While many Americans were still reveling Sunday in the Christmas spirit, Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn had a warning for them about judgment day.
Appearing on "Fox News Sunday," Coburn made dire predictions about the mounting U.S. debt and Congress' need to implement austerity measures in the next few years to avoid a complete meltdown of the country's economy and standards of living.
"If we don't take some pain now, we're going to experience apocalyptic pain elsewhere," Coburn told host Chris Wallace.
Asked what Coburn envisioned happening over the next 10 years if Congress does not act, the Senator predicted unemployment rates between 15 and 18 percent and an 8 to 9 percent decrease in gross domestic product.
"I think you'll see the middle class just destroyed if we don't do this," Coburn said. He added that the "poorest of the poor" would be most harmed because he believes the Federal Reserve would move to debase the U.S. dollar, thereby causing "hyper-inflation."
Coburn said the United States, which currently has debt of nearly $14 trillion and rising, could find itself in the same situation as Greece and Ireland, which have recently needed international bailouts to keep their governments afloat.
Wallace at one point called Coburn an "alarmist" about the debt, and the Senator did not shy away from the description, saying he was sorry if his predictions scare some people.
Though Wallace attempted to get Coburn to address the potential need to cut popular programs such as Medicare and Social Security, the Oklahoman instead said he believes that Congress could cut up to $350 billion by thoroughly eliminating duplicative programs, addressing waste and fraud in Medicare and Medicaid, and giving the Pentagon the authority to audit itself.
Coburn said all Americans eventually would be called on to sacrifice in the name of getting the nation's finances in order, but he noted, without specifics, that "those that are more well-to-do are going to be called to sacrifice to a greater extent."
Coburn also defended his vote this month for President Barack Obama's bipartisan debt commission proposal, which recommended eliminating billions in government tax breaks and imposing cuts to major government programs like Social Security and Medicare. Coburn had come under fire from conservatives who accused him of trying to raise taxes.
Coburn said the government should not be in the business of creating tax breaks to direct capital in certain directions, but should let the markets govern business investments.
The Oklahoman, who won re-election this year, also reiterated his intention to make good on his promise to serve only two terms in the Senate.
"I will be through at the end of this term," he said.
Lois Lerner, director of exempt organizations for the IRS, arrives for a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the investigation of the IRS' targeting of political groups. Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right to not testify and caused a protest from some committee members when she offered an opening statement and engaged in dialogue with members before invoking the right.
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