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POLICY ORIENTATION FOR THE TEXAS LEGISLATURE 2014
BREAKFAST KEYNOTE (January 10, 2014)
THE HONORABLE PHIL GRAMM
SENATOR PHIL GRAMM
FORMER U.S. Senator (TX)
Senator Phil Gramm is an American economist and politician, who has served as a Democratic Congressman (1979–1983), a Republican Congressman (1983–1985) and a Republican Senator (1985–2002) from Texas. He later became a lobbyist for UBS and founded a public policy and lobbying firm, Gramm Partners. He was a senior economic adviser to John McCain's presidential campaign from the summer of 2007 until July 18, 2008.
Well, first of all let me say that Wendy in her decade as chairman of TPPF has done one very smart thing, and that is hiring Brooke. TPPF is important because Texas is important. Texas is the freest place on the face of the earth. And if freedom is challenged, or lost here, it’s challenged or lost in the world, so we as the beneficiaries of more freedom than anybody else in the world have an obligation to try to preserve and expand that freedom and that’s why TPPF is so important. Ideas have consequences; we won the idea debate in the 1970s before we elected Ronald Reagan President. That debate is important and we move away from it at our great peril.
Let me also say that I’m very happy to be here, have the opportunity to introduce Ted. Brooke always wants me to speak at this conference and I’m not in the speaking business anymore but I’m happy to get an opportunity to introduce Ted. And let me start by setting the stage so everybody understands exactly what happened in Washington. When we won the Senate race in Massachusetts, the Democrats under the rules of the Senate were incapable of adopting Obamacare into law and so they engaged in a massive fraud by claiming that Obamacare had budget implications in dramatically reducing the deficit which allowed them to use a procedure in Congress, a procedure that I used many times called reconciliation. And under reconciliation they could adopt Obamacare with 51 votes. Now in trying to perpetuate this fraud, or perpetrate this fraud, they had to begin cutting corners and making extraordinary assumptions.
And one of those assumptions had to do with the fact that since they had to claim that this bill, Obamacare saved money, that they had to set it up so that young people paid very high premiums to subsidize older sick people and they had to set it up so that more prosperous people paid higher premiums to subsidize people who were getting direct government subsidies under Obamacare. In other words, they had to redistribute hundreds of billion dollars of wealth a year to make this whole thing work. And so what happened is they were put in a situation where they realized in trying to write this bill in reconciliation that they couldn’t tell the American people the truth, that it, their bill could not work unless you took people’s insurance away from them and made them buy insurance through the Obamacare program. But they realized that to tell people they were going to have to give up their insurance was to guaranty they couldn’t even get 51 democrat votes in the Senate. So they lied. They lied because they believe as collectivists always believe that the end justifies the means. And so that’s where we were in this debate on that day when we considered funding government in a continuing resolution.
Now, as is always the case in these kind of votes, there was a general consensus that this was not a vehicle that we should have a battle about. And so there was a lot of discussion about how there could be basically a vote in the House and then the Senate would strip off whatever they added and the Government would be funded and things would go on as they were and this fraud would be basically, not debated and that a crisis atmosphere, which it should have called for, would not have occurred. The fix was in. No Amendments were going to be allowed and so the debate starts and into the Senate walks Ted Cruz. And so, he can’t offer an Amendment. He’s got very limited options. And so, what does he do? He asks to be recognized. And he speaks. But not just a speech; an extended speech. And this was unusual. This was something out of the ordinary.
Now, the myth begins here; the myth was Ted Cruz shut down the Government. Well Ted is an influential young Senator but Ted’s got no ability whatsoever to shut down the Government. In fact all Ted did was give a speech. But it was so out of the ordinary that it changed everything because courage and leadership are contagious. And so as a result of that speech, it was no longer possible to simply throw the contest. It was no longer possible to simply let Government go on as if this fraud had not been perpetrated. Now, once that speech was given, then the whole debate really started.
Now how did end, did it benefit us, did shutting the Government down, was that a good thing? I think it, from the polls, it hurt us. But it started the debate about the fraud. It showed clearly that something out of the ordinary had happened that called for a special procedure. That things had changed, that this was very important. I worked long ago to kill the Clinton health care bill. And nobody in Washington, nobody in Washington would pay any attention to what I was saying, they did run the deal where I said it was going to pass over my cold, dead, political body, but after that they turned the camera off. So, Senator McCain and Senator Coverdale and I went out and gave 53 programs at hospitals all over America. And we talked about efficiency, people. We talked about cost. [made snoring sound] But when we turned to what it was all about, they woke up. It was about freedom.
That’s what Obamacare is about; it’s not about health care. It’s about freedom. It’s about a right to choose. It’s about a right to choose your doctor; it’s about a right to choose your health care. It’s about the right to choose your insurance. Now, that debate really started with that speech and it needed to start. Now where it goes from here, that’s why we have the system have and that’s why read history, we don’t know how it’s going to end. But I believe it’s going to end, that we’re going to win this debate. That we’re going to win this election, that we’re going to win the next election, then that we’re going to repeal Obamacare.
Now, as is true in any war, often the most important battle is the first one. I remember once we, I, we were talking about whether we were going to offer the Reagan budget. I was a Democrat at the time, and we were supposedly 30 conservative Democrats in the room, and I said I can see why everybody had a reason we ought not to do it. And so I finally said I can see if they hadn’t drawn a line at the Alamo, but just had a debate, hell they wouldn’t ever been a battle there. And so, a Congressman from Wichita Falls, Jack Hightower, said well, you need to remember that all the people that crossed that line at the Alamo died. And in one of my few lucid moments on this earth, I said, yeah, but so did the people who didn’t cross the line, only we don’t remember their names.