Freshman U.S. Senator David Perdue gave his first speech before his new colleagues on Monday, drawing attention to three key areas he believes are of most dire national concern. Watch the speech below, with the full text underneath the video.
Mr. President, I rise today to address, for the first time, this august body, the United States Senate, the greatest governing body ever conceived. Out of respect, I have waited until we passed the 100-day mark to deliver this speech, but I rise today because I believe our republic is in grave danger. We need to create a new beginning by dealing with the very real crisis of leadership we face today. It’s why I ran for the Senate in the first place because we need a new perspective in Washington.
Like many Americans, I am outraged by Washington’s dysfunction, its fiscal irresponsibility, its lack of leadership in foreign policy, its intrusiveness and over reach and its negative impact on hardworking Americans.
Before being elected to the Senate, I had never been involved in politics. Simply put, I am a political outsider committed to changing the direction of our country.
I grew up in a small military town in Middle Georgia, working on our family’s farms. My mom and dad were public school teachers and I grew up modestly, like most people there. I worked my way through college and was blessed with a business career that took me from the factory floor to become a Fortune 500 CEO.
My story is not unique. It is the American story. Only in America is this possible thanks to hard work and self-reliance. It’s called the American Dream and that’s what we’re here to protect. Many people today believe this dream no longer exists and that we need big government to provide us with more and more financial security. I disagree totally, our best days lie ahead, but we have to act boldly if we are to save this dream and our very way of life.
As an outsider to the political process, I am humbled by the privilege to serve my country as a U.S. Senator. I am sobered by the immense responsibility of representing the people of Georgia. And I am encouraged by the opportunities we have to solve this crisis of leadership and create a new beginning.
As one of the original thirteen states, Georgia has long been blessed with outstanding statesmen in the U.S. Senate. The first Senator to serve in this seat in the first U.S. Congress in 1789 was Senator William Few, also a signatory of the Constitution. As fate would have it, Sarah Few Collins, a member of the team that helped me become Georgia’s 37th U.S. Senator in this seat, is a direct descendent of Senator Few. I think that’s pretty special.
This desk that I use on the Senate floor is also very meaningful to me. It has served such distinguished leaders from Georgia as Saxby Chambliss, Zell Miller, Sam Nunn, Herman Talmadge and Richard B. Russell, Jr.
Mr. President, I rise to speak about three issues creating this national crisis of leadership: the abuse of executive power, the significant deterioration of American foreign policy, and our out-of-control debt.
First, “what we are witnessing today is one of the greatest challenges to our constitutional system in the history of this country,” not my words, but the words of George Washington University constitutional law professor, Dr. Jonathan Turley who incidentally, voted twice for President Obama. Unbridled use of executive orders and regulatory mandates has basically allowed this President to run the country without Congress for the past six years. According to Professor Turley, this sets dangerous precedents for future courts and future presidents.
To create a new beginning, we must get back to our founding principles, articulated in our Constitution, that created this miracle called America in the first place: economic opportunity, fiscal responsibility, limited government and individual liberty. When government grows larger, individual liberty shrinks. In fact, I believe our Founders were committed to the concept of citizen legislators and could not perceive of the potential rise of career politicians.
Mr. President, we also face a global security crisis that is getting worse by the day. This administration has created a situation where our allies don’t trust us and our enemies don’t fear us. Leading from behind has failed as a foreign policy.
Right now, we face the threat of nuclear proliferation starting with Iran. As President Obama has conceded, the deal being negotiated would leave Iran with a breakout time “almost down to zero” in ten to fifteen years. As Prime Minister Netanyahu recently said before Congress, a nuclear Iran is not just a threat to Middle East security, it is not just a threat to U.S. security, it is a serious threat to global security.
A nuclear Iran whose leaders are committed to the death of Israel and America would spark an unprecedented wave of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East and potentially worldwide. Under no circumstances, can we allow Iran to become a nuclear weapons state not now, not in 10 years, not ever.
After battling terrorism for the past 14 years, and fighting two major wars with thousands of American lives lost and billions spent, we still face terrorist threats from jihadist Islamic groups who openly vow to do us harm. We face a tough choice: deal with them over there or wait and deal with the consequences here at home.
We are also witnessing the return of great power rivalries. Last year, Russia actually seized territory of a sovereign state and continues their aggression today in the Ukraine. China is also growing more aggressive doubling its military spending and flexing its muscles in the region.
New asymmetric threats combined with traditional symmetric challenges create unprecedented demand on our military at the very time that this administration has reduced military spending to the point that we are about to have the smallest Army since before WWII, the smallest Navy since WWI and the smallest Air Force ever. This is simply unacceptable.
To address this global security crisis and create a new beginning, we must have a consistent and strong foreign policy. However, to have a strong foreign policy we must have a strong defense. Providing for the national defense is one of only six reasons outlined in the Constitution why 13 colonies formed our union. To have a strong defense, though, we must have a strong economy. Our own fiscal irresponsibility jeopardizes our ability to fund a strong military. Admiral Michael Mullen, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the greatest threat to our national security is our own federal debt.
This debt crisis threatens our ability to defend our country, stand for freedom and maintain our very way of life. It is a primary reason why we need to create a new beginning.
This debt crisis affects each of us every day. While the economy lurches along, we see working middle class Americans struggling. Many people are having difficulty finding full-time jobs and if they are lucky enough to have a job wages remain stagnant making it harder and harder to get from payday to payday.
Many families can’t afford to buy a home or plan for the future. Moms and dads fear they can’t send their kids to college or prepare them for a good job. Many college graduates have sizeable student loans and still can’t find meaningful employment. A comfortable retirement for many is just a dream.
Back home in Georgia, people share my outrage about Washington’s fiscal irresponsibility. From what I’ve seen so far up here, there is not a great enough sense of urgency in tackling this skyrocketing debt. There are no innocent parties up here. Both sides have pushed us to the brink, contributing to this unsustainable level of debt we face today.
In the last six years alone, the federal government spent $21.5 trillion but it borrowed $8 trillion of that, such that today, we have more than $18 trillion in federal debt. We simply cannot afford everything we are doing as a federal government. We are already overtaxed and overregulated.
The progressive policies of the past 100 years, and particularly the egregious policies of this current administration, have failed the very people they were intended to help: the middle class. Instead, Washington has created a spiraling situation that will only take us deeper in debt. What’s worse, we have over $100 trillion in future unfunded liabilities related to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, federal pensions and interest on the federal debt.
While developing a long-term solution to this debt crisis, we also need to protect today’s seniors and save our safety net programs so they will be there for the people who need them the most when they need them. Shockingly, Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds will be totally insolvent in a few short years.
Unfortunately, we are already past the tipping point in this fiscal catastrophe. If interest rates today were at their 30-year average of just over 5.5%, we would already be paying almost $1 trillion in interest alone. That’s twice what we spend on our military and is totally unmanageable. People back home expect Washington to work. This fiscal irresponsibility drives people back in Georgia absolutely crazy.
Mr. President, doubling down on bigger government, more federal programs and more government spending is not the answer, as has been proven repeatedly over the past 100 years.
We have to break the gridlock in Washington to solve this. One side wants increased taxes the other wants spending cuts. The result is that we have had gridlock in Washington for a generation.
The real solution, of course, is to grow the economy. One percentage point of incremental GDP growth would generate about $3.1 trillion in federal tax revenues in the next decade. Combine that with the elimination of duplicate programs and we can develop a long-term plan to solve this debt crisis as well as get Americans back to work in meaningful, well-paying jobs.
To create a new beginning, my focus in this body will be to add to the debate about how to grow our economy, rein in our outrageous spending, and solve this debt crisis.
To grow our economy, three priorities should be addressed right away. First, we need to totally reinvent how we fund our federal government. Many states, like Georgia, have a balanced budget law and so should Washington. American families can’t spend more than they take in and neither should their government.
Our archaic tax system is choking growth, holding back innovation, and discouraging investment. Eventually, I believe we should transition from an income tax to a simple consumption tax, like the Fair Tax, that would level the playing field with the rest of the world.
While that debate will take some time, there are things we can do right now to stimulate our economy. We need to reduce our corporate tax rate and eliminate entirely our repatriation tax to be more competitive with other countries. At the same time, we need to eliminate corporate welfare and make our tax system fairer and simpler for every American.
We also have to rein in our out-of-control regulators. This president has created the fourth branch of government, the regulators, who today make more rules that affect our lives and our jobs than does Congress.
Finally, we need to unlock our full energy potential developing our domestic natural resources. Isn’t it time we finally develop a long-term energy policy that unleashes this potential while protecting our environment?
Doing these things now will also allow us to fund our infrastructure needs, improve our education process, become more competitive with the rest of the world, create well-paying 21st century jobs, and ignite an economic boom for our kids and grandkids.
Mr. President, I have used the word “crisis” carefully and thoughtfully today. The first step toward making the tough choices required to change our direction comes from a true realization that we indeed have a crisis. Americans respond better than anyone in history to a crisis, but we aren’t always quick to realize we have one.
To create a new beginning, it’s time for this eminent body, the United States Senate, to rise above partisan politics and do the right thing. It starts with leadership. It starts with making hard decisions. It starts with telling the American people the unvarnished truth. It starts with no longer kicking the can down the road. It starts with having the courage to actually solve these problems, independent of how it might affect our own re-election.
My motivation is very simple. I do not want to be a member of the first generation in American history that has to tell its kids that we are leaving them a country that is worse off than the one our parents left us.
Ronald Reagan once said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it along to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected and handed on for them to do the same or one day, we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in America when men were free.”
Let us fight to find common ground to create a new beginning, for our country, for people back home who are struggling, and for the future of our children and our children’s children.
As I close, Mr. President, I am reminded of the seldom-quoted final sentence of the Declaration of Independence: “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives our fortunes and our sacred honor.
Our Founders got it right. They would remind us of that commitment and encourage us to work together to solve these sometimes overwhelming problems.
Together, we can put our differences aside. Together, we can do the right thing. Together, we can create a new beginning.
Thank you, Mr. President.