13 Sep 2018

Image of burning money, symbolizing our nation's fiscal insanity
Fiscally sane commentators are abuzz with the stark data coming out of the latest Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report, showing our nation's dire deficit situation after 11 months of this fiscal year have passed. As has been the case for a long time, the primary problem boils down to one simple fact... Partisan Ideologues Refuse to Accept Basic Fiscal Math Every time either major party has had control of the White House and Congress, they've pushed through legislation that made the debt and deficit worse, while rejecting plans (like the Simpson-Bowles Debt Commission recommendations, or Rivlin-Domenici from the Bipartisan Policy Center) that would start lowering the debt to manageable levels that don't pose a serious threat to our economic future, and stop stealing so much from our children, their children and future generations. That's true for both major parties, but the party, and administration, currently in power is - as it has with s...

03 Aug 2011

There really aren't any political figures that look like winners coming out of the debt ceiling debacle - there are just losers, and those who look less bad. As I said in my last post on the subject, the GOP clearly won the fight over the debt ceiling, but I think it will end up costing them dearly in the next election. They won the battle much like a drunk who people will agree with just so they'll shut up. They might get their way, but nobody likes them for it. After taking a slew of House seats in last year's wave election, the GOP made the same mistake the Democrats did in 2009, and are pushing an agenda that is far too extreme for swing voters to stomach. So, in the long run, the folks on the far right, that got the vast majority of what they wanted and still didn't vote for the bill, are the people who look the most childish in all of this. They may be champions of their hard core base, but to the 80% of the American people that wanted a de...

23 Apr 2011

Just so you know - Jack is reporting from a vacation in Scotland. - SK Things are not always what they appear to be.  Here in Scotland there is scant news of the American crisis around the deficit.  It turns out that the UK has its own budget and debt difficulties.  The one advantage of being in Scotland is to pause and think about the American political crisis without all the Washington or media 7/24 spin. Upon reflection, I had hoped that the Democratic and GOP deficit reduction plans would be much more than what they appear to be.  Silly me. The GOP “Paul Ryan” plan is bold (at least a little bit) but shameful.  It slashes discretionary spending and tackles Medicare/Medicaid.  For no apparently good reason, however, it heaps the costs of tax breaks for the wealthy upon the middle class.  It is doubly shameful because it will drive the middle class and the most vulnerable to skimp on medical care because they might not be able to afford i...

21 Apr 2011

The news just keeps getting more and more grim on our debt and deficit problems. Congress finally passed a budget compromise, but nonpartisan analysis shows they were lying and it actually saved only a few hundred million, rather than the claimed tens of billions. Our nation could see its debt grow at an even faster pace if the Democrats and Republicans don't get their heads out of the sand and do something substantive, and now even the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is saying what both sides are saying about the other - and both are right about the other in some ways. The IMF released a report that said we don't have a "credible strategy" to work through our debt problems (probably because we don't) - pointing to a future where we will be forced to accept austerity measures, unlike which our nation has seen since the Great Depression. We're the only advanced nation in the world that actually increased our budget deficit this year, while ou...

24 Mar 2011

Pelicans have survived a long time.  In some ways they have it pretty good.  They live in warm climates and if they are careful, don’t have much to worry about.  They do, however, have to eat each day.  That means they have to take the time and do the work of fishing.  They must find their lunch.   And for sure, they know there are no free lunches. It is strange how Pelicans can know this fact of life and so many Americans do not.   America is a wealthy country.  Compared with the rest of the world, the average American enjoys a relatively high standard of living.  This is something most of us have always known and take for granted. Yet what’s wrong with this impression? The US has a $1.5 trillion deficit and projects deficits as far a we can see.  Some people do not see a problem and point out that the Treasury has no problem auctioning T-bills at very low interest rates.  What better endorsement is there than for others to buy our debt at...

08 Mar 2011

Everyone knows we're driving full speed towards a fiscal cliff - the question is when we'll barrel over it, not if (assuming we don't significantly change course). I'm going to go out on a limb and say that even the politicians who don't agree know so too. I don't like making comments like that, because I don't want to pretend like I can read people's' minds and know what they are "really thinking" (like so many people do), but in this case the numbers are so clear I really don't see how all but the most ideologically extreme and hyper-partisan blind partisan could not see where we're headed. But while there is disagreement among the public chatter among politicians, there is no disagreement among the nonpartisan agencies in our government, who have been telling our "leaders" for decades that action needed to be taken to avoid eventual fiscal disaster. The latest example of this is the recently published report from the Government Accountabili...

24 Feb 2011

In my latest post on over at WNYC's It's a Free Country, I looked at how even some left leaning think tanks are going after Obama for punting on the deficit issues: ...if Obama wants to live up to his campaign message of being the change we have been waiting for, this is his chance. This issue, more than any other in my opinion, illustrates the magical thinking rampant on both sides, that we can get what we want without paying for it. Every year, as the debt grows and interest payments eat away at the budget, this gets harder for even the most blindly partisan lawmaker to ignore. ... This is a chance for President Obama to put his money where his mouth has been on taking a more centrist tack. As I said a few weeks ago, if he wants to be seen as a centrist, he needs to act like one in the face of pressure from not only the right, but also the left. More importantly, if he wants to be seen by future generations as something other than just a...

18 Feb 2011

Was it the Gabby Giffords shooting in Tucson? The public's disgust with yet another nasty-as-they-come election season? The spectacle of Congress in gridlock for two years as Republicans dug in their heels and pledged to block any legislation President Obama favored? Or was it simply the recognition on all sides (excepting, perhaps, among the politicians in Washington themselves) that if the towering problems we face are not addressed now then tomorrow may be too late? I'm guessing it was a combination of all these things and more that have resulted today in calls from every quarter for our elected "leaders" to cut through the hyper-partisanship and work together to actually get something done. A proposal is submitted that members of Congress not sit in party groupings for the State of the Union address, scores of newspapers across the country applaud the notion, citizens everywhere voice their support, and it becomes a reality. In news art...

11 Feb 2011

Joshua Green, on over at The Atlantic, makes a great point here: The classic test of whether politicians are serious about balancing the federal budget is whether they confine their suggestions to eliminating earmarks, foreign aid, and fraud, waste, and abuse. Politicians love to rail against these things because they're unpopular and therefore make attractive targets. But doing so is a dodge. All combined, they account for only a tiny fraction of federal spending, so doing away with them does little for the bottom line. Anyone who implies otherwise isn't being forthright about the problem or the possible solutions. But politicians have always gotten away with this because most voters don't know enough about the budget to realize they're being snowed. The budget is a complicated issue. Most people just don't have the time to learn some of the details of the issue, but we really do need to make people aware of the broad strokes. There just isn't...

09 Feb 2011

According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), last year Social Security had a $37 billion dollar shortfall. This year the CBO estimates it will lose $45 billion. Over the next ten years, the CBO says the total debt incurred by Social Security will be somewhere in the neighborhood of $547 billion. Politicians, mostly democrats, like to point out that the program is solvent through some year in the 2030's, but really, since the program has always used the income from that year to pay for the costs of that year, this trust fund is a complete mirage. All it is is the rest of the government saying it'll pay itself back from other funds. The Concord Center outlines this issue pretty well in the following quote: The trust funds are simply a claim on future general revenues. They represent a promise from one arm of the government (Treasury) to pay another arm of the government (Social Security). Coming up with the cash to make good on that claim w...