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March 06, 2024

Schweikert: Congress Must Get Serious About Reining in $34 Trillion National Debt

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Representative David Schweikert (AZ-01) delivered a speech on the House Floor last night explaining how the Social Security Trust Fund is projected to be emptied in nine budget years and that at the current borrowing rate, overall borrowing costs will approach $3 trillion this fiscal year, which would more than exceed the Congressional Budget Office’s latest projections. Rep. Schweikert also discussed the issue of declining fertility rates in the United States and solutions to prevent death rates from exceeding birth rates within the next 15 years.

Excerpts from Rep. Schweikert’s floor speech can be found below:


Click here or on the image above to view Rep. Schweikert’s remarks.

On the Social Security Trust Fund running out of money by 2034:

[Beginning at 3:48]
“The Social Security Trust Fund builds up, builds up, builds up, particularly when the Baby Boomers, because there was a population bubble that actually built up those tax receipts, had $3 trillion to $4 trillion in it. Now that’s rolled over. No one stole the money. What happened was you’re not just going to let the cash sit there. So the cash was actually loaned to the Treasury [Department]. The Treasury gives a T-bill — a type of Treasury bond. Just like if you walked into your bank and said, ‘I want a U.S. T-bill.’ Same thing. And twice a year, the Treasury pays interest. The problem right now when you hear many of us get behind these microphones and talk about the Social Security Trust Fund getting emptied is the amount of tax receipts that come in your FICA tax every month don’t cover all the checks that are going out. So every month they have to take a little bit of one of their T-bills — their treasury bills —and hand it to the Treasury and say, ‘We need some cash. Give us some cash so we can make this [many] Social Security payments.’ But every time they do that, they use up a little bit of that savings account, and it’s that savings account — the trust fund — that is emptied in 2033 or 2034.

“The Social Security Trust Fund, just like the Transportation Trust Fund, just like the [Airport & Airway] Trust Fund, and all the trust funds that are borrowed from their paid interest. Because Treasury pays interest twice a year to the Social Security Trust Fund, I think last month may have been $30 billion or $40 billion. The mean interest rate is right. It’s right about market. So for everyone, if you say, ‘They stole my money!’, it’s there. The average couple will get about a $70,000-$72,000 spiff. So the money they pay into Social Security over their lifetime, the average will get about $70,000 to $72,000. Do understand that is a crap rate of return. Twenty years ago when it was being discussed, if you’d been able to take a little sliver of that money and put it in the market, you would have had a ginormous rate of return. Politics of that became toxic. There were lots of campaigns saying you’re trying to privatize. Okay. That world has gone. It’s Medicare that actually has the huge problem of for every dollar you put in, you get almost $5 back. Social Security, you get pretty much the money you put in, crappy rate of return, but you get that back.”

On borrowing costs reaching $95,000 per second:

[Beginning at 9:13]
“So we’re functionally, what, five months into the fiscal year? We have added $1.243 trillion in that five months. My current math is right now about every 125 days at the current borrowing per day, we’re adding another $1 trillion [in debt]. This is in a time when the economy is pretty good. That means my average since functionally October 1 is right now we’re borrowing about $7.9 billion every day. You’ve got to understand what that ultimately means to us, because it’s actually been accelerating. I think on Friday we set our all-time record. I think we were up to borrowing like $95,000 a second. Almost 100% of that growth is interest, and you’re going to see this over and over in the charts, interest in health care costs. It’s Medicare. It’s things that we’re not allowed to talk about that are on autopilot, and if it continues, look, my math says we’re heading towards about a $2.6 trillion-$2.7 trillion borrow this year — in a year where the economy is doing fairly well. But if today’s math held up, you do realize you’re approaching $3 trillion. Now, I am hoping we’re going to have really good April tax receipts. But that means right now, if you take where we’re at an average it from the first day of this fiscal year for the five months, we’re right now, our math is $2.9 trillion for this year borrowed. That is substantially higher than CBO predicted six weeks ago.”

On declining fertility rates:

[Beginning at 18:56]
“So, if I came to you right now and said, ‘Let’s come up with a way to stabilize Social Security, let’s stabilize Medicare, it’s moral. It’s our moral obligation. We made a social contract in this society.’ Okay. We’ve got a problem, and it’s something almost no one here ever talks about. We’re not having children. United States fertility rates have collapsed. This number is wrong. Our latest number for last year is not 1.64, it’s 1.63. France has a higher fertility rate than the United States. Even when you adjust for their immigration population, they still have a dramatically higher fertility rate. Most of Western Europe looks like us, and we’re worse than a whole bunch of the world. Remember, Social Security is substantially a pay-as-you-go system. Today’s workers are functionally paying for today’s retirees. The Trust Fund was the shock absorber. The Trust Fund is disappearing. But my future generation of workers is going to be smaller, and you’re already seeing this in school districts all over America where the number of students they have are shrinking. Are we willing to have the really interesting discussion of, ‘Okay. Are there things we could do economically to make it [to help] family formation so there’s more children?’ There’s things we could do to help. But almost every country that’s tried has not been able to change fertility rates. I think in Hungary, I think I saw something that for your third child, you get some sort of like prize, and it’s barely ticked up their fertility rates. It’s a really difficult question happening all over the industrialized world. So if you can’t really change it, do you actually build public policy to deal with it? Do you accept the fact that we’re going to have to have a lot more automation? That means capital investment. Are we going to have to find ways to safely adopt artificial intelligence into society so the labor force is maximized in its value and and what they earn and productivity? Those are policies we need to work on.”

On solutions to change nation’s dire fiscal trajectory:

[Beginning at 41:17]
“Madam Speaker pro tempore, every dime of borrowing from today through the next 30 years is demographics. And maybe telling the truth gets me unelected, but dammit, it’s worth telling the truth. It’s demographics. It’s interest on what’s been borrowed and what’s to be borrowed. It’s health care, particularly Medicare. And if 8 or 9 years from now when the Social Security Trust Fund is emptied, and remember, the math is the very first year, the shortfall is $616 billion. How do we backfill that? If you try to backfill it through taxes, fine. You’ve got to accept the economic effects of how much you just slowed down the economy and how you slowed down other tax receipts. Do you do it through borrowing? Well, then it explodes. And that’s how you see some projections that 30 years from now, U.S. sovereign debt will be $130 trillion. And between now and then, how many people around the world, how many people in this country are going to be willing to buy our debt? Do our work. Take it seriously. Put together the debt and deficit commission. Demonstrate to the people who want to save and buy U.S. debt that we’re taking paying them back seriously. Take it seriously that my very young kids deserve a future, but also make it so that people who want to enjoy their retirement understand the stability of retirement security.”

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