For perspective, he cited Norway, where government spending makes up 40 percent of the economy, bankrupt Greece, where government spending is 47 percent of the economy, and France, where government spending is 53 percent of that nation’s economy.
“Congratulations America, we have arrived at the lower level of European-style socialism,” Johnson told an audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference, where he was part of a panel entitled, “It’s Spending Stupid! Why is it so Hard to Cut a Trillion Dollars?”
The national debt stands at $15.3 trillion and is projected to increase to $24 trillion by 2021, according to the Office of Management and Budget. Since President Barack Obama took office in January 2009, the national debt grew by $4.7 trillion.
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who last year sponsored the Cut, Cap and Balance proposal that would reduce federal spending, cap it at 18 percent of the economy and adopt a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution, was also part of the panel.
“When I was a kid, we used to dig holes in the sand and say we were digging all the way to China,” Lee said, setting up a joke about America’s largest foreign debt holder. “With $15 trillion in debt, the president is trying to prove it is in fact possible to dig our way to China.”
Johnson and Lee were both elected in 2010, a major Republican year fueled by the Tea Party movement that advocates fiscal restraint. Lee surprisingly beat incumbent Republican Sen. Bob Bennett for the party’s nomination. Johnson, meanwhile, beat incumbent Democrat Sen. Russ Feingold.
Lee said a balanced, budget amendment is the only way to restrain government spending.
“This kind of amendment is the only way to impede the perpetual cycle of hole digging,” Lee said. “Some are opposed and say members of Congress need to do their jobs. How’s that working? It’s not good enough. Congress will not stop digging.”