Sep 19 2012
Mr. Coburn: I wish to spend a few moments talking about the budget point of order on really a bigger topic. We're going to have a vote at noon, and the question in my mind is, will we at some point in the future recognize the hole that we're in?
When I talk to individual members, they all agree, 'yeah, we're in a hole. We've got a problem.' And it's getting ready to bite this country in ways that are unimaginable in terms of it's impact on the everyday citizen of this country.
And yet in the senate we've done nothing to address the bigger problems facing the country, and now we have a bill that has a budget point of order lying against it, and the question is, will we continue the behavior that put our country in the problems that we're in today, or will we take a new track? The information -- the desire to help veterans is a noble desire.
But there's a lot of points about this bill that the average American and the average veteran ought to be asking. There's also questions about what are the other things that we're doing for jobs for veterans and how well are they working? We have six veteran job training programs.
We already have a preference across the federal government for hiring veteransment we have programs like crazy, we have contracting programs, we have all these programs but not one hearing has been held by the committee of jurisdiction on the job training programs or the other programs we have to enhance the economic well-being of our veterans.
What we have is a bill that's brought to the floor that has good intentions behind but shows the absolute laziness of congress in terms of really digging things out. issued their duplication report on the job training programs for veterans, four of them do exactly the same thing. None of them have a metric. So we don't know if they're working, and we haven't held a hearing to find out if they're working. But what are we doing?
We're proposing another job program for veterans without having done the serious work of how we invest $1 billion. Now, the other thing that we should know is we're spending $1 billion a year right now on veteran job training programs. This bill has $1 billion over five.
The second point I would like to make -- and I think it was made by the ranking member of the budget committee -- is there's no honest accounting in this bill.
Regardless of the budget point of order or the blue slip, the nonconstitutionality of originating revenue bills in the senate there is absolutely no transparency nor correctness, nor character or integrity in the financing of this bill.
When we find ourselves $16 trillion in debt and we're going to pay for another bill over five years by ten years of changes, we never get out of the problem. We make the problem worse. What are we doing? And who are we doing it for?
And are we really thinking about veterans when we don't solve the bigger problems, and we have manifest presence in this bill of the very problems we say we need to be addressing but yet we're making them worse with this bill? We're making the financial problems worse with this bill.
I'm befuddled and disappointed that we cannot as a group of individuals who all love this country very much come together under some certain baseline principles we ought to be operating in the senate. And the first of those ought to be we ought to do nothing now that makes the problem worse for our kids and grandkids. You know, we're at now over $200,000 per family of debt per household in this country.
We're over $200,000. It's actually about $225,000. Now, think about that median family income over the last four years has gone down 9% in this country. And we're going to make sure it goes down even further if we continue to do what we're doing in this bill.
So we've gone from $54,900 median family income to $50,200 in the last four years, median family income, and we got gas prices as high as they've ever been, and we're going to perpetuate a system that says we're going to continue to make the problem worse, not better. There's also another little gimmick in this bill that if you were to do it in private, you'd go to jail for it.
And that is we're going to charge corporations more income tax than what they actually owe to get past a year and then after the year's over we're going to flip it back so we can say we paid for something when we really didn't. It violates all aspects of integrity and honesty. And you know what the answer i hear when we're trying to do it 1234, oh, we've done it in the past.
Well, it wasn't right in the past and it certainly is not right now to lie, to cheat, to be dishonest about the accounting principles surrounding this bill in terms of how we pay for it. Because in essence it violates PAYGO.
The very rule that we say was going to help us get out of our problems, that 67 times has been waived in the last three years. As a matter of fact, I don't know the last time a PAYGO challenge was not waived.
So the second principle that we ought to be dealing with is that we ought to follow the rules that we set up for ourselves that are supposed to discipline us in terms of getting our country out of the problem, which we are regrettably continually ignoring. So if, in fact, you want to help veterans get jobs, there's loot of ways for us to do it.
One is, make sure the job programs that we have today are working, and they're not. And if they're not working, why are we continuing to spend a billion dollars a year on it?
Number two, create a level of confidence in this country by our own behavior that we're actually addressing the real problems in front of the country rather than the political dynamics of an election that says we want to do something and everybody in this chamber knows even if we pass this bill, it's not going to accomplish anything because, in fact, it has a blue slip against it because of the constitution.
So on monday mornings when I get to catch a flight to come back up here, I've noticed that I have an attitude problem. I don't want to come anymore. And the reason I don't want come anymore is because we're not doing anything to address the real problems that are in front of our country.
We're ignoring the real problems so we can create political contrasts, for an election all the while the country is sinking, sinking and sinking. And what it is a lack of leadership.
You know, you can lead in the wrong direction knowing what the problems are and make mistakes and you can be forgiven for that. But when you know what the real problems are and you're ignoring them, it's unforgivable failure of leadership.
And that's where we find ourselves. I heard my colleague mention the defense authorization bill. There's absolutely no excuse for us not to have passed a defense authorization bill that gives the planning, the direction, and the commitment for this country's future in terms of our defense needs.
The number-one priority for us as a congress, according to the constitution. And yet we've not done that. We've made the immediate political situation trump everything. That's the opposite of leadership.
It's actually cowardice, because when you're a leader and you duck the real problems in front of you, you take everybody down with you. The well-intentioned and the not well-intentioned and that's where we are.
As a country, as a senate, by not addressing the real issues of this country. I don't know what's going to happen on the votes on this bill. But I know what needs to happen in the senate.
There needs to be a renewed sense of awareness of what the real problems are facing this country. And a re-doubling of our commitment to shed partisan robes and get down to fixing the real problems in front of us. And parochialism has no place in that discussion.
The political careers of members have no place in that discussion. The real future of our country is at risk. And we're, like the proverbial person with their head in the sand, ignoring that risk.
The greatest country in the world is on the precipice of falling, predicted long ago by such people as John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.
That the day would come that we in fact would put the political ahead of the best interest of our country. That's what you are seeing being played out in Washington. That's exactly what you're seeing played out with this bill. The American people deserve much better than that.
Senator Sessions (R-AL): Madam president, before the senator leaves, i would ask a question, in 2009 -- and the reason I'm asking Senator Coburn about this, because there's nobody of this 100 senators that are here today who has spent more hours, effort, and time in dealing with the duplicative programs of the federal government than Senator Coburn.
And he brought these issues up time and again, but I would just ask, according to the in 2009. Senator Coburn, I understand that nine federal agencies spent $18 billion to administer 47 job training programs. You've looked into that, I know I've heard you speak about that in specific.
I was surprised that you brought out that there are already six programs for veterans now and this would be a new one added to it. What is your view of what a responsible congress should do when we learn that we are spending thch money -- this much money on all these programs with their own bureaucrats, can we do better?
Mr. Coburn: Absolutely. Let me give the people some hope.
Virginia Foxx, a representative from North Carolina in the House, has passed a bill out of her committee that consolidates 33 of those job training programs into one. Puts metrics on every one of them.
So we'll know if they're working. Requires mandatory oversight of them. The reason she didn't do all 47 is 14 of them are not in her jurisdiction. But add to it another $4 billion and another 20-plus programs for the disabled.
So we actually have almost 70 programs and $23 billion a year we're spending on job training of which nobody knows -- as a matter of fact, I know they're not working. We actually released a report on job training in Oklahoma.
We looked at every job training -- federal job training and state job training program going on in oklahoma. You know what works? Oklahoma programs. You know what doesn't work? Federal job training programs.
In Oklahoma, we have one city in that has 16,000 people has 17 federal job training centers and an unemployment rate of 4.7%. 17 Different federal agencies in one city of 16,000 people with an unemployment rate of 4.7%. What we are doing is employing people in the job training industry, which may be good if they're having results, but we have results that are untenable.
So the real question -- and job training is just one area of our federal government. GAO has released reports on duplication, their final report will come february of this year where they will have looked at the entire federal government. And what we know right now is if we did our work, did our work, over the next ten years we would save $200 billion by eliminating duplication in federal program. $200 Billion. I said over ten years. That's $200 billion per year. It's $2 trillion over ten years. We can save $200 billion per year. Sequestration?
We wouldn't be having sequestration if we did our job, if we did our oversight, if's consolidated programs, made them transparent and made them accountable and put metrics to see if they're working and did the oversight to see that they're working. We wouldn't be in sequestration. We wouldn't have near the problems that we have today. But the failure is us. The congress has failed to do its job. And the consequences will not be borne by us.
The consequences will be borne by the son of my new grandson who is almost 7 weeks old. That is who will pay the consequence, is the children of this country when we fail to do our job.
So I appreciate your leadership. I'm going to support your point of order. It's the right thing to do. And I didn't even talk about the areas that you talked about in terms of we set up this budget agreement for two years and I'll tell you what, the c.r.
Coming, this is the irony of all ironies. Had we not had that budget, we had $6 billion less next year if we had a clean CR than under the budget control act that we passed. By doing the budget control act we're actually going to spend more money than we did last year.
So everything's upside down in Washington because everything's political or parochial and nobody's thinking long term about the big problems facing our country. I yield the floor.
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