Issues of the Day

Floor Speech

Date: March 10, 2023
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. GROTHMAN. Mr. Speaker, I would like to discuss three issues. Some have gotten attention, and some have not this week, but all of them are important, and I would say none of them got the attention they deserve.

The first issue to talk about is the size of our Federal debt.

Now, I know, ever since I was a child, people have talked about deficit spending and the amount of the Federal debt that someday the children or grandchildren will have to pay off.

I think it is important to look, though, that this time things really are different. The only time the Federal debt ever got to the total gross national product in this country--which is one way to compare debt at different times in our country's history--was when it actually hit 100 percent at the end of World War II. That is not surprising.

If you know people who lived during World War II, Mr. Speaker, the entire economy was devoted to munitions, a huge percent of our population was in the armed services, and we hit 100 percent.

However--unlike now--when the war ended, it was easy to reduce Federal spending. Hundreds of thousands of troops were, in essence, laid off and sent back to work in the private sector, we stopped building the ships, planes, and tanks we needed during the war, and as a result, over the next 30 years, the amount of the Federal debt dropped from 100 percent of GDP down to around 30 percent. It bounced back and forth around that level, maybe 40 percent, all the way to about 1995.

Even then that was too big, and people commented at the time, but the debt was about 30 to 45 percent of GDP.

Then, beginning with around 2010, things began to shoot up, and in COVID they shot up even more. We are now--or within a couple years will be--where we were at the end of World War II. But there are no tank factories or ship factories to shut down, and we can't lay off hundreds of thousands of troops.

Indeed, any Congressman knows that basically our day is spent attending meetings in our offices when we are here with various groups asking for spending increases and saying that they absolutely need them.

So this time, we really are in a crisis.

Not only are we in a situation in which we are approaching 100 percent of our debt equaling 100 percent of GDP, but because interest rates are going up and the huge increase in debt the last 2 years, the amount we are paying in interest is skyrocketing.

We cannot reduce the interest. If we had interest on our debt--which we anticipate will go up in the next year from $640 billion a year to $740 billion a year--that is a $100 billion spending increase that we have no control over.

As the debt continues to go up and as the Federal Reserve feels--and I was in a committee hearing yesterday both the Republican witnesses and Democrat witnesses felt given what inflation was going on, as the Federal Reserve continues to raise interest rates, the amount of interest that we have to pay every year goes up.

Think about that, Mr. Speaker. We have got about a $100 billion increase in the difference between what we are going to pay in interest in 2023 and 2024 before we look at anything else.

So the fact that this budget proposal contains more spending is, by itself, deeply concerning. It shows that the basic numbers have not gotten through the heads of the Biden administration, or maybe they feel that by the time we finally hit the wall and the value of the dollar will have a hard time paying off our debt, that he will be in a retirement home and other people will have to deal with it.

But the American public should know that for the first time since World War II, we are approaching having the total debt equal to 100 percent of our GDP--a complete crisis.

The next thing to look at is if we must spend more, then where does President Biden feel it has to be spent?

One place it is not going to be spent, one place that we actually have a reduction here, is homeland security. The biggest crisis we have in this country is people streaming across our southern border. But we can find over a 10 percent increase for the Department of Commerce, we can find almost a 10 percent increase for the Department of the Interior, an 11 percent increase for the Department of Labor, and a 19 percent increase for the Environmental Protection Agency, but when it comes down to the one thing that you turn on the TV every night and say, wow, we have to spend more money there, on the Department of Homeland Security there is a 1 percent reduction.

This is where our President is.

We are going to continue to have increased spending across the board--some of which is necessary--but the one place we don't have an increase is homeland security. That and transportation. I take that to be because we just had the huge infrastructure bill and, therefore, we don't need an increase in the spending on transportation.

The other thing I would like to point out, as you dig deeper into the budget, with regard to any agency you look at, Mr. Speaker, you have more money for bureaucrats devoted to dividing America by race: We have to do more to favor this race or that race or this gender or that gender.

That is so offensive and un-American. I am going to address it a lot more in a few minutes. But it is interesting that at the time we are getting the highest amount of debt as a percentage of GDP in my lifetime, the President responds by saying that the one area that we absolutely have to have more in is hiring bureaucrats whose job depends on telling America we have a racist problem and we have to identify people by race. That is a big problem.

So I encourage the American public to pay attention to the budget, pay attention to the fact that we are hitting in our lifetimes the greatest debt ever, and pay attention to the fact that even before we argue and quibble about how much the Department of Education should go up or down or how much we should spend more or less on defense, we are going to have a $100 billion increase in the amount of interest we pay next year.

The next area to look at--and I mentioned that the Biden administration actually feels we can reduce the total amount we are spending on homeland security--is I wish the press would spend more time seeing what is happening with the children at our southern border.

There was, in retrospect, a relatively small number of children who had to be separated from their parents who had broken the law, and by court order those children were returned to their parents in either 15 or 30 days. It was a relatively small number.

Now you look, Mr. Speaker, and it varies from month to month, but it is not unusual to have 8,000 to 10,000 unaccompanied children enter this country every month.

Where are all of these people who, a few years ago, were alarmed that some young people would have to spend 2 weeks without their parents, and now we have 8,000 to 10,000 kids a month entering America?

We don't spin them back around and say: Go back to your parents where they belong.

Instead, we look at an address that perhaps is attached to their shirt that says 123 Elm Street, Portland, Oregon, and the Border Patrol or the agencies, like Catholic Social Services, find some way to deliver that child where it says on the address.

Does anybody feel that is outlandish?

I know the individual Border Patrol agencies think how horrible that is.

We do know that sometimes when children come with people who they believe are their parents, the Border Patrol gets suspicious and does DNA tests. It is not unusual to find that people try to bring children across and say that they are their children, you do a DNA test, and you find out they are not. So we already realize there are sketchy things going on down there.

What becomes of these children whom their parents send across the southern border?

Some of them have to go to work. The New York Times had an interesting article about that recently. When parents send their children to work then the children perhaps are supposed to send money back to Central America and to South America.

We know that people who are crossing the southern border--depending upon where they are from--the drug gangs are taking advantage of the open border policy by President Biden, and the drug kings are demanding payment, perhaps payment coming back from America. Is it right that a young child without their parents gets shipped somewhere in America and has to work in some factory, and some of the money is sent to the drug cartels, other money is sent back home to the parents? Is that good? Is that what America wants to encourage? America is responsible for allowing this system to continue. And what do the kids do?

At least The New York Times says they work in factories--maybe there can be safer factories--but they work in factories. How many are working, for example, in the sex trade? Who knows? This is something the press ought to be paying more attention to. I intend to have a hearing on this topic sometime within the next 6 weeks, and hopefully we can find out a little bit more about what happens to these individual kids.

If the people, including the media, who is so alarmed that the kids of parents who have broken the law had to spend a couple weeks apart from their parents, if this media would wake up a little bit, they would find a lot more kids are being permanently separated from their parents or at least separated from them for years and years at the border. If the press would wake up, they would be able to apply the pressure that we need to get these children back to their parents.

I will give another example along the lines of keeping families together. I know that there are devotees of Black Lives Matter who don't believe in the traditional family, they would rather have families without a dad at home, but I still believe that is best. What happens when a child shows up at the southern border with only one parent?

Now, we know in the United States in our court system if the parents are separated, frequently there are court orders. Both mom and dad have to stay relatively close to the child. We don't let one parent grab the child without the other parent signing off and run to a different part of the country.

Nevertheless, the Border Patrol is worried--and they are on the ground--they are worried when they see children show up with one parent and not the other parent. Has anybody adjudicated this? Have any social workers determined this is okay or is it just one parent who doesn't care about the other parent bringing their children here? The United States apparently takes no interest as families are being torn apart.

Again, this is something that my subcommittee will look at, but it shouldn't take that long. It should be the comatose American press corps who right now is paying attention and saying where is the legal documentation that allows you to show up with your parents and the other parent be gone? This desire to get rid of the nuclear family or deprive children from south of the border of their mom or dad is offensive, and the United States is part of it.

I hope that the Biden administration does something about it, and I hope when we ever get around to an immigration bill or that a new President gets in office that the policy is such that we are not going to take one child unless we know where both parents are.

Now, the third issue is an issue that is so dear to President Biden's administration. When he was sworn in as President--I actually attended his inaugural speech, being the bipartisan guy that I am--President Biden addressed racism four times and white supremacy once. I think it is unusual when we obsess over racism in this country. We are obviously about the least racist country that existed, right? People come here from all around the world. People back in the eastern hemisphere fight Tribe against Tribe in Africa. They fight country against country in Europe. Different states or different religions fight and kill each other in India, but they all come here to America, and they get along just fine.

Nevertheless, Joe Biden is obsessed with the idea that we have a horrible racist country, and we have to weigh in and perhaps give preferences to people one way or the other. So we get the drum beat of racism, racism, racism. We heard it again in his State of the Union speech. In his State of the Union speech, Joe Biden couldn't resist but go after the police in this country and say that Black parents have to tell their children to look out for the horrible police. Even the studies that are now years old show that when adjusted for criminal behavior, adjusted for arrest, there is no greater danger of Black people in the population as a whole in confrontation with police, but Joe Biden, I can only assume because he wants to tear apart America, keeps getting up on the platform saying we have got this racist problem, we have got to look out for the police. It is not true. What is the result of this mindset that we have this horrible racial problem and we have to do something about it?

Joe Biden obviously wants this narrative to continue. The first thing he wants to do is hire a bunch of bureaucrats--more certainly in his proposed budget--hire bureaucrats throughout the Federal agencies to deal with the supposed racial problem and dive in looking for the people you hire, the people you deal with. Let's look at it through the racial prism.

As it so happens--and I think this should be more publicized--America has had a policy of affirmative action since 1965 in this country. That is when President Lyndon Johnson, I think in part in response to the Jim Crow era which had just ended in the south, began a policy of affirmative action. Today, every American business with at least 100 employees or any business with at least 50 employees that does $50,000 worth of contracting with the government is affected by the affirmative action order that was begun by Lyndon Johnson over 50 years ago.

Obviously, the purpose of affirmative action is to put the thumb on the scale when a company does hiring, when they do promoting, when they do firing. The stated purpose of this massive bureaucracy is to give what was a practical matter amongst the preferences to Americans who basically descend from anywhere around the world other than northern Africa and Europe. I should point out recently President Biden wanted to--or gave notice--that he wants at least people to fill out forms differently. Right now you are considered, I guess, what we will refer to as ``white'' if you are from north Africa, but President Biden wants to take people from Egypt and Syria, whatever, and give them a new place on the form. I would assume--I am not sure but I would assume--that means more affirmative action for people in that part of the world, as well.

Insofar as companies change their policies to make these forms come up better or more what they like, it means that you are giving preferences to one group over another group. Even more absurdly, frequently the group you are giving preferences to are immigrants who weren't even here in the United States. I wish we would have hearings on this topic, and I wish the press would delve into this topic and ask: Why if you move here from, wherever, Peru, Pakistan, Philippines, wherever, why in the world should you be treated differently or should a company feel that they have to go out of the way to give preferences to these groups when they have never been subject to any discrimination in this country at all, much less slavery? Why when it comes to African Americans-- assuming that we should do this sort of thing, and I am not sure it is right at all, but if we are going to have to do this sort of thing at all, why if somebody moves here from Jamaica or Bahamas or Nigeria or somewhere, comes here for a better life in America when a company hires you or when an American governmental entity hires you, why do these diversity people feel you should be given preference over people who are already here? Does anybody think that is a little bit odd? I think it is something they particular ought to look into because President Biden wants to get so many more people here, including illegally. As a practical matter right now there are a lot of big businesses who feel it will help them in the eyes of the government if they hire people who just immigrated here, maybe people who just immigrated here illegally as opposed to some of the native born.

I will give an anecdote that I repeated in committee the other day. I spoke to a gentleman whose son worked for a major American cabinet department. He was happy with his job. He went to school for the job he got. After 8 or 9 years he wondered why he wasn't moving up, why he wasn't promoted. He was doing a good job. Well, he was told: ``You are a white guy who is not a veteran.'' Of course we give preferences to veterans, too. Now, is that right? If it is right, if people feel from here on out that is the way it is going to be in the United States, shouldn't the agencies that behave this way at least be required to post something saying that if you are going to be held back because you are not a veteran, if you are going to be held back by your race that you should know this before you accept this job? I would think at a minimum we should at least alert the public. It is kind of unusual that we have this problem, but I do feel that some committee or the press, if they want to educate the public about what is going on, ought to delve into this issue a little bit more. These are questions that I think the press ought to ask.

When we embark on this affirmative action policy in which we are picking people by background, does this affect the quality of life in America? Okay. If when we determine admissions to medical schools or admissions to schools of engineering or something like pilots, when the Biden administration says we have to run all these through the bean counters, do we wind up with perhaps some people who are not as qualified? Does that affect the quality of life in America?

When is a minority entitled to a preference? Is it somebody who is half from a different country, is it a quarter, is it an eighth? Right now you self-identify. Elizabeth Warren was something like 1/64th or 128th Native American, and she claimed to be Native American, used it to become a law professor at Harvard. Good for her. Is that right? How about a quarter? Is that right? Half? An eighth? I'm not sure. Is it right that if you move here directly from Spain you are European. If your ancestors came from Spain and spent a few generations in Mexico you are somebody in need of protection? Does that make any sense? I think the press ought to ask that question.

Again, in this country I believe affirmative action was--or we were led to believe--was to a certain extent making up for Jim Crow or even slavery, but if you are somebody who comes here of African descent, from Nigeria or Jamaica, you didn't experience Jim Crow, you didn't experience slavery. Is it right that preferences be given to groups like this?

A lot of times people say it is about diversity. Well, there is such a thing as diversity in background, and maybe we learn different things with different backgrounds, but this is all--or frequently--race related. If I grow up next to somebody who is a quarter Mexican, and we have had the exact same experiences and are best friends and played together on the football team and graduated together from high school, is there really diversity in hiring one of us instead of the other of us or letting one of us in school compared to the other school? That is ridiculous, but that is what the law is currently right now. Of course, I think there are a lot of people that have a vested interest in keeping this going. There are people who, I think, want to destroy America by trying to set people from one area up against another area. There are people that want to protect their jobs, and these could be very good-paying jobs, monitoring this diversity stuff from company to company, and now in order to protect their jobs these programs have to continue to keep on going. They are good-paying jobs, and they are consultants who make well into the six figures whose jobs depend upon this diversity stuff. I hope the press looks into that, sees how much people are making.

The diversity program can favor women, as well. Right now in America, single women under 30 actually make more than single men under 30. Do we need all this paperwork and experts to delve into things to protect the women? I don't know.

I will give a little anecdote. I know a woman, she is retired now, but she was a human resources person for a manufacturing firm that did business with the government. They had over 100 employees.

There were two anecdotes that bothered her and caused her to search me out. One was the company she was with wanted to hire a new engineer. Like many companies do, they hired an independent firm to administer their affirmative action program because they didn't want to get in trouble with the Federal Government.

The affirmative action group told them--although some people say they shouldn't have told them. You want to go from hiring five engineers to six engineers? Well, right now, all five engineers in your company are men. The sixth engineer better be a woman. It doesn't have to be a woman, but if it is not a woman, you have to be prepared to be audited and prove you did all you could to try to hire a woman in that sixth slot.

She didn't really like that. She thought that was wrong. Is that right?

The same thing happened in management. There were four members of what was classified as management. They wanted to hire a fifth. They were told by the experts, who they were paying, in this field: You better look for a minority for that fifth management position. It doesn't have to be a minority, but if the Federal Government audits you, you could get in trouble. You better be able to prove you did all you could to try to hire a minority.

I was back home a few weeks ago and talked to a woman who brought this up on her own. She worked for a financial institution. She said that an opening for a position had been going on for months, but they couldn't hire anybody because all the applicants were White men. Interesting.

Is that right in America? I guess the bank felt you don't want to get on the wrong side of the Federal Government.

In any event, these are three topics that I don't feel the press has paid enough attention to, but I hope they do a better job in the future of alerting the American public to the fact that we are approaching 100 percent of GDP in our debt, the highest since World War II. Unlike World War II, we are not going to lay off or shut down tons of factories making tanks and ships. It is going to be much more difficult this time.

I hope the American public also decides to weigh in when we do have an increase in spending. Is it right? One of only two agencies--at least on this summary; three agencies on this summary of all the agencies we have. Homeland Security, which is in charge of the border, is one of the few that is actually getting a cut.

Does the American public think that is the one agency that is overstaffed and bloated? I am not sure.

I hope the American public and the press corps, which really determines our agenda, pay a little bit more attention to all the unaccompanied minors streaming across the southern border without parents, maybe never to see their parents again.

Who knows what people are doing with them, human trafficked or whatever, but that is what we do right now. Johnny shows up with a note on his shirt: Deliver me to 123 Elm Street, Portland, Oregon.

Yes, sir. We don't ask where your parents are. We are going to deliver him wherever you want. I hope the American public is concerned about that.

Finally, I think, particularly in the days of Joe Biden, where he is trying to hire so many more bureaucrats to administer affirmative action sort of programs, why don't we ask some questions about this, about this program? Who benefits? Do they benefit? Does it affect the overall quality of work in some areas in America?

I think we ought to have that discussion. I know the Supreme Court is having that discussion, but it affects, like I said, a lot more than admissions to school. It affects hiring, both in the private sector and public sector, and it affects government contracting, as well.

Three topics for the press if they are paying attention.