It’s the Entitlements, Stupid!

November 29, 2012

G’Day!

With apologies to President Clinton for modifying his famous phrase, this time “It’s the Entitlements, Stupid!” Virtually everyone with a functioning brain knows that our exploding National Debt and $1 trillion annual Federal Deficits are unsustainable. Without a solution to this government-imposed national crisis, the American economy will continue to stagnate, unemployment will be high, job opportunities low, and the country may ultimately decline into bankruptcy. Also, anyone with a functioning brain knows that the solution to this problem must involve compromise and agreement among the three (3) fundamental contributors to the problem; “Entitlements,” “Discretionary Spending,” and “Tax Revenues.” By listening to the Media, President Obama, and the Democrats, you would conclude that the sole cause of our country’s fiscal and debt crisis is insufficient “Taxes on Rich.” Nothing could be further from the truth. This is like trying to stand on a 3-legged stool with two of the legs removed.

Let’s analyze President Obama’s only publicly proposed solution, “Tax the Rich.” Our annual federal deficit is currently $1.3 trillion. Obama’s proposal with possible outcomes is presented below:

Obama “Tax the Rich” Proposal

Possible Annual Revenue (billions)

% Deficit Solved

Raise top 2 rates on Incomes above $200-250,000 from 33 to 35% & 36 to 39.6%

$44.2

3.7%

Raise Dividend tax from 15% to Ordinary Income Rate

$20.6

1.7%

Raise Capital Gains tax fro 15% to 20%

$3.6

0.3%

Reinstate the Pease limit on Itemized Deduction

$12.3

1.0%

Reinstate the Personal Exemption Phase-out (PEP)

$4.2

0.4%

Subtotal Tax increase for Upper-income

$84.9

7.1%

Restore Estate & Gift Tax to 2009 levels

$11.9

1.0%

Total Government Tax Revenue

$96.8

8.1%

 

The above result is a static analysis and assumes no income or behavioral change by taxpayers (highly unlikely). In total, Obama’s “Tax the Rich” solution would potentially generate $96.8 billion per year and solve a mere 8.1% of our annual fiscal deficit problem. Since neither Obama nor the Democrat leaders have publicly suggested any change in either “Discretionary Spending” or “Entitlements,” this would leave a continuing federal deficit of approximately $1 trillion per year or 92% of the fiscal problem unresolved. (Interestingly, a $1 trillion annual deficit is the amount in Obama’s currently proposed budget for the next four (4) years.) This is blind insanity and “Ostrich Management.”

“Entitlement” reform for Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security combined with growth oriented “Tax Reform” and “Discretionary Spending” cuts are the only ways we can avoid the trap that Greece and other European socialist countries have created for themselves. By insisting ONLY on “Taxing the Rich” with no consideration for “Discretionary Spending” cuts or “Entitlement” reform, Obama appears to be more interested in political ideology than in solving our nation’s economic problems. Without correction, we will create a European slow growth dependent society for America and potentially financial collapse. We must demand a better and more comprehensive performance from our government. I believe the Republicans are correct in demanding that any agreement on additional tax revenues must be accompanied by significant cuts in federal spending.

Let’s review some fundamental facts about our unsustainable National Debt and continuing Fiscal Deficits. The table below summarizes the major items in our national economy and Obama’s 2012 enacted budget.

Item

2012 Budget Amount (Billions)

Total Current National Debt

$16,200

Estimated Gross Domestic Product (GDP)

$15,797

Total Federal Government Receipts (Tax, etc.)

$2,469

Total Federal Government Outlays

$3,796

Annual Federal Surplus (Deficit)

($1,327)

Total Mandatory “Entitlement” Outlays

$2,252

Health (Medicaid, etc.)

$361

Medicare

$484

Social Security

$818

Income Security (Food Stamps, Unemployment, Housing, etc.)

$580

Net Interest on Debt

$225

Total “Discretionary” Outlays

$1338

National Defense

$702

Education

$79

 

Federal outlays in 2012 are expected to be $3.8 trillion (24% of GDP) with a $1.3 trillion deficit after government revenues of $2.5 trillion. Mandatory “Entitlements” total $2.3 trillion, (60% of federal outlays and approximately 15% of GDP), AND are growing at an alarming and unsustainable rate. Discretionary federal outlays (including National Defense) are $1.3 trillion. Simple math indicates that to balance the budget without “Entitlement” reform, the entire Federal Government “Discretionary Spending” (including National Defense) must be eliminated or tax revenues increased across-the-board by approximately 50% to eliminate the deficit. Neither of these alternatives individually or in combination is feasible or desirable. Currently the largest federal “Entitlement” outlays are: Health (Medicaid) & Medicare $845 billion, Social Security $818 billion, Income Security $580 billion, and Interest on Debt $225 billion. (Please note that “Interest on Debt” is unusually small based on an artificially low interest rate (approximately 1-1.5%) resulting from global economic problems and monetary support by the FRS. When interest rates return to normal levels the $225 billion could easily double or more in a very short period of time. Remember, interest rates were in the double digits in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Just look at the recent government borrowing rates in the troubled countries in Europe.)

While the mandatory “Entitlement” programs have good intent and are desirable, they are not sustainable and are inconsistent with economic growth policies. “Entitlements” are where the big federal outlays reside and must be part of a major solution to our fiscal and debt crisis. “Entitlement” reform is the most significant fiscal spending problem we face. Fortunately, we have excellent proposals from Conservatives and bipartisan groups available on how to fix “Entitlements” (see Bowles-Simpson, “The Moment of Truth,” Domenici-Rivlin, “Restoring America’s Future,” and The Heritage Foundation, “Saving the American Dream”). It would be helpful if Obama and the Democrats would acknowledge these or offer proposals of their own. It won’t be easy but as I said in the title, “It’s the Entitlements, Stupid!”

Let’s get to work and save our country!

The Old Guy PhD


Is Our Government Broken? – Redux!

June 3, 2011

G’Day!

Nothing has really changed since my earlier post “Is Our Government Broken” on March 16. If anything, the situation is now worse and potentially more detrimental to our country’s international reputation and the growth of our economy. Obama and the Democrats appear to be determined to ignore the problem and demagogue any efforts by the Republicans to actually confront and attempt to resolve our fiscal and debt crises. While there will probably be an extension of the debt ceiling this summer, it will more than likely be another temporary fix and will just “kick the can” further down the road. As I have repeatedly said, this is madness and intolerable behavior for Congress and the President.

The good news is we now have three rational proposals available, any one of which would start to solve our problems. The bad news is that neither the President nor Congress is seriously considering any of them. The proposals available are: 1) the bipartisan Bowles-Simpson Debt Reduction Commission report, “The Moment of Truth”; 2) the Paul Ryan 2012 Budget Proposal, “The Path to Prosperity: Restoring the American Dream”; and 3) the recent Heritage Foundation Special Report, “Saving the American Dream: The Heritage Plan to Fix the Debt, Cut Spending, and Restore Prosperity”. The Bowles-Simpson report and The Heritage Foundation Special Report are fully comprehensive proposals dealing with all sectors of our economy, including desperately needed tax reform, entitlement reform, and cuts in discretionary government spending (including defense). The Bowles-Simpson report was approved by 61% of the members of the commission but for unexplainable reasons, has been ignored by the President and Congress. Paul Ryan’s proposal, which was passed by the House but rejected by Democrats in the Senate, is reasonably comprehensive but does not address Social Security and, in my opinion, does not adequately address Defense spending. In addition to the proposals above, the GAO report “Opportunities to Reduce Potential Duplication in Government Programs, Save Tax Dollars, and Enhance Revenue” has already identified unnecessary duplication, overlap, or fragmentation existing across our Federal Government totaling BILLIONS of dollars in ANNUAL SAVINGS. This is also a good place to start.

I have referred to each of these reports in several previous posts on this website and, for the sake of brevity, provide appropriate links below:

The first two (2) paragraphs in my initial post on this subject are still relevant:

“Yes, our government is currently broken and it needs to GET TO WORK! The events taking place in our national government and some states do not represent the principles of elected representative government upon which America was founded. We elected our officials to serve the needs of the people, not the desires of their political party, big business, or unions.”

“President Obama, both Democrat and Republican Congressional Representatives and Senators (with minor exceptions) are not currently working for the long-term benefit of America. Nearly all are posturing and working for what they perceive as the good of their political party and personal reelection. Citizens have common sense and know that we have fiscal and debt crises that are too large and unsustainable. We must get our State and Federal Governments in order.”

Our federal government is out of control and has grown to be too large, too self-oriented, and is not performing their duty to be responsible to the American people. To date the Democrats have proposed absolutely no specific plan to elevate our fiscal and debt crises (other than increase tax rates) and have not passed a budget in over 700 days! President Obama is also not exercising leadership in this crisis and, as indicated recently, is “leading from behind”. Our President is already in full campaign mode in preparation for the 2012 election (which can’t come soon enough!) and is engaged in travelling, golfing, and political speeches. Obama’s proposed 2012 budget is an embarrassment given the magnitude of our country’s ongoing financial problems and projects spending next year of another $3.7 trillion and an addition to the deficit of $1.6 trillion. Over the next 10 years the new Obama budget proposal is expected to produce a further cumulative deficit of $7.2 trillion, bringing our overall national debt to approximately $22 trillion. Again, this is madness and irresponsible and does not serve the interests of the American people!

Most of the Americans now realize “Big Government is Our Problem”! Let’s fix it and put our country back on a solid jobs and economic growth foundation! Adopt one or a combination of the above proposals and let’s get to work.

The Old Guy PhD