March 1st, 2010
04:40 PM ET
13 years ago

Hoyer: Failure not an option. Really.

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said that Congress needs to focus on reducing America's debt."]

Washington (CNN) - There's a lot of talk in nation's capital about failure. The failure of Congress to pass health care reform. The failure of the Senate to extend unemployment benefits. The failure of the House to pass bills the Senate supermajority will find palatable.

You get the idea.

Then there's the kind of failure that House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer addressed Monday at a Brookings Institution speech on "fiscal responsibility."

Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat serving his 15th term, was warning about failure of a different magnitude entirely: The decline of America's economic dominance because of the growing weight of its debt.

"This, then, is our turning point and our choice: the point at which we join the debt-ridden powers who saw the story of their greatness end in fiscal ruin, or the point at which we as a nation refuse that ending and write a new chapter," Hoyer said.

The government runs on mega-borrowing these days and its debt could hit $13 trillion this year. It's largely the product of two wars, the Bush tax cuts, an expensive Medicare change, a colossal financial crisis and a deep recession.

But that's just a preview of the real problem that threatens to consume the federal budget: rising interest rates, which will make U.S. debt more expensive to repay, and growing health care costs.

"Our willingness to face reality is a measure of our character," Hoyer said. He offered a few ideas, speaking gently about gradually raising the retirement age for Social Security, and adjusting entitlement benefits to better reflect the finances of the retirees receiving them. Beyond that, he didn't get too specific.

In fact, just about everyone is leaving the details to the new National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. That's the 18-member panel that President Obama created last month by executive order – after Congress couldn't reach agreement on doing it by law – to recommend ways to start closing the gulf between what Uncle Sam spends and what he collects.

The commission, which has an end-of-year deadline, still hasn't gotten down to business. Only half of the panel has been selected so far: among them, its leaders – former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson and former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles – and three key senators named by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

And on Friday, Obama named four additional members including Alice Rivlin, one of Washington's leading fiscal hawks and founding director of the Congressional Budget Office.

Hoyer says voters are angry and ready to hold lawmakers to task. "Anger can be a constructive motivator or a negative impediment to thinking. Let's hope it's the former," he said.

Filed under: national debt • Steny Hoyer
soundoff (55 Responses)
  1. InModeration

    I think everyone agrees on the concept of having health care for everyone. It's the execution where details get so muddy.

    I wish though that they do away with sweetheart deals.

    March 1, 2010 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  2. Four and The Door

    The government runs on mega-borrowing these days and its debt could hit $13 trillion this year.
    And yet the Obama Administration is still convinced that massive government spending is how to create jobs? It has only created debt. Where are the jobs? John McCain said correctly in his 2008 camapaign that we would see massive spending and massive taxation from an Obama administration. Here comes part 2.

    March 1, 2010 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  3. jm for sc

    The sad part of all of this is that America's anger is directed at the wrong people. As evidenced by the recent acts of rebelling, the GOP has vowed to destroy this administration regardless of the effects their action has on the American people.

    American can thank racist people such and the tea baggers, fox news as well as those old cold heart republincans who are shocked by the fact that they have a black president. This is all about Rush Limbaugh's wish that President Obama would fail.

    March 1, 2010 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  4. Robert

    The Dems are the only ones to have balanced budgets in the last 60 years. Reagan and Bush oversaw serious explosions in the deficit and national debt...

    I feel far more confident that we can make the right decisions under Obama than any leading Republican out there today.....

    Plus with the Dems, we don't have to deal with the religious loonies being in control of the party governing the nation....

    March 1, 2010 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  5. I voted for Obama and proud of it in Oregon

    if americans vote in republicans this november , then everyone of you that do vote for republicans don't complain about jobs health care or anything else . if you vote for a democrat then you are supporting
    change and america can do it with our help . get back what the republicans took away our rights and freedoms . and our debt they blew out of this world CHENEY ROVE jerks . vote DEMOCRAT THIS FALL
    we need a public option not more rich people loop holes 🙂

    March 1, 2010 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  6. Bedtime for Obonzo

    Raising the retirement age is a good idea. In the meantime, stop the crazy spending orgy!

    March 1, 2010 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  7. sonny chapman

    It started when Gorge W. HAD to give more income tax breaks to the greedy wealthy who had inherited their wealth but were still not satisfied even though the Economy of the 1990's was clipping along at record pace for growth & low inflation. We were ALL doing good. But the greedy Repubs. didn't have the White House & Bill Clinton had a zipper problem. How we should all pine for those days of Peace, Prosperity & "sex' in the White House. I didn't think a change of President could screw it all up. Boy, was I wrong.

    March 1, 2010 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  8. Obama Victim

    a Democrat talking about "fiscal responsibility".........L O L

    March 1, 2010 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  9. GI Joe

    We're going to vote out ANYONE who is NOT working FOR US.

    March 1, 2010 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  10. gt

    here is another politican who needs to retire,,,, he loves to spend our tax dollars ,,,,, he is old ... tired,,, mean,,, please retire old man

    March 1, 2010 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  11. Gary

    The staggering size of the U.S. national debt is indicative of a nation lacking the discipline and maturity to live within its means. This is a problem with much of the individuals in the population that extends to the government because the population refuses to elect politicians that will vote to control spending or have the audacity to say the dreaded "T" word. We can blame the politicians if we like, but we elect these men and women who behave like spoiled children because we do the same. At some point, I think in the not-to-distant future, someone is going to say "no" who is not connected to our childish electorate and the excrement is going to hit the oscillator, and the difficulties we have recently faced will likely be remembered as child's play.

    March 1, 2010 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  12. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    I agree with the senator:"Anger can be a constructive motivator or a negative impediment to thinking. Let's hope it's the former," I sincerely wished that the Tea Party had taken the streets to protest 2-3 years earlier when there might still have been time to change the course of what is now our economy. I do understand that we are concerned about the amount of debt that we're incurring ON TOP of the undeclared debt that was kept from our knowledge and inherited by the current admin. I also understand that in times of debt it seems ludicrous to incur additional debt. But here's the thing: we had to spend in order to kickstart our moribund economy. And that money had to be borrowed. Private industry had shipped millions of jobs overseas, AND it's profits and re-investments (purchasing, hiring) came to a standstill when the economy bottom out. They needed to be helped. Private citizens by the millions out of work. They needed to be helped. And so on, and so on. I do not believe that we have an administration in place that is WILLING nilly-willy to mortgage our grandchildren's future. I believe that with the Depression-era type of problems that we were facing one year ago, action needed to be taken, and relief provided to our citizens that were going under for the final count. This was done with the advice of many experts, from bothe sides of the political spectrum and everything in between. The recommendations were made, they were instituted and we're coming back. If you're broke, or down on your luck you don't sit idly by and lose your house and everything you own because you don't want to borrow. You borrow, get yourself regrouped, and pay it back.

    March 1, 2010 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  13. Illinoistom

    "The government runs on mega-borrowing these days and its debt could hit $13 trillion this year. It's largely the product of two wars, the Bush tax cuts, an expensive Medicare change, a colossal financial crisis and a deep recession." Say that again with a straight face, Rich. The real fiscal dilemma is structural deficits in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Reagan worked with O'neill to keep Social Security solvent for another 25 years and Clinton worked with Gingrich to reform Welfare and created budget surpluses. Obama only works with Pelosi and Reid to guarantee disaster for the next generation.

    March 1, 2010 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  14. Dean

    Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat serving his 15th term, was warning about failure of a different magnitude entirely: The decline of America's economic dominance because of the growing weight of its debt.
    Yes if it wasn't for the decline of the dollaar in the world the price of gas would be less than $1.50 a gallonan our economy would not be struggling.


    Bush to be honored by the Obama Administration

    In a reconciliatory move by the Obama administration, the president has asked the U. S. Board on Geographical Names to name the earthquake area beneath Haiti after the 43rd president of the United States, George W. Bush.
    This particular fracture in the tectonic plate will henceforth be called "Bush's Fault."

    March 1, 2010 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  15. Rick McDaniel

    Perhaps failure is the ONLY option.

    March 1, 2010 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  16. Dick Cheney For President In 2012

    I don't believe it. For once I actually agree with Steny Hoyer.

    He is right. Americans are extremely concerned over ballooning budget deficits as well as high unemployment and national security. "Health-care reform" as currently proposed is not even on most American's radar screens.

    I would like to know who is Steny Hoyer’s tailor. The guy is always impeccably dressed.

    March 1, 2010 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  17. Mike in MN

    Hoyer is full of it.
    Obama and the Democrats have heaped hundreds of billions of borrowed spending on top of the deficit they inherited from Bush. Including the 862 billion stimulus, the auto bailouts and the first Obama budget that increased spending by 300 billion over the last Bush budget. And now Obama has submitted his second budget with another 300 billion increase in spending. All borrowed.
    Hoyer was part of the majority party Demcorats in Congress who in 2007 and 2008 controlled the spending and budgets that contributed to the Bush deficits.
    Hoyer blames almost all the deficits on two wars, the Bush tax cuts, the financial crisis and the recession.
    Well take a look into the future Hoyer. Take a look at the next ten years.
    The CBO has projected deficits that average a trillion a year for the next 10 years and beyond. In all of those ten years the CBO projects economic growth, no recessions. The Bush tax cuts to the rich expire in the CBO projections. Obamacare, which Obama says will reduce the deficits, is assumed to be passed in the CBO projections. Cap and trade is assmed to be passed in the CBO projections. There is no future financial crisis in the CBO projections. The wars come to an end before 2020. Everything that Hoyer blames on Bush is long past in the 10 year CBO projections. All of Obama's spending and grand agenda is factored in. And we get nothing but unsustainable deficits for as far as the CBO can see. That has nothing to do with Bush. It has everything to do with Obama.

    March 1, 2010 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  18. Kat

    15 terms... This is one of our biggest problems in Washington. give it a break. We don't want this healthcare plan and we are too far in debt already.

    March 1, 2010 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  19. Big Ed

    I agree. We need to be more fiscally responsible. So let's end the wars that the oil was supposed to pay for! It's time to bring the brave soldiers home to their families!

    Also, let's reduce the pay on all the Congressmen and Congresswomen until they do the work that needs to be done to benefit the voters and not the special interests. When they do a good job, then they can re-visit their pay.

    March 1, 2010 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  20. Dar

    Hummmm, that 51 votes needed to shove the HC bill down our throats might just be a little tougher that Pisholey thought it would be.
    God is she ugly, inside and out, yuck.

    2010/2012 REAL Change is coming

    March 1, 2010 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  21. ThinkAgain

    Here's an income-generating idea for our country:

    1. Reveal the names of all the Americans who have hidden money in Swiss bank accounts in an effort to avoid paying taxes.

    2. In addition to their names, include their political party affiliation.

    3. Collect those unpaid taxes.

    4. Put those monies towards paying down the deficit.

    March 1, 2010 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  22. leonardofru

    Dominican Mama always has lots of words but nothing that deals with reality. I can boil her comments down into to just a few words: BUSH DONE DID IT, I TELL YA.

    March 1, 2010 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  23. ThinkAgain

    More revenue-generating ideas:

    1. Eliminate the FICA tax cap on income above $90,000. This would generate a huge source of funds. (Right now, no FICA is paid on individual income above $90,000.)

    2. Change the top tax rate to what it was under Ronald Reagan: 39%. Right now, the top rate is 36%; people making higher incomes can afford to pay an additional 3%.

    Are these "taxes on the rich?" Yes, they are. And the wealthy can certainly afford it. After all, it's the least they can do for the country that has given them the opportunity to create their wealth in the first place.

    March 1, 2010 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  24. Ben

    Robert – "Plus with the Dems, we don't have to deal with the religious loonies being in control of the party governing the nation...."

    That would be infinitely better than what we have now with the Left-Wing loonies you support.

    The Leftists scream about tolerance but are the most intolerant people on the planet.

    March 1, 2010 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  25. Richie in Mass

    Really? We are back to blaming Bush? This isn't just a distraction from the "Jobs Jobs Jobs" that they promised to focus on and are now back to healthcare reform again? They had 1 year of complete , unabstructed power and could only pass a 787 billion dollar monstrosity that now is up to 825 billion? I guess a bill that was suppose to cost 787 billion over a few years running 35 billion over its estimate in less than a year has no reflection on a healthcare bill thats suppose to be deficit nuetral and cost less than a trillion over 10 years. UGH!

    Obama puts out his idea and makes it so no Cadillac plans get taxed till 2018. Oh thats right. Those taxes were a large portion of revenue to pay for the healthcare. I imagine he found savings elsewhere to offset that? Democrats lie as much as Republicans. Vote out all incumbents. They now don't even recognise that we can clearly see them lying. We are so dumb to them. Then again we keep sending them back so maybe we are.

    March 1, 2010 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
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