Mr. HENSARLING. Mr. Chairman, this is an amendment that would strike an earmark in the bill for the Arts Center of the Grand Prairie in Stuttgart, Arkansas.
I'm not a big fan of earmarks, be they congressional earmarks or administration earmarks. That's not to say that all earmarks are bad. In fact, the gentleman from Texas to my left here, Mr. Chairman, has proposed several very worthwhile earmarks.
But, Mr. Chairman, we are not living in normal times. We are in severe economic stress in our Nation today. And as I look at what has happened in the United States Congress, what I have observed is that in the history of Congress never have so few voted so fast to indebt so many.
Already on top of a staggering, staggering national debt, we have seen a $700 billion bailout program that continues today, a $1.13 trillion government stimulus bill that does nothing to help our economy, a $400 billion omnibus bill chock full of even more earmarks. All of this is costing hundreds of thousands of dollars to hardworking American families.
Mr. Chairman, the President himself has said that he is losing sleep at night over the national debt. Well, I would love for the President to sleep better at night, and maybe he could quit proposing the bailouts. Maybe Members of Congress could quit proposing all of the earmark spending.
Now, this is relatively small as far as the dollars are concerned, $155,000 apparently to fund an afterschool and summer arts program.
But, Mr. Chairman, under this Democratic Congress, the national debt will triple in 10 years. The Federal deficit has gone up tenfold in just 2 years. We're borrowing 46 cents to spend $1 here. We're borrowing money from the Chinese, and we're sending the bill to our children and our grandchildren, which causes me to question, is this the best expenditure for $155,000 of the taxpayer money?
Mr. Chairman, I'm a veteran of many of these earmark battles. They have been going on for years. I know from history what we will hear. Number one, we will hear, Nobody knows my district like I do. Mr. Chairman, I concede the point. I do not know the gentleman from Arkansas' district like he does. I suspect I will hear that good things can be done with the money. Mr. Chairman, I concede the point. I'm not familiar with the Art Center of the Grand Prairie. My guess is they do wonderful, wonderful
work, although I am unfamiliar with how it's necessarily related to Juvenile Justice. I will hear that Congress has the authority to spend this money. I concede the point. Congress has the authority to spend the money. It doesn't mean it's smart. It doesn't mean it's wise. It doesn't mean it's helpful. But yes, Congress has that power.
My complaints are twofold. Number one, again, when we're borrowing 46 cents on the dollar, borrowing money from the Chinese, sending the bill to our children and our grandchildren, encountering more debt in the next 10 years than in the previous 220 combined, we've never seen levels of debt since World War II. Is there any time that we decide, maybe something isn't a national priority? And as good as the work that they do at the Art Center of the Grand Prairie in Stuttgart, Arkansas, I would
suggest to you that there are alternative uses for this money that would help families in America, and it is not a priority, and we must start this spending discipline somewhere.
I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. MOLLOHAN. Mr. Chairman, I yield 5 minutes to the gentleman from Arkansas, a member of the Appropriations Committee, Mr. Berry.
Mr. BERRY. Mr. Chair, I thank the chairman, the gentleman from West Virginia, and congratulate him on putting together a good bill and bringing it to this House floor and moving it forward.
My colleagues across the aisle, as they have suffered in the minority, talk more trash than a $3 radio. It's amazing. Actually, it would almost be funny if it were not so serious. But they took over this country in January of 2001 with a balanced budget, a $5 trillion surplus and the votes to pass anything they wanted to pass, and they did. And they imposed their will on the American people. Their idea of how to grow an economy is, give as much money as you can to the rich people. Don't regulate
them at all. Let them do anything they want to, and hope Wall Street takes care of you. Well, we all see what happened.
This year we find ourselves in the worst economic circumstance that anyone can imagine. It's happened one other time in this country. As I've listened to the debate, it sounds like a ghost from the Hoover Republicans trying to stop Franklin D. Roosevelt from rebuilding this country, making it a great Nation again, and putting it in a position where it could fight and win World War II. What he did was invest in the people and invest in the country, and we did it, and it worked.
I make no apologies for our attempt to invest in the children of the Grand Prairie in Stuttgart, Arkansas. So I rise today in support of funding for the Art Center of the Grand Prairie. The Art Center is a nonprofit organization that provides after-school and summer programs for troubled youth.
While the Art Center provides valuable artistic instruction and activities, [Page: H6957]
we don't need to turn this into an argument over whether the Federal Government should be a patron of the arts. We need to look at the real point of the program, engaging at-risk youth and preventing crime. That is the benefit the Federal Government and society as a whole will derive from this project. It is a worthwhile investment in our children. The funds for this project
come from the Department of Justice, specifically the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Program. According to DOJ's own description of the program, Juvenile Justice grants support ``prevention and early intervention programs that are making a difference for young people and their communities.'' The Art Center of the Grand Prairie is a perfect example of this type of program.
During the school year, the Art Center's after-school programs can serve as a valuable supplement to each child's education by emphasizing task-oriented instruction, learning to create a project from start to finish and supplementing critical reading and writing skills in the process.
Most importantly, these programs engage children off the streets during afternoon hours between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. They're primarily staffed with many good, hardworking people that volunteer their time. It's well known by law enforcement that this is the prime time for juvenile crime, vandalism and violence.
Outside of the school year, the Art Center's summer art program provides week-long programs for youth, engaging them with positive educational activities that stimulate creative thinking, get children reading and writing, and stem the summer brain drain. These summer camps are open to youths who would not ordinarily get the opportunity to attend this type of program or any other program, as evidenced by the fact that approximately 65 percent of the attendees are on full scholarship. Federal funding
for the Art Center of the Grand Prairie will ensure that these programs can continue to grow and make a positive impact on the lives of even more young people.
The amendment offered by the gentleman from Texas would not save the taxpayers a dime. I ask that this amendment be defeated.
I thank the gentleman from West Virginia for his time.