Debt Reduction: Bowles & Simpson Have it Right – Redux!

July 22, 2011

G’Day!

On April 1, I posted the article, “Bowles & Simpson Have it Right!”, suggesting that the Bowles-Simpson Debt Reduction Commission’s proposal was a good solution to our country’s deficit and debt crises. Subsequent articles have repeatedly referred to this proposal as a reasonable bipartisan way to address our federal fiscal problems, especially long-term debt, (see “Obama Ignores Bowles-Simpson Debt Reduction Commission – AGAIN!”, “Is Obama Really Serious about Debt Reduction?”, “Fiscal and Debt Crises – Tax Reform Essential!”). Approximately eight months after publishing the Commission’s preliminary report and 5 months after formal submission to President Obama, the “Gang of Six” in the Senate finally appears to be considering it. Perhaps there is some intelligent life in Washington after all. I hope so.

To resolve our unsustainable deficit and debt crises, we need significant comprehensive changes to improve revenues through comprehensive tax reform, to reduce discretionary spending including defense, and reduction/reform in entitlement programs for Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. All of these reforms: taxation, government spending, and entitlements, are essential to a comprehensive solution for our country’s problems and ALL must be addressed if we are to succeed.

Bowles-Simpson, which is still an appropriate bipartisan starting point, addresses all of these issues and was approved by 61% of the commission members. I hope it now gets the attention it deserves. The “Gang of Six” and Bowles-Simpson have identified nearly $4 Trillion in deficit reductions over ten years with an immediate reduction of $500 Billion. Both plans rely on government spending cuts and tax reform to lower tax rates, broaden the tax base, and increase tax revenues. These are all good initial actions and I would also suggest the addition of the House “Cut, Cap, and Balance Act, which specifically “Caps” government spending relative to GDP and includes a “Balanced Budget Amendment” provision to insure that our government performs its future fiscal requirements in a responsible way. Currently, polls indicate that over two-thirds of the American people want a “Balanced Budget Amendment” and do not want a further increase in our National Debt. Now is an appropriate time to deal with these issues to insure not only our own future but also more importantly, the future of our children.

If Congress and the President had seriously considered Bowles-Simpson earlier in the year, the debt crisis could already be resolved. We must bring responsibility to the country back into our government and significantly reduce its size.

The Old Guy PhD

Note: The original Bowles-Simpson article with “links” is repeated below for those who missed it.

Bowles & Simpson Have it Right!

In my previous posts, “Big Government IS Our Problem” and “Is Our Government Broken”, I laid out the current and projected fiscal and debt problems facing our nation and argued that significant contraction in government spending is immediately essential. Also essential is tax reform. Our taxes MUST be simplified, the tax base broadened, and tax rates reduced (especially business taxes), if we are to be able to compete in a global economy.

The Debt Reduction Commission’s “Co-Chair’s Proposal” released in December 2010 by the Co-Chairs, Democrat Erskine Bowles and Republican Alan Simpson and submitted to the President in February 2011, is an excellent and understandable overview of the recommendations, which, with minor modification, were approved by 11 of the 18 bipartisan members (61% approval) in December 2010. Unfortunately, the final vote fell short of the 14 votes necessary for the “Supermajority” needed to directly submit the recommendations to Congress. While the Co-Chair’s Draft Proposal differs slightly from the final report submitted to the President, it is worth reviewing for its importance, focus, clarity, and brevity. They have done an excellent job and their proposal deserves the immediate attention of the President and Congress. While no one will be fully happy with all of the commission’s proposals, rational behavior combined with cooperation and compromise by our elected government is necessary if we are to remain a solvent and great nation. The time for government to act is NOW!

The bipartisan Debt Reduction Commission worked from April – December 2010 to develop and present overall comprehensive recommendations to solve our country’s short and long term fiscal and debt crises. They have done their work well. The report addresses all the necessary areas required to resolve the issues including setting out ten (10) objectives, “Guiding Principles and Values”, beginning with “#1-We have a patriotic duty to come together on a plan that will make America better off tomorrow than it is today”; and “#2-The Problem is REAL – the Solution is Painful – There’s no Easy Way Out – Everything Must Be On the Table – and Washington Must Lead”. The other 8 can be read by clicking the link in paragraph above. After establishing the Guiding Principles, the following comprehensive “Five Part Plan” is recommended:

1.Enact tough discretionary spending caps and provide $200 billion in illustrative domestic and defense savings in 2015.

  1. Pass tax reform that dramatically reduces rates, simplifies the code, broadens the base, and reduces the deficit.
  2. Address the “Doc Fix” not through deficit spending but through savings from payment reforms, cost-sharing, and malpractice reform, and long-term measures to control health care cost growth.
  3. Achieve mandatory savings from farm subsidies, military and civil service retirement.
  4. Ensure Social Security solvency for the next 75 years while reducing poverty among seniors.

Implementation of the comprehensive Five Part Plan is projected to achieve nearly $4 trillion in deficit reduction through 2020, in addition to other specific improvements in debt and budget reductions summarized below:

  • Achieves nearly $4 trillion in deficit reduction through 2020: 50+ specific ways to cut outdated programs and strengthen competitiveness by making Washington cut and invest, not borrow and spend.
  • Reduces the deficit to 2.2% of GDP by 2015, exceeding President’s goal of primary balance (about 3% of GDP).
  • Reduces tax rates, abolishes the AMT, and cuts backdoor spending in the tax code.
  • Caps revenue at or below 21% of GDP and gets spending down to 22% and eventually to 21%.
  • Stabilizes debt by 2014 and reduces debt to 60% of GDP by 2024 and 40% by 2037.
  • Ensures lasting Social Security solvency, prevents projected 22% cuts in 2037, reduces elderly poverty, and distributes burden fairly.

 

The proposal outlines how to achieve the above results through specific recommended actions to improve revenues through “Comprehensive Tax Reform” alternatives, to reduce spending through “Discretionary Budget Options” including Defense cuts, reductions for entitlement programs through “Mandatory Budget Options” for healthcare and “Reforming Social Security”. All of these reforms: taxation, government spending, entitlements for healthcare and social security, are essential to a comprehensive solution for our country’s problems and all must be addressed if we are to succeed.

The Co-Chair’s Proposal is controversial but responsible, realistic, and deserves the serious consideration of the President and Congress, who are currently engaged in irrelevant political bickering over trivial spending cuts instead of the substantive fiscal and debt problems we face. Congress and the President should get together, agree on or revise as appropriate the “Guiding Principles and Values” above, and start to work for the American people and our country. Political posturing for re-election is NOT a valid course of action.

Currently, neither the Congress nor the President is addressing our fiscal and debt crises with any sense of urgency. The President and the Democrats are not only totally ignoring the problem but are fighting to avoid even minimal reductions from the inflated budget spending of the last 2-3 years. Federal Budget inflation nearly tripled our federal deficit from $0.459 trillion in 2008 to $1.3 trillion in 2010 and is expected to increase again to $1.7 trillion this fiscal year. Obama’s recent budget proposal for 2012 continues spending at $3.7 trillion and the deficit at $1.6 trillion. Additionally, Obama’s new budget projects a further cumulative deficit of $7.2 trillion for the next ten years – bringing our debt to approximately $22 trillion! This is not leadership; it is madness! Only the Republicans are even attempting to address the issue and, to date, their proposals are woefully inadequate. To be fair, the House Republicans through Representative Paul Ryan are promising to present a comprehensive budget in April that does address the looming long-term catastrophe we face. I hope they deliver.

Given the magnitude of our fiscal and debt problems, the current congressional squabbling is an inappropriate distraction from solving the overall crises facing our nation! Without an agreement on debt limits and/or spending cuts by April 8, our government may shut down. As noted in “Is Our Government Broken”, except for national security and some essential services, shutting down might actually be a good thing. Our government is too big, too irresponsible, and too self-centered. Can’t our Congress or Administration do math?

Where is President Obama’s leadership in all of this? Actually, at the time of this writing he’s currently travelling again and making speeches at a Democratic Party Fundraiser – big surprise. As usual, when leadership and responsibility for our country are required, Obama is absent. Last week with a national debt deadline imminent, Congress took a week off rather than stay in session to attempt to resolve the current national debt limit issue. Brilliant! Our elected representatives need to make financial solvency and economic growth a priority and get to work NOW!

We are on unsustainable fiscal and debt crises that, if not corrected quickly, will lead to potential financial and economic disaster for our country. Our government is oppressive and out of control, its growth must be stopped, and its intrusion in our lives and businesses reversed. We MUST maintain the entrepreneurial spirit necessary for economic growth and global competitiveness. We need to bring back the constitutional freedoms and personal liberties that led us to become the greatest nation on earth. Our government should immediately take up the Bowles-Simpson Co-Chairs’ Proposal.

The Old Guy PhD


Is Obama Really Serious about Debt Reduction?

April 22, 2011

G’Day!

The answer is apparently “NO”, based on the 1st & 2nd Obama budget proposals for 2012 and the Democrats tooth-and-nail fight before agreeing to a miniscule and questionable $38 billion (a mere 3-4 days) in spending cuts this year from a current projected deficit of $1.7 trillion for 2011! However, they are serious about political posturing, fear mongering, and demagoguery against Paul Ryan and the Republicans for even proposing an earnest plan to resolve the crisis. As indicated last week in “Obama Ignores Bowles-Simpson Debt Reduction Commission – AGAIN!”, their answer is SPEND, SPEND, SPEND and TAX the success of the real investors and hard-working small businesses who are the genuine creators of economic growth, job creation, and wealth in our country. Their only solution is to tax the “Rich” when approximately 45% of the households pay no federal income taxes at all and the “Rich” (Top 2%, incomes over $250,000) already pay over 40% of the total! Tax reform is necessary but Obama’s proposals are neither the serious leadership our country needs nor even a nod of recognition for the fiscal and debt crises we face.

The Fed can’t print enough money to solve this problem without major devaluation of our currency and significant increases in inflation and interest rates. History has repeatedly shown that excessive government spending financed by debt combined with extreme increases in money supply usually results in a collapsed economy and crisis in government. Many other nations have tried this and failed miserably. For example, France tried this before and during the French Revolution and it ultimately led to the collapse of their currency, their economy, the failure of their government, and the rise of Napoleon as dictator. Germany tried this after WWI and it lead to the collapse of their currency, their economy, the failure of their government, and the rise of Hitler as dictator. For more information about financial crises see, “This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly”, by Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, who analyze financial crises in 66 countries in their 2009 book. Regarding “This Time is Different” they conclude, “It almost never is.”

America is not immune to the workings of economic forces and cannot continue as a great nation if we do not put our bloated and inefficient government spending on a sound fiscal path, cap government spending as a percentage of GDP, and appropriately modify (not eliminate) our currently unsustainable entitlement and social programs for long-term viability. Recent history suggests the sustainable level for federal government spending has been approximately 20% of GDP. Federal government spending was 20.7% of GDP in 2008, 23.8% in 2010, and is expected to be over 25.5% in the current year (the highest level in history, other than WWII). This is a +5% increase in the size of our federal government in the first 2-3 years of the Obama Administration! This is madness and must be corrected!

There is no question that many (but not all) government social programs are desirable; they are just not affordable or consistent with a vibrant, innovative, expanding economy, and rising standard of living for the American people. As I said last week, “We cannot continue as a great nation if we base economic policies on the failed socialistic principles of taking from those who work hard and succeed and redistributing their earnings to those who don’t.” Most other developed nations, including Russia, have learned the incentives and benefits of free market capitalism and our government needs to relearn them as well.

If President Obama was sincere about debt reduction, he would be listening to and acting on the recommendations from the bipartisan Debt Reduction Commission he established. The Bowles-Simpson Co-Chairs’ Proposal outlines how to achieve results through comprehensive and specific actions to improve revenues through tax reform, to reduce government discretionary spending including defense, and to reduce entitlement programs through healthcare and social security reform. All of these reforms: taxation, discretionary spending, entitlements for healthcare and social security are essential to a comprehensive solution for our country’s problems and, if we are to succeed, ALL must be addressed.

Our fiscal and debt problems are correctable if our government seriously addresses the needs of the country and not their political desires for reelection. If Obama, Democrats, and Republicans can’t agree on comprehensive legislation to reduce government spending and bring the size of government back to sustainable levels consistent with a growth economy, our country faces a potential sovereign debt crisis similar to those described in the book by Reinhart & Rogoff referenced above. I agree with Standard & Poor’s downgrading of the “outlook” for US Debt based on the political turmoil in our Government. The outlook for a government solution before the 2012 election is not good and I don’t believe Obama and the Democrats want a real solution. Currently, it appears Obama and the Democrats believe the American people are not intelligent enough to see the need for real government spending reform and are too self-interested to revise the social programs to sustainable levels. I do not agree with this view. I believe the American people are intelligent and don’t want to leave to future generations of Americans a damaged economy with an authoritarian bureaucratic government controlling our lives.

In my first post on this website, “Big Government IS Our Problem!”, I described in more detail the current Administration’s trend toward big government collectivism and the dangerous omens it portends for the future of our lives and our nation. In the 2 months since that posting, the situation has become worse and the socialist agenda of our President and the Democrats has become very clear. They do not appear to be serious about debt reduction or reducing government spending. If we are to have a successful and prosperous country in the future, we must take back our country and reestablish the principles of limited government, free markets, individual liberties, and sound fiscal & monetary policies. Get “Big Brother” out of the way and off our backs, reform taxation & spending, and our economy will recover faster and the future of our nation will be assured.

The Old Guy PhD

 


Obama Ignores Bowles-Simpson Debt Reduction Commission – Again!

April 16, 2011

G’Day!

Spend and Tax! Tax and Spend! Spend, Spend, Spend! This is the clearly defined policy framework outlined in Wednesday’s political speech by President Barack Hussein Obama. As noted in a previous post, “Big Government IS Our Problem!”. Unless we replace Obama and the Senate Democrats in 2012, big government, reduced personal freedoms, and unsustainable economic policies will continue to be with us for the foreseeable future. Why does the President continue to reject the bipartisan comprehensive proposal by the Debt Reduction Commission, (“Bowles & Simpson have It Right!”)? Can’t Obama and the Democrats do math?

In President Obama’s speech presenting his 2nd new 2012 budget proposal in two months, he again, as usual, failed to exercise leadership by trashing the serious Republican debt-reduction budget plan of Paul Ryan, and by again refusing to incorporate important recommendations from the Debt Reduction Commission’s proposal. The President’s theme was to incorrectly accuse Republicans of taking money from Senior Citizens and Medicare to provide tax cuts for the “wealthy”. Obama knows better and, as President, should be ashamed of his attempt to mislead the American people. The Bowles-Simpson Debt Reduction Commission’s proposal is excellent and the President, the Democrats, and the Republicans should immediately and seriously pursue this comprehensive bipartisan recommendation, which was approved by a majority (61%) of the commission members. Our economic, fiscal, and debt problems cannot be solved by half-hearted and halfway measures. Everything must be on the table, considered, and acted on through an overall, thoughtful, bipartisan solution that benefits the American people not the political ambitions of the politicians.

In this regard, Obama’s speech was disappointing and pure politics, apparently intended to support his announcement to rerun for President in 2012 (hopefully unsuccessfully). The speech essentially ignored the Debt Reduction Commission’s recommendations and lacked real substance or specifics. In response to the Republican’s budget, Obama did propose to reduce the fiscal deficit from his 1st 2012 budget by promising to raise taxes on the successful job-creators in our economy – not a good idea for growth and innovation if you understand economics. The speech primarily engaged in inaccurate political demagoguery aimed at Republican Paul Ryan’s 2012 budget proposal. VP Joe Biden was so impressed that he dozed off during the President’s delivery! The prospect of either the 1st or 2nd Obama 2012 budget proposal is potentially the same: a larger, bankrupt nanny-state in a slow-growth economy with lower than possible living standards, and a devalued currency with entitlements for non-producers supported by the few motivated and successful business managers, investors, and job-creators. Obama’s plan is an arrow aimed at the heart of entrepreneurs, innovators, and commerce.

In 2-3 short years Obama has increased government spending from an annual rate of $2.9 trillion in 2008 to an expected $3.8 trillion in 2011, increased our budget deficits by over $4 trillion and increased our National Debt by approximately 40% to nearly $14.3 trillion (over $1 trillion owed to China). In addition to this massive increase in the size and scope of government (which Obama now wants to “lock in”, not reverse), he has reduced our individual freedoms in healthcare choices (Obamacare), increased government control over our financial and consumer markets (Financial Regulation Bill including the powerful new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau), taken over private companies, halted domestic oil development, and expanded unsustainable fiscal and monetary policies. Obama is eroding virtually all the policies in which I personally believe and which made our country great, (see “Is Obama Our Worst President or Just the Weakest?”). How did we ever allow ourselves to believe his campaign rhetoric and fail to see through his lack of experience, leadership, and knowledge of the workings of an economy and foreign relations?

What is now quite clear is Obama’s personal commitment to increasing an already bloated and inefficient federal government and expanding bureaucratic control over our lives and our economy. He is attempting to change our entrepreneurial spirit of independence and freedom into a socialist state of citizens dependent on government handouts for our very survival. I would not be totally surprised if Obama adopted Herbert Hoover’s campaign slogan, “A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage”, with this addition: “Paid for by the US Government”.

We cannot continue as a great nation if we base economic policies on the failed socialistic principles of taking from those who work hard and succeed and redistributing their earnings to those who don’t. Even Russia learned that Karl Marx was wrong when he said, “From each, according to his ability; to each, according to his need.” History has shown that socialist policies, if pursued to their ultimate end, result in reduced individual incentive, slower economic growth, lower living standards, and domination by state bureaucrats over the lives of people, (see Nobel Prize Winner in Economics, “The Road to Serfdom”, F. A. Hayek). Obama and the Democrats do not appear to have learned this yet. They appear to have the elitist belief that government bureaucrats can make better decisions for the people than people can make for themselves. Capitalism and democracy aren’t perfect but they are far better than a government-controlled command economy and authoritarianism.

The incentives of capitalism combined with free markets, individual freedoms, and limited government are the best ways to achieve economic growth, prosperity, improved living standards, AND to remain competitive in the global economy. Our US Constitution supposedly protects these fundamental principles but they appear to be increasingly in jeopardy through the actions of our current government. Let’s stop this decay, get back to our traditional foundations, and correct the trend as soon as possible.

The Old Guy PhD

 


Bowles & Simpson Have it Right!

April 1, 2011

G’Day!

In my previous posts, “Big Government IS Our Problem” and “Is Our Government Broken”, I laid out the current and projected fiscal and debt problems facing our nation and argued that significant contraction in government spending is immediately essential. Also essential is tax reform. Our taxes MUST be simplified, the tax base broadened, and tax rates reduced (especially business taxes), if we are to be able to compete in a global economy.

The Debt Reduction Commission’s “Co-Chair’s Proposal” released in December 2010 by the Co-Chairs, Democrat Erskine Bowles and Republican Alan Simpson and submitted to the President in February 2011, is an excellent and understandable overview of the recommendations, which, with minor modification, were approved by 11 of the 18 bipartisan members (61% approval) in December 2010. Unfortunately, the final vote fell short of the 14 votes necessary for the “Supermajority” needed to directly submit the recommendations to Congress. While the Co-Chair’s Draft Proposal differs slightly from the final report submitted to the President, it is worth reviewing for its importance, focus, clarity, and brevity. They have done an excellent job and their proposal deserves the immediate attention of the President and Congress. While no one will be fully happy with all of the commission’s proposals, rational behavior combined with cooperation and compromise by our elected government is necessary if we are to remain a solvent and great nation. The time for government to act is NOW!

The bipartisan Debt Reduction Commission worked from April – December 2010 to develop and present overall comprehensive recommendations to solve our country’s short and long term fiscal and debt crises. They have done their work well. The report addresses all the necessary areas required to resolve the issues including setting out ten (10) objectives, “Guiding Principles and Values”, beginning with “#1-We have a patriotic duty to come together on a plan that will make America better off tomorrow than it is today”; and “#2-The Problem is REAL – the Solution is Painful – There’s no Easy Way Out – Everything Must Be On the Table – and Washington Must Lead”. The other 8 can be read by clicking the link in paragraph above. After establishing the Guiding Principles, the following comprehensive “Five Part Plan” is recommended:

  1. Enact tough discretionary spending caps and provide $200 billion in illustrative domestic and defense savings in 2015.
  2. Pass tax reform that dramatically reduces rates, simplifies the code, broadens the base, and reduces the deficit.
  3. Address the “Doc Fix” not through deficit spending but through savings from payment reforms, cost-sharing, and malpractice reform, and long-term measures to control health care cost growth.
  4. Achieve mandatory savings from farm subsidies, military and civil service retirement.
  5. Ensure Social Security solvency for the next 75 years while reducing poverty among seniors.

Implementation of the comprehensive Five Part Plan is projected to achieve nearly $4 trillion in deficit reduction through 2020, in addition to other specific improvements in debt and budget reductions summarized below:

  • Achieves nearly $4 trillion in deficit reduction through 2020: 50+ specific ways to cut outdated programs and strengthen competitiveness by making Washington cut and invest, not borrow and spend.
  • Reduces the deficit to 2.2% of GDP by 2015, exceeding President’s goal of primary balance (about 3% of GDP).
  • Reduces tax rates, abolishes the AMT, and cuts backdoor spending in the tax code.
  • Caps revenue at or below 21% of GDP and gets spending down to 22% and eventually to 21%.
  • Stabilizes debt by 2014 and reduces debt to 60% of GDP by 2024 and 40% by 2037.
  • Ensures lasting Social Security solvency, prevents projected 22% cuts in 2037, reduces elderly poverty, and distributes burden fairly.

The proposal outlines how to achieve the above results through specific recommended actions to improve revenues through “Comprehensive Tax Reform” alternatives, to reduce spending through “Discretionary Budget Options” including Defense cuts, reductions for entitlement programs through “Mandatory Budget Options” for healthcare and “Reforming Social Security”. All of these reforms: taxation, government spending, entitlements for healthcare and social security, are essential to a comprehensive solution for our country’s problems and all must be addressed if we are to succeed.

The Co-Chair’s Proposal is controversial but responsible, realistic, and deserves the serious consideration of the President and Congress, who are currently engaged in irrelevant political bickering over trivial spending cuts instead of the substantive fiscal and debt problems we face. Congress and the President should get together, agree on or revise as appropriate the “Guiding Principles and Values” above, and start to work for the American people and our country. Political posturing for re-election is NOT a valid course of action.

Currently, neither the Congress nor the President is addressing our fiscal and debt crises with any sense of urgency. The President and the Democrats are not only totally ignoring the problem but are fighting to avoid even minimal reductions from the inflated budget spending of the last 2-3 years. Federal Budget inflation nearly tripled our federal deficit from $0.459 trillion in 2008 to $1.3 trillion in 2010 and is expected to increase again to $1.7 trillion this fiscal year. Obama’s recent budget proposal for 2012 continues spending at $3.7 trillion and the deficit at $1.6 trillion. Additionally, Obama’s new budget projects a further cumulative deficit of $7.2 trillion for the next ten years – bringing our debt to approximately $22 trillion! This is not leadership; it is madness! Only the Republicans are even attempting to address the issue and, to date, their proposals are woefully inadequate. To be fair, the House Republicans through Representative Paul Ryan are promising to present a comprehensive budget in April that does address the looming long-term catastrophe we face. I hope they deliver.

Given the magnitude of our fiscal and debt problems, the current congressional squabbling is an inappropriate distraction from solving the overall crises facing our nation! Without an agreement on debt limits and/or spending cuts by April 8, our government may shut down. As noted in “Is Our Government Broken”, except for national security and some essential services, shutting down might actually be a good thing. Our government is too big, too irresponsible, and too self-centered. Can’t our Congress or Administration do math?

Where is President Obama’s leadership in all of this? Actually, at the time of this writing he’s currently travelling again and making speeches at a Democratic Party Fundraiser – big surprise. As usual, when leadership and responsibility for our country are required, Obama is absent. Last week with a national debt deadline imminent, Congress took a week off rather than stay in session to attempt to resolve the current national debt limit issue. Brilliant! Our elected representatives need to make financial solvency and economic growth a priority and get to work NOW!

We are on unsustainable fiscal and debt crises that, if not corrected quickly, will lead to potential financial and economic disaster for our country. Our government is oppressive and out of control, its growth must be stopped, and its intrusion in our lives and businesses reversed. We MUST maintain the entrepreneurial spirit necessary for economic growth and global competitiveness. We need to bring back the constitutional freedoms and personal liberties that led us to become the greatest nation on earth. Our government should immediately take up the Bowles-Simpson Co-Chairs’ Proposal.

The Old Guy PhD