Press Release of Senator Paul

VIDEO AND TRANSCRIPT: Senator Rand Paul Floor Remarks on Social Security

Thursday, March 3, 2011




We had an election a few months ago. And in that election the American people sent a message -- a message that they were concerned about the debt. Concerned about our kids and our grandkids and how this debt is going to be handed down to future generations. I’m not only concerned about that, I’m concerned about the imminent threat that this debt poses for our economy and for our people.


We’re spending about $10 billion a day. Of the $10 billion a day we’re spending, we’re borrowing about $4 billion. How big is a billion? It’s hard for most of us to fathom how much a billion is. A billion seconds, ago I was in high school. A billion minutes ago, Jesus was alive. A billion hours ago, we were in the Stone Age. But a billion dollars ago at the rate the government spends it, was only a few minutes ago.


The government is spending money like there’s no tomorrow and we had an election and we thought as voters we sent a message to this place, but it’s not getting through. The president gave us a budget. His proposal for 10 years is to spend $46 trillion. Now, how big is a trillion dollars? It’s hard to fathom a billion dollars, much less a trillion.


A trillion dollars. It’s hard to imagine. It boggles the mind. If I had thousand-dollar bills and I stack them in my hand. A stack of thousand-dollar bills four inches high would be a million dollars. If I want to have a trillion dollars in $100 bills, it would be 67 miles high.


Why do these numbers mean anything to you? Why does the deficit or the debt mean anything to you? Because it really is stealing from our future. We have to do something about it. I think I agree with theSenator from Alabama, that it is really a threat to our future; that we could have a crisis come upon us where we can’t manage our debt.


How do you pay for your debt? You can either tax people: most of us think we’re already taxed enough already. We’re not willing to pay more than 40 percent of our income for taxes. You can borrow: but we borrowed an enormous amount. We now owe the Chinese $800 billion, the Japanese $700 billion. The list goes on and on. We owe the Russians nearly $200 billion. We owe Mexico $20The list goes on and on.


We used to export goods to the world. Our number one export now is our debt. What happens when foreign countries quit buying our debt or the interest we have to pay them exceeds what we’re able to pay?


Most of the estimates on what we’re paying on the President’s estimates are saying that we’ll have a 3.5 percent interest rate. I remember in 1979 when interest rates went to 21 percent. If that happens, interest will consume the budget and we’ll have very little left for anything else.


As it is, the course we are on, if we do nothing, if we just keep spending the way we’re spending it, entitlements and interest consume the whole budget within a decade. That’s with conservative estimates on interest. Imagine what happens if interest rates begin to rise like they did in the 1970’s and some are predicting that this could happen.


Now, recently you’ve been hearing in the news that some members on the other side of the aisle, members of their leadership, are saying, well, this is all well and good, but those over here, we’re mistaken that there’s any problem with Social Security. They say Social Security is not adding anything to the debt. They say Social Security’s not adding one penny to the debt.


Well, I’m pretty new up here, but Washington math says we’re not adding to the debt in Social Security is flatly wrong.


I have a couple of charts with me here. Over here’s what we bring in Social Security taxes, your payroll taxes, your FICA taxes, here’s what we spend to Social Security recipients. This is what we bring in. This is what we spend. We are now, for the first time, spending more than we take in. Well, the other side will tell you, they’ll say, well, it’s really not so bad. We have interest payments that fill in the difference here.


They say Social Security’s fine. Has all these surpluses. If you go to the Social Security office, you’ll find a stack of paper. These are treasury bills. They’re non-negotiable. They cannot be -- negotiated; we pay ourselves interest on the Social Security surplus.


How do we pay the interest? We borrow it from China. So to make up this difference, for them to say Social Security’s on solid footing and we’re simply paying the interest it brings in, it’s a lie. The interest is paid by borrowing from China. We’re borrowing nearly $2 trillion a year.


The senator from Alabama showed you the statistics. Even though the deficit, the official deficit, will 5 trillion 6 trillion, the debt limit, if you watch closely in a month will go up to $2 trillion. All things they don’t count, off-budget items, money they borrow from places.


The truth of the matter is we have to wake up and say our entitlements are unsound. Nobody wants to hear that. And people say you can’t be elected by saying that. Well, guess what? It’s the truth. And if we do not speak the truth to our problems, we will eventually and ultimately encounter a crisis in our country. And I’m for averting that crisis.


I think the President has abdicated in his leadership. We have this enormous problem and he’s giving us $46 trillion worth of spending, annual deficits of a trillion dollars that go to the end of time and he’s abdicated his duty.


The entitlement system is broken. I didn’t break it. I’m not responsible for the baby boom. We have all of these people that were born after the war and they’re retiring. It just is happening much we have fewer workers. Once upon a time we had over 50 workers for every retiree. It worked. Once upon a time people lived with an average life expectancy of 65.


Social Security worked in the beginning. Worked for many years. We’re now down to less than three workers for one retiree. And it’s not working. And we have a huge amount of people retiring. It’s nobody’s fault, but what we want is leadership.


Where is the leadership in Washington to say the entitlements are broken and we have to do something about it? It may not be popular, but can we not say that someone should lead? The President is failing us and is not leading here. We need leadership.


How do you fix Social Security? Here’s what happens if you do nothing. Look at the red ink. It piles on. We’re – this year alone $37 billion we’ll have to borrow to pay for Social Security. It goes up to over $100 billion in a decade.


How do you fix Social Security? It’s very simple. Everybody knows it. But it’s -- everybody wants to be quiet. No one wants to say it. I will say it. The age of Social Security will have to gradually rise. I’ve said it. I’ve said it repeatedly. I don’t want it necessarily. I don’t want to have to do the things that we have to do, but someone has to stand up and say that it has to be done. Now, you can do it gradually. You can raise the age or allow the age to rise slowly for those 55 and under and you can fix Social Security by doing that.


That alone fixes at least half or more of the problem. You let it rise gradually on the younger people. Now, there is an alternative. If we stick our head in the sand and say, do nothing, we’re not touching Social Security, we’re not touching Medicare, we’re afraid to lead, wait to let the President lead someday. If we do that, the systems run into the ground. It’s a problem.


What happened to Greece when they ran into a debt cries in his they changed the -- crisis. They changed the day for the age of retirement overnight. That’s difficult. But what if we say gradually to those my age and younger, tell them that you will have to make adjustments because we don’t have enough money, these young people realize it. These young people if they’re listening to this debate, they know that Social Security’s broken, Medicare’s broken. It won’t be there for them unless we fix it. We need to be the responsible adults. We need to fix these problems.


Next week I and a couple of senators will present a fix for Social Security that fixes it in perpetuity. That’s a long time. Forever.

We will fix Social Security by allowing the age to rise gradually on young people and by saying to those who will retire, the younger people, again, that you may not get as much out of it as some other people get. Basically there will have to be some testing that says when you’re in a higher income bracket, your Social Security payments will not rise as rapidly as some others will. It’s the only way you’ll fix it. Those two changes fix Social Security forever if we’re willing to do it.


The question is, if you speak boldly, if you lead, is that a detriment or asset? I personally think it’s the right thing to do, but I also think it’s an asset and I think the people will understand that when you lead you have to make difficult choices.


We’ve been kicking the can down the road, borrowing and borrowing and borrowing. I think we’re coming to a point in time where it has to end. It’s going to end either voluntarily and gradually if we can promote a solution or it can end with a bang. A bang is a crisis.


I don’t want that to happen. I want it to happen gradually, in a very rational and reasonable manner and I think we can do it. I think what we’re finding from the other side and from the President is a failure to lead.


I propose that we have new leadership. And we’re going to need new leadership if we’re going to get this debt under control. And I think at the very least we need to have this conversation and I’m glad we’re having it. And I yield the floor.