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National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021--Conference

Floor Speech

Date: Dec. 10, 2020
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. BRAUN. Mr. President, Rick mentioned that back in 2018, we ran on what we are talking about today. We wouldn't be honest to the people who elected us to come here.

I had eight pages of prepared remarks. This is something I have talked about so often. I am going to cover some new terrain to make it relatable to the citizens across this country about how this place works and how it is so different from how anything else works.

A few of us come from the world of accountability--the business world--where you don't have the luxury of doing what we do here in the Federal Government. Listen to this closely because this is what most citizens don't understand. We are given the revenues here in this place, and our only job, No. 1, should be not to spend more than what we are given. We don't do that.

We borrow 23 percent, roughly, of what we spend. Try taking that to your banker, running a business, see if you can get a loan doing that. That is just a real simple way to look at how we do this year after year.

On Main Street, whether you are running a business, whether it is your household--I served in State government for 3 years. We were smart enough to have a balanced budget amendment. We believed in things like a rainy day fund. It was in our DNA. We didn't have to think about it; that in the long run, you are not going to succeed if you spend more than what you take in.

Coming out of World War II was the highest level of national debt we ever had--roughly, where we are now. That generation, we know what they went through. They were savers. They were investors and not only in government. We are now spenders and consumers.

You would think that in the biggest business in the world--we spend about $4.5 trillion a year. We take in maybe about $3.5. Of course, in a year like this, where you had a pandemic, add another $3 trillion or so to the national debt. And structurally, we will be marching, over the next 5 to 7 years, to where that goes to $1.5 trillion a year. Start adding all that up.

Here is what is going to happen. When we are in a position like we are now, where you can borrow money for nearly nothing--we are the only reserve currency in the world that allows us to do it--that doesn't mean you should do it because we are piling up obligations on our kids and our grandkids, and we might as well admit it. How have we evolved to get to where we are now? I don't think that is as much an issue as we know where we are now. It is not sustainable.

Here is what is going to happen to the most important programs we have and that everybody likes: Social Security, Medicare. Medicare has been around since the mid-1960s. All of us have been paying into it, employers and employees. Every penny will be exhausted out of the trust fund, and that was about 5 to 5\1/2\ years. Now it has advanced, due to our current financial situation, to maybe 4 or 5. What happens? This will be the first reality, the shock that comes to the American public--especially elderly who depend on Medicare for their healthcare--18 percent across-the-board cuts. Think of the static and the uproar we will hear then.

We can stop it if we just have a little discipline. That is mostly about embracing something like I put forward, the Fair Care Act, which is the most comprehensive, aggressive with healthcare costs in this country.

As a CEO from Main Street, and CEOs across the country, small business owners, the biggest problem we deal with is the high cost of healthcare. Of course, we here protect a healthcare industry that is broken. And you have another side that wants to get more government involved. And, really, all it takes there is to have transparency and competition--have a consumer who is engaged in his or her own well-being, and you would have prices cascade down.

Those are tough decisions. You take on three of the four biggest lobbies in the country--pharma, hospitals, and insurance. That is another thing that doesn't make this place work. With Social Security, we have some time there, but that was crafted back when life spans were a lot shorter than what they are now. We knew that actuarially, and it has been coming at us for years. We have until, maybe, 2032 or 2033. We have been paying into that since the Great Depression, but every penny out of the trust fund will be gone. I think you get the picture.

When I came here--as did Senator Johnson from Wisconsin, Senator Scott from Florida, and a few fiscal conservatives, like Senator Lee and a few others who will weigh in on this--I talked about what was uncomfortable. Well, to me, we have had all of this time, and we have not done anything about it. We have the perfect opportunity. We know we are in this current dynamic, and we know we will have to get through it, but what we are here to do today is to get a vote on a simple bill that says, do not shut the government down when we are trying to get through these issues.

Put a little bit of rigor and discipline into the process with the No Budget, No Pay Act, and then, maybe, we can get to the point at which we give the American public a better product. Imagine if everything were given to you in terms of your revenues. First of all, don't spend more than what you take in. When you have a year to do something, start on day one. That is the way it works in the real world, and that is the way it works in a household. That is the way it worked on a school board on which I served for 10 years, and that is the way it works in a place like Indiana, which balances its budget every year, has a rainy day fund, and lives responsibly.