Statements and Speeches

Mr. President, I used to be a Governor. I sometimes say I used to be somebody. As Governor, you had to propose budgets, you had to balance budgets and you had to work with the legislature. I followed Mike Castle, and he followed Pete DuPont. We focused very hard on fiscal responsibility.  

During the eight years I was Governor, we had eight balanced budgets in a row. For sevent years, we cut taxes. A couple of years, we actually paid down some debt. We ended up with a triple-A credit rating for the first time in the history of the State of Delaware. So I feel as though I know something about this issue. So do a number of my colleagues.  

We are having a lot of debate, as we should, over what our spending plans are going to be in this continuing resolution to fund the government for another two weeks, four weeks, six months. That is well and good and important. We need to get started and demonstrate that we are able to reduce this deficit and reduce our debt.

We need to keep in mind that while what we do in the next 6 months is important, what is really important is what we do in the next 6 years and beyond that. We had a commission put together that a bunch of us supported. We created the deficit reduction commission, chaired by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson. They gave us a pretty good roadmap of how to get to a more fiscally responsible place in the next few years, cutting some $4 trillion out of the budget deficit.  

What they said is that pretty much everything needs to be on the table—domestic spending, defense spending, entitlement programs, tax expenditures, tax credits, tax deductions, tax rates. They have suggested a proposal that cuts the deficit by $4 trillion over 10 years, about two-thirds of that on the spending side and maybe one-third or so on the revenue side. I think it is a pretty good approach, and I commend the 18 members of the commission who endorsed that approach.  

One of my core values is, everything I do, I know I can do better. I think the same is true of all my colleagues. Frankly, the same is true of federal programs. What we need to do is to replace what a lot of people think we have in Washington—a culture of spendthrift—and we need to replace it with a culture of thrift. We need to look in every nook and cranny of the federal government and all programs and ask: Can we get better results for less money or can we get a better result by at least not spending more money? Partnering with the General Accountability Office, the Office of Management and Budget, with all the inspectors general, with nonprofit groups such as Citizens Against Government Waste, what can we do to get better results for less money? That is part of what we need to do long term.  

We still will have tough decisions, but at the end of the day, we need to save some money, carve out some money. If we have to spend an extra dollar or two, where should we invest that money? There is a guy named John Chambers, whom the Presiding Officer knows, and some of us met with him earlier today. He is CEO of Cisco, a big technology company. He likes to say that there are two things we need to do if we are to be successful as a nation, with a 21st century economy: No. 1, invest in people so we have the most productive workforce, smart workers, whether post docs or people with high school degrees—productive workforce; No. 2, invest in our infrastructure.  

Last year, the transportation infrastructure in this country got a D as in “delta”—not good—a D as in “dumb.” That is where our infrastructure is in this country. We need to invest in our infrastructure, not just roads, highways, bridges, rails and ports, but broadband, water, wastewater—broadly defined infrastructure.  

The third thing we need to do is invest in research and development so we can continue to be an innovation economy. The President said that if we are going to be successful in the 21st century, we need to out-educate, out-innovate and out-compete the rest of the world. We need to invest in our workforce, our very young kids and folks who are off to college and post-secondary training.
We also need to invest in our infrastructure, not just roads, highways, bridges, and rails, but infrastructure described broadly. Finally, we need to invest in R&D so we can invest and out-compete the best of the world.  

At the end of the day, we have to create what I call a nurturing environment for job creation, for job preservation. We need a nurturing environment. Part of that is our obligation working with the private sector and others, states and local governments across the country. Right now, our debt as a percentage of GDP has climbed to 65 percent, I am told. 65 percent—our debt as a percentage of GDP. The last time it was that high was at the end of World War II. It is the only time it has been that high—65 percent. Other countries getting into that kind of territory are Greece and Ireland. That is not smart. They found out the hard way.  

We need to learn from them, and this is the time to do it. It requires all of us to stand and do what we know we need to do, to share in the sacrifice, with everything on the table. Let’s use the deficit commission as a good role model. Let’s ask the executive branch to provide the leadership they need to provide.