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. Rickster

    Are these democrats dumb, delusional or dishonest? Obama has more than tripled the debt in one year! And if you go back through history, the democrats have turned us into an entitlement culture(yes, republicans have spent too much money as well).

    Want to reduce the debt? Here's step one....get rid of all the illegal aliens.

    March 1, 2010 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  2. robert diogenes

    Rep Hoyer's comment maybe true but it is very short on how to accomplish his goals. Without how to I find it not helpful i n solving our problems,.

    March 1, 2010 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  3. Emma

    The day will come when we have a plan as good as the Germans have, but a lot of people other than the insurance companies will be broke by then. It will then become a necessary cost for the American citizens to have single payer or universal health care. It sounds like deficit either way.

    March 1, 2010 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  4. Read the constitution

    Obama = failure.
    He has literally failed at everything he's attempted in his 14 months:
    – unemployment- said wouldn't go higher than 8% w/ his porkulus's 10%
    – Olympics- EMBARASSED
    – MA, NJ, VA races, in which he campaigned- ALL DEM LOSSES. NOT CLOSE
    – Health Care- They've bought out 3 states and still can't pass this garbage bill with a big majority
    on and on and on. Obama something besides the basement blogs. I'M TRIED OF SUPPORTING THE LAZY AND UNWILLING.

    March 1, 2010 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  5. JohnRJ08

    Mike in MN– YOU ARE AN IDIOT. But you're from Minnesota, so you have an excuse. Obama had no choice but to infuse the financial market with liquidity. People who are infinitely smarter than you saw the need for that, including dozens of Nobel Prize winning economists. NOBODY is now saying that the stimulus didn't prevent us from falling into another Great Depression. At any rate, how can anybody criticize the stimulus package since only a small percentage of it has even been spent as of this time? Even so, the Recovery Act is already producing jobs. Just ask the Republican congressmen who are taking credit for it in their home states. As for the auto company bailouts, perhaps you think it would have been better to just let them fail. That would only have put hundreds of thousands of Americans out of work and turned over the auto industry to foreign manufacturers. Yeah, that would have been a brilliant idea. No CBO reports presume to anticipate unexpected events, such as wars. Thats absurd. The fact is, whether you like it or not, if Obama hadn't done what he had done, this country would be well on its way to third world status right now.

    March 1, 2010 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  6. Kevin in Ohio

    Wake up Steny. You have ALREADY failed!

    March 1, 2010 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  7. jules sand-perkins

    We don't produce much of anything here, and we charge too much what we do produce.
    That's why our economy isn't heathy.

    March 1, 2010 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  8. Clark1b

    it sure would be nice to have leaders in Washington DC rather than politicians .... they always want to take the easy way out and never want to make the hard decisions. with a several trillion dollar debt looming over us from the socialist agenda to the trillion dollar debt because the states mismanaged their pension funds ... we have no money to spend except on the absolute basics ..... national defense and public safety .... the politicians need to disestablish all entitlement programs and quit using such devices to buy votes and assuage their guilty consciences.

    March 1, 2010 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  9. JohnRJ08

    Read the Constitution- Read a newspaper. Obama didn't triple anything. And, if he's failed, it's because right-wing Republicans in Congress have been following Herr Limbaugh's command that Obama must fail. More filibusters than the in 1960's, 1970's and 1980's combined. More importantly, the Republicans in Congress have introduced zero legislation. NONE. Basically, they have decided not to earn their money. Of course, forget that Obama's failure means the failure of the country. Minor detail for ideologues who are more interested in preserving their 19th century mindset.

    March 1, 2010 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  10. Raymond from Austin

    Tax tax tax. Amazing how willing some of you are here at spending other people's hard earned money. If it's increasing you're own taxes, that's a big no no. If it's increasing the taxes of those who already pay more than everyone else, "they can afford it" is somehow a valid excuse.

    While I am not a member of the those in the highest tax bracket, I am surprised that any self-respecting hard working person would not find this simply wrong and unfair.

    Start looking at what your government is doing with your money and hold them accountable. Look at the states with the highest taxes and the most government programs.

    As long as you allow them to continue taking and printing more money, government has no reason to spend it wisely.

    March 1, 2010 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  11. Mike in MN

    JohnRJ08 – Obama did not have to use tax payers dollars to bailout the auto companies. They could have filed chapter 11 and survived. The airlines and other big coporations do it all the time. Obama took tax payer's money and used to to get a sweet deal for the unions. It was a waste of billions of tax payer borrowed money.

    March 1, 2010 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  12. AJ

    W failed when we elected that empty suit to the WH. I am a lifelong Democrat and am hoping for a single term for that idiot. We could have had Clinton and we wind up with this arrogant ego driven clown.

    March 1, 2010 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  13. charlotte

    FYI Obama hasn't increased any debt. He does not hold the purse strings. That having been said, the bailout has been substantially repaid and is likely to turn out to have made a profit. I'd sure rather see the government spending on American jobs than on a dildo-brainless unjustified war. There isn't a respected economist anywhere who quibbles with the fact that the current health-care system is the biggest economic threat we have, so we cannot do NOTHING.

    March 1, 2010 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  14. ib

    This out of controll spending is going to be the end of this country, Please people wake up and demand that it be stopped and stopped now.

    March 1, 2010 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  15. annie against biased news

    Thanks to people like slimey hoyer, stinking harry, botox pukelosi and the clown of a president the country is in this mess and yet they are such fools they can't quit spending for 5 seconds. STOP THE SPENDING IDIOTS!!!

    March 1, 2010 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  16. Hows that Toyota workin for ya?

    If we all just agree to making 50 cents an hour,they will bring back our jobs,its called "Corporate Blackmail".

    March 1, 2010 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  17. D.D.

    You got that right or we can concede to Palin and the GOP and Tancredo and the Tea Party.
    All of this in front of the cameras should have been done in 2009 and now we need Jobs and job trainings throughout the counties in all states in the country.

    March 1, 2010 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |

    Lets get a real health care bill passed that includes a strong public option, open up Medicare to everyone (Medicare Part E) E for Everyone. If the GOP idiots can only say no, lets say NO to the GOP.

    March 1, 2010 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  19. Mike, formerly from Syracuse

    @JohnRJ08 Ford took no bailouts and has returned to profitability on it's own, ie the American way, not the socialist way. The stimulus was a poorly designed mess. The fact that you admit most of the money hasn't even been spent proves it. What are they waiting for, unemployment to hit 20%? Obama has spent a year with a supermajority and accomplished NOTHING. That's good in a way, because his agenda will bankrupt us.

    March 1, 2010 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  20. Mark

    And let us never forget, Bush Sucks.

    March 1, 2010 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  21. Jerry

    Free trade is the problem.

    March 1, 2010 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  22. kev49426

    What a JOKE coming from an idiot that has enthusiastically pushed through Billions in stimulus and too what result? – We have $500B still unspent – but God forbid we should put it back. Democrats don't know the first thing about fiscal restraint. As much of a drunken spending idiot Bush was, these guys have outspent him in one year. And Hoyer wants to lecture us on spending. Makes me want to hurl on all of them...

    March 1, 2010 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  23. Robin in Tampa, FL

    Unfortunately I'm increasingly becoming feed-up with the inability of Congress to act on much needed legislation. The Republicans put us in this mess, and they are the very same folks who are fighting to the nail to not make ANY changes to the system. We can't make cuts to medicare-advantage, we can't increase taxes on the folks who got tax cuts in the bush years and shipped our jobs overseas, we can't improve health care. Heck we can't even get a Jobs bill done right. Now we have a Senator who is holding up unemployment benifits extension for no good reason. This is absolutely insane.

    March 1, 2010 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  24. Whooaahh

    We need to stop waging wars on behalf of Israel; if they want to go to war with Iran, then they can do it themselves, if they want to go to war with Iraq, then they can do it themselves. Why shed our innocent blood in the first place? What has it gotten us? Trilllions of Dollars in debt, and not much else.

    March 1, 2010 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  25. Henry Miller, Libertarian, Cary, NC

    I assume, then, that Mr Hoyer will not be supporting the trillion-dollar waste of Obamacare.

    March 1, 2010 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
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