spending unnecessary money. We should first focus on what is necessary…. It is amazing how much money our country owes. It is constantly going up! I just looked at information about the United States debt clock, and I think this debt is way too high. People in the federal government in Washington D.C., are spending money as if they had all the money in the world.”

David, if you’re listening, I agree!

Mr. President, I believe that most Americans want quality roads, a safety net for the sick and elderly, and strong investments in education and research that will spur innovation and good-paying jobs.

But we need to commit to ensuring we have the financial stability to pay for them. For too long, the American people have collectively been told by Washington that we can have more of everything we want without fully paying for it. To preserve a promising future for our children – for Curt’s children…for David…we’re going to need to face up to some hard truths.

Fifty years ago, my father, former Arizona Congressman Mo Udall, supported what should only seem natural: tying spending directly to revenues. For example, if we want to give oil companies a billion dollars in tax subsidies, we then need to raise taxes by a billion dollars to pay for them. The same goes for overseas conflicts, agriculture subsidies, infrastructure, and yes even entitlements.

Coloradans from across my home state have told me they want to see their leaders try using some common sense – the kind of common sense Americans use when they’re faced with the hard job of balancing their own budgets when money is tight.

As a Senator, I’ve successfully led the fight to end wasteful earmarked spending, proposed measures to cut redundant government programs, demanded line-item veto authority for the president, and pushed for a sensible balanced budget amendment to our U.S. Constitution. But these measures only serve as tools to get Washington to clean up its act, and that isn’t enough. We need to suck up our courage and actually make the tough budgeting decisions.

If we’re going to get anywhere, we have to realize that everyone has to have skin in the game, and we have to check ultimatums at the door – especially on issues like Social Security and taxes. The challenge facing us is so great, we can’t afford to let partisanship or electioneering get in the way – and both parties are guilty.

For example, we cannot seriously talk about debt reduction without addressing Social Security. If we do nothing, by 2036, Social Security benefits will have to be cut by 20 percent. Congress will undoubtedly borrow more to fill that hole in lieu of telling seniors their benefit checks will be reduced. To say that Social Security must be divorced from deficit reduction – as many Democrats do – is to ignore the problem.

Similarly, it’s unrealistic to maintain – as the Republicans do – that raising revenues isn’t a part of the debt-reduction equation. We all should be honest enough to admit this simple fact: no amount of spending cuts alone will reduce our deficits without unreasonably harming Social Security and Medicare. For some to say that revenues should not be part of the deficit reduction picture is either a sign that they are not serious about reducing our debt … or they are being disingenuous about the dangerous implications spending cuts alone who have on our hardworking constituents who rely on these important programs.

Mr. President, what’s so agonizing about the last six months is that we HAVE a bipartisan solution in front of us, one that I believe would responsibly reduce our debt while also allowing the economy to grow and protecting the middle class. In December 2009, we pushed for the creation of the President’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, chaired by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson. They did an exhaustive study of what it would take to get our debt under control and last year, they delivered us their report on how to reduce the debt by over 4 trillion dollars in the next decade.

The Bowles-Simpson proposal comprehensively addresses all of the issues that must be on the table today as part of our debate, namely spending cuts, reasonable entitlement reform, and some new revenues. And that plan has already received bipartisan support, including from several senators of each party who were members of the commission. Rather than arguing, we could be acting on these recommendations. And if we don’t want to follow those exact recommendations , let’s at least agree that everything must be on the table in these ongoing debt discussions.

Mr. President, many of us simply want to roll up our sleeves and get to work. I know there are members on both sides of the aisle who share that sentiment – even if their leadership is demanding that they remain quiet about it. Frankly, I believe we should focus all of our attention on a sensible bipartisan plan, work together and pass it into law – before our national credit rating is downgraded and it damages our chances of winning the global economic race.

Nothing less than the fate of the U.S. economy hangs in the balance, and I’m willing to stay day and night, weekends and holidays, here in D.C. to help put a plan in motion.

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About the Author

Scot Kersgaard

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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