Category : The National Deficit

Maine Senator Susan Collins is floating a fiscal deal proposal that MAY help find a way out

A proposal from Sen. Susan Collins is emerging as one potential way to dig lawmakers out of a government shutdown and possibly also avoid a potentially catastrophic debt default.

The moderate Maine Republican, whose vote will be essential to any fiscal deal, is circulating a rough plan to reopen the government, repeal the medical device tax and provide agencies with greater flexibility in implementing the sequester. The initial reception has been positive and may be the beginnings of a bipartisan solution to end the intractable impasse between House Republicans and Senate Democrats.

Collins said Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who are also being watched as potential GOP votes to end the fiscal standoff, have signed onto the proposal. And Collins said she has spoken to “several Democrats” about her plan, which she hopes “at least provides concepts that could be the basis for us reopening government.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Budget, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Taxes, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology

(RNS) Religious groups feel the pinch of government shutdown

As the government shutdown enters its second week, some religious groups are starting to feel the pinch, and they’re also finding ways to reach out.

More than 90 Catholic, evangelical and Protestant leaders have signed a statement rebuking “pro-life” lawmakers for the shutdown, saying they are “appalled that elected officials are pursuing an extreme ideological agenda at the expense of the working poor and vulnerable families” who won’t receive government benefits.

Starting Wednesday, evangelical, Catholic and mainline Protestant leaders will hold a daily “Faithful Filibuster” on Capitol Hill with Bible verses on the poor “to remind Congress that its dysfunction hurts struggling families and low-income people.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Budget, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Religion & Culture, Senate, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology

(BBC) China tells US to avoid debt crisis for sake of global economy

A senior Chinese official has warned that the “clock is ticking” to avoid a US default that could hurt China’s interests and the global economy.

China, the US’s largest creditor, is “naturally concerned about developments in the US fiscal cliff”, vice finance minister Zhu Guangyao said.

Washington must agree a deal to raise its borrowing limit by 17 October, or risk being unable to pay its bills.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Asia, Budget, China, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Euro, European Central Bank, Foreign Relations, G20, Globalization, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Stock Market, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

(NPR) Morale Plummets For Federal Workers Facing Unending Furlough

The work that Shaun O’Connell does is required by law, yet now he’s sidelined by the government shutdown.

O’Connell reviews disability claims for the Social Security Administration in New York, checking that no one’s gaming the system, while ensuring people with legitimate medical problems are compensated properly.

Billions of dollars are at stake with this kind of work, yet O’Connell is considered a nonessential employee for purposes of the partial government shutdown.

“If you stick with the semantics of essential and nonessential, you could easily be offended,” says O’Connell, who has worked for Social Security for 20 years.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Budget, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, House of Representatives, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology

Wash. Episcopal bishop offers Natl. Cathedral garden for weddings postponed due to gov’t shutdown

The Episcopal bishop of Washington is inviting any couples who had to cancel their weddings on federal property due to the government shutdown to have their ceremonies in a garden at Washington National Cathedral.

Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde said Thursday that the Bishop’s Garden at the cathedral would be offered free of charge to any couples who wanted to hold wedding ceremonies outdoors.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Budget, Economy, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, House of Representatives, Marriage & Family, Office of the President, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Religion & Culture, Senate, TEC Bishops, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology

Faith Leaders (Including TEC P.B.) Denounce Brinkmanship As Budget, Debt Ceiling Deadlines Loom

On the eve of a possible shutdown of the U.S. government, religious leaders denounced the political brinkmanship prevailing in Congress today.

“Shutting down the government will do real damage,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, speaking at a press conference today. “Risking our nation’s creditworthiness will do even more damage. Most clearly, the disruption and uncertainty will put the brakes on our economy.”

Unless our nation’s leaders come to an agreement on appropriations for the coming months, the U.S. government will close on Oct. 1, the start of the 2014 fiscal year. If no agreement is reached by Oct. 17 on increasing the debt limit, the country’s creditworthiness will be compromised.

Read it all and follow the link at the bottom to the letter to see the actual signatories.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Budget, Economy, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Other Churches, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Presiding Bishop, Religion & Culture, Senate, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology

(Local Paper) Lowcountry South Carolina starting to reel from federal shutdown

Biologist Louis Burnett had to move his lab students to a conference room across the parking lot at Fort Johnson. His federal lab, animals and cell cultures are under lock and key.

Burnett’s dilemma is a case example of the ripple effect of the ongoing federal shutdown. As the shutdown enters its third day, the clock keeps ticking insistently for any number of people who don’t work for the federal government but find themselves on the outs because of the political standoff.

Burnett is a research professor at the College of Charleston. But like others in a cadre of college and state researchers, he collaborates on studies, shares office space and makes use of the equipment at the Hollings Marine Lab and the Center for Coastal Environmental Health and Biomolecular Research.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * South Carolina, Budget, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Education, House of Representatives, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Science & Technology, Senate, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

In Washington, Shutdown Nears as Impasse Shows No Sign of Breaking

The federal government moved closer to a partial shutdown Sunday as Republican and Democratic lawmakers showed no signs of negotiating through a standoff over the implementation of President Barack Obama’s health law.

The standoff left little prospect that Congress could reach agreement on terms for funding the government by midnight Monday, when the current fiscal year expires. A shutdown would leave essential services operating but prompt federal agencies to suspend many functions and furlough hundreds of thousands of workers.

Early Sunday morning, after a late night of votes, the House passed a bill delaying the health law by one year and attached it to a plan to fund the government through Dec. 15. It also includes a provision repealing a tax on medical devices that is intended to help finance the health law. That legislation now goes back to the Senate.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Budget, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, House of Representatives, Medicaid, Medicare, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Social Security, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology

U.S. Shutdown Nears as House Votes to Delay Health Law

The federal government on Sunday morning barreled toward its first shutdown in 17 years after the Republican-run House, choosing a hard line, voted to attach a one-year delay of President Obama’s health care law and a repeal of a tax to pay for it to legislation to keep the government running.

The votes, just past midnight, followed an often-angry debate, with members shouting one another down on the House floor. Democrats insisted that Republicans refused to accept their losses in 2012, were putting contempt for the president over the good of the country and would bear responsibility for a shutdown. Republicans said they had the public on their side and were acting to protect Americans from a harmful and unpopular law that had already proved a failure.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, Budget, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, House of Representatives, Housing/Real Estate Market, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Medicaid, Medicare, Personal Finance, Politics in General, Senate, Social Security, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology

(Washington Post) U.S. disability rolls swell in a rough economy

Between 2000 and 2012, the number of people in Penobscot County [Maine] receiving Social Security disability benefits skyrocketed, rising from 4,475 to 7,955 ”” or nearly one in 12 of the county’s adults between the ages of 18 and 64, according to Social Security statistics.

The fast expansion of disability here is part of a national trend that has seen the number of former workers receiving benefits soar from just over 5 million to 8.8 million between 2000 and 2012. An additional 2.1 million dependent children and spouses also receive benefits.

The crush of new recipients is putting unsustainable financial pressure on the program. Federal officials project that the program will exhaust its trust fund by 2016 ”” 20 years before the trust fund that supports Social Security’s old-age benefits is projected to run dry.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Budget, Economy, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Medicare, Middle Age, Psychology, Social Security, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

(NPR Its All Politics Blog) CBO Report Warns Of Long-Term Debt Problems

There’s plenty of fodder for deficit hawks in a new report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. In short, the future looks grim….

First, the good news: The CBO projects the deficit will shrink to $378 billion in 2015, or 2.1 percent of the size of the overall U.S. economy. Compared with just a few years ago when the budget gap ballooned as a result of the recession, this marks a nearly unprecedented improvement in the deficit picture. It’s a rapid decline in budget shortfalls not seen since the end of World War II. The national debt will bottom out in 2018, at 68 percent of GDP.

The bad news: From there, the picture gets decidedly less rosy. Budget deficits gradually rise, “mainly because of increasing interest costs and growing spending for Social Security and the government’s major health care programs (Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and subsidies to be provided through the health insurance exchanges),” says the report. By 2038, the national debt will reach 100 percent of GDP….

Read it all and follow the link to the actual report.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Aging / the Elderly, Budget, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, House of Representatives, Medicaid, Medicare, Middle Age, Office of the President, Politics in General, Senate, Social Security, Taxes, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology, Young Adults

(NPR) Calling Obesity A Disease May Make It Easier To Get Help

Under the Affordable Care Act, more insurance plans are expected to start covering the cost of obesity treatments, including counseling on diet and exercise as well as medications and surgery. These are treatments that most insurance companies don’t cover now.

This move is a response to the increasing number of health advocates and medical groups that say obesity should be classified as a disease.

Not everyone thinks this is a good idea. But this summer, the American Medical Association determined that . They followed in the footsteps of the , a health advocacy group that called obesity a disease back in 2008.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, Anthropology, Budget, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Politics in General, Science & Technology, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology

(Washington Post) For workers and the economy, autumn could be scary

“Unfortunately, we seem to be entering another of those periods of elevated risk,” economists at Bank of America Merrill Lynch wrote last week. Researchers at RBC Capital Markets sounded even more bleak. “Just when you thought the U.S. economy was ready to break out of its lackluster 2 percent growth pace that has dominated the recovery,” they wrote, “reality hits.”

More economic turbulence would be particularly tough for poor and middle-class American workers, who are still struggling amid the historically weak growth following the recession. The typical worker’s income has fallen since the recession ended more than four years ago, and the economy, still far from full employment, is creating far more low-paying jobs than good-paying ones. Polls show that workers remain discouraged by the economic picture, with more than half believing the United States is still in recession.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Budget, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, House of Representatives, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Office of the President, Personal Finance, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Taxes, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology

(CSM) Harold Sirkin–To cut entitlements, US can look to one of Europe's welfare states

One of America’s chief fiscal burdens is the mounting cost of entitlements (Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid) ”“ an obligation that will only grow larger as baby boomers age. In tackling this problem, the United States should look to what many might see as an unlikely model ”“ the European welfare state, Sweden.

“Usually, U.S. policymakers look to Europe to determine what not to do when it comes to social-welfare policy,” James C. Capretta, former associate director of the US Office of Management and Budget, wrote a few years ago.

But, he continued: “When you are in a hole, the prudent first step is to stop digging, and the United States can indeed gain insight into how to ”˜stop digging’ the entitlement hole” by studying the reforms that some European countries have implemented. Most notably, he suggested, we should study what Sweden and Germany did to cut their long-term government pension commitments.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Aging / the Elderly, Budget, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Health & Medicine, Medicaid, Medicare, Politics in General, Social Security, Sweden, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology

(PBS Newshour) How the Government Is Fooling Us About the Solvency of Social Security

The fact that economics tell us to discount — as in make less of — each dollar owed or received in the distant future, however, doesn’t mean a government can ignore those obligations and receipts, especially if there are loads of future obligations relative to receipts.

Take the just-released 2013 Trustees Report on Social Security’s long-run finances. Table IVB6 shows an infinite horizon fiscal gap of $23.1 trillion separating the Social Security system’s projected costs and taxes after taking into account the several trillion in the Social Security trust fund. To give you a sense of how massive this shortfall is — and it grew by fully 8 percent last year alone — it is 50 percent larger than U.S. GDP and almost twice the size of total federal debt held by the public.

Table IVB6 also reports Social Security’s fiscal gap over the next 75 years. It’s much smaller — only $9.6 trillion, and that’s the number people tend to use in discussion. But that number is only 41 percent of the actual economic gap: $23.1 trillion. Thus, the 75-year fiscal gap hides three fifths of the system’s true long-term shortfall.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Aging / the Elderly, Budget, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Politics in General, Social Security, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology

Robert Schiller–Want to Fix Social Security? Use the Right Wrench

The purpose of Social Security is to help families. It reinforces the intergenerational sharing that families already ”” though imperfectly ”” provide. It helps retirees by stabilizing their income, and it helps their grown children, who are relieved of any excessive burden of supporting them. This purpose strongly suggests that the Social Security benefits should be indexed to some measure of the available, aggregate economic pie. That means a formula that looks completely different from the ones being discussed today.

Clearly, something needs to be done: if nothing changes, and the trust fund runs out in 2033, the system would be able to pay only about 75 percent of promised benefits.

The issues are complex, as economic theorists like Henning Bohn at the University of California, Santa Barbara, have shown. But now that an index change is on the table, we should take this opportunity to get it right.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Aging / the Elderly, Budget, Economy, History, Politics in General, Social Security, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

Robert Samuelson–Can we Get Real About the deficit problem we Face?

Can we get real? For starters, $642 billion is serious money, and despite the modest improvements of the latest CBO report, the basic trends in federal finances remain the same. From 2014 to 2023, the government will spend $6 trillion more than it collects in taxes. The budget never comes close to balancing. Expanding spending on the elderly and health care continues to strangle the rest of government. As a share of the economy (gross domestic product), military and domestic discretionary programs (examples: drug approval, environmental regulation, Head Start, federal courts) drop about 40 percent from 2010 to 2023.

Nothing of consequence has changed. A few numbers have shifted slightly. That’s all. They moved in a favorable direction. Next time, they might go the other way. What’s also constant is the unwillingness of leaders of both parties, beginning with the president, to discuss budget choices candidly. The budget passed by the Democratic Senate barely touches entitlements for the elderly, which constitute the largest chunk of federal spending. The budget passed by the Republican House avoids a large tax increase only by making draconian and unrealistic spending cuts that would never pass Congress or be signed by the president.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Budget, Economy, House of Representatives, Medicaid, Medicare, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Social Security, Taxes, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

(Washington Post) Robert Samuelson–The long odds on tax reform

At this time of year, when most Americans have just filed their returns, exasperation with the income tax system reaches a peak. Hardly anyone denies it’s a complex mess. In 2010, calculating their taxes cost Americans $168 billion, estimates the Taxpayer Advocate Service of the Internal Revenue Service. That’s about 15 percent of taxes collected ”” a heavy overhead. Almost 60 percent of taxpayers pay accountants or other tax preparers. Public esteem for the tax system is low; in a 2011 Pew poll, 55 percent judged it unfair. Disaffection was fairly even politically: 47 percent among Republicans, 58 percent among Democrats and 56 percent among independents.

So “tax reform” ought to be a cinch, right? Well, no.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Office of the President, Personal Finance, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Taxes, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

How the American government really Spends the Tax Dollars it Currently Receives

There is a great graphic here and some comment there.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Aging / the Elderly, Budget, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Medicare, Middle Age, Personal Finance, Politics in General, Social Security, Taxes, Teens / Youth, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology, Young Adults

(CBS Marketwatch) David Stockman is worried about the Federal Reserve's Policy of QE longer term

MarketWatch: Since Nixon’s “abomination” as you call it, we have had some periods where government spending to GDP actually went down, like during the Clinton era. Doesn’t that show it’s just the choices made by Congress rather than the Fed to blame [for the problem of rising national debt as a % of GDP]?

Stockman: There is the issue that Congress ultimately is the fiscal authority. But my argument is, when the Fed becomes a massive buyer of bonds and debt and artificially suppresses interest rate below market-clearing levels, it’s a terrible signal to the Congress that debt is cheap, that running deficits is a viable strategy. So therefore they are induced to kick the can, to let it drift and avoid hard choices. Who wants to tell the public you are going to take your broccoli of higher taxes and lower benefits and spending if you can issue debt on a three-year basis for 40 basis points. That’s free. I was in Congress, they don’t do decimal math, OK? And they think the money is free, it’s a bad problem philosophically, we shouldn’t be doing this for the great long run, but it’s no harm today.

Then they have professors like Krugman who give them the disingenuous advice that the bond vigilantes don’t care. The market is saying, “fine with us, we don’t care, keep piling the debt on, we love it.” That is so much baloney. The reason the interest rate on the 10-year bond 10_YEAR -0.33% today is 1.8% or whatever it happened to settle today, is the market knows the Fed is buying half of the debt and is front running the Fed. And it is renting the bond on repo, 98 cents on the dollar, based on overnight money that’s free thanks to Bubbles Ben as well.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Federal Reserve, History, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology

(CSM) Recession averted, but rising debt still a threat, CBO warns

The CBO forecast finds a persistent mismatch between tax revenue and spending over the coming decade. As the economy improves, tax revenue should rise to 19 percent of GDP for the period from 2015 through 2023, up from 15.8 percent in 2012, the report said. But federal spending, after an early-decade dip, will start rising persistently faster than revenues.

“After 2017, if current laws remain in place, outlays will start growing again as a percentage of GDP,” the CBO said. “The aging of the population, increasing health care costs, and a significant expansion of eligibility for federal subsidies for health insurance will substantially boost spending for Social Security and for major health care programs relative to the size of the economy.”

The CBO’s current-law “baseline” calls for spending to reach about 23 percent of GDP in 2023 and, more worrisome, to be “on an upward trajectory.”

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Update: An IBD article is also available on this, entitled “CBO Report Shows We’re Still Headed Toward A Fiscal Cliff” and it may be found there.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Aging / the Elderly, Budget, Economy, House of Representatives, Medicare, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Social Security, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

(LA Times Editorial) Fiscal fitness, Mr. President

We agree with Obama that it will take a combination of tax increases and spending cuts to put the government’s fiscal house in order. Republicans swallowed hard and accepted an increase in tax rates for the highest incomes to start the year. It’s the Democrats’ turn to recognize that federal benefit programs, and particularly healthcare entitlements such as Medicare and Medicaid, are on an unsustainable path despite the savings from the 2010 healthcare law.

Obama should lead a Democratic push for reforms that preserve these programs for those who need them, while also reducing the deficit and stopping the federal debt from growing faster than the economy. He’s in the best position to lead on this issue, able to provide political cover for Democrats concerned that their constituents won’t put up with changes to the status quo, while showing Republicans that there are ways to save money without abandoning the government’s commitment to the elderly and poor. To create an opening for the rest of his agenda, he needs to step up to that role.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Aging / the Elderly, Budget, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, House of Representatives, Medicare, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Social Security, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology

(WSJ Front Page) Ugly Choices Loom Over Debt Clash

In the House, the majority Republican party says it won’t raise the debt limit without spending cuts of equivalent amounts. Mr. Obama has said he won’t negotiate over the matter, saying it is the responsibility of Congress to enable the government to pay bills it has incurred.

The government spends 40% more than it takes in and borrows money to cover the difference. Without an increase in the debt ceiling, the Treasury won’t be able to borrow the additional money needed to pay all its bills.

Failure to make payment on even some of its obligations could wreak havoc in the economy and financial markets and possibly trigger another financial crisis and recession, analysts have warned.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Budget, Economy, House of Representatives, Medicare, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Social Security, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

(IBD) Social Security A Big Deficit Driver

The Congressional Budget Office projects that over the next decade Social Security’s annual cash deficit will rise by nearly $100 billion, reaching $155 billion a year. The cost of servicing the extra public debt tied to cashing in $1 trillion worth of Social Security’s intragovernmental IOUs over the 10 years would add $40 billion to the deficit in 2022 alone, an IBD analysis finds.

Overall, Social Security would account for nearly $200 billion in annual deficits or nearly 20% of the $1 trillion-plus deficit that would occur under current policies, including fiscal-cliff tax hikes.

Then, over the following decade, the retirement program’s impact on deficits would really balloon.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Aging / the Elderly, Budget, Economy, History, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Social Security, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

(CNN) David Rothkopf–The Fiscal Cliff deal is a Hollow Victory for American people

While many in Washington are breathing a sigh of relief and some are trying to spin the outcome as a win for the president, those who characterize this bill as a genuine victory for anyone at all have clearly lost perspective. The deal brokered by Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell does make good on President Obama’s promise to bring a little more equity to the tax code by raising rates on wealthier Americans, and it temporarily averts the most draconian “sequestration” cuts. But the list of what it does not do, and what it does wrong, is long.

By midday Tuesday, the Congressional Budget Office had concluded that the Biden-McConnell package would add nearly $4 trillion to federal deficits over the next 10 years. This was largely because it actually extends and makes permanent more than 80% of the Bush tax cuts. So much for the idea that this whole struggle was supposed to help America get its financial house in order.

Just as bad, or perhaps worse in terms of the day-to-day lives of average people, the bill only postpones the forced cuts of sequestration by two months, to precisely the moment the country will be engaged in another ruinous debate about lifting our national debt ceiling to ensure the country can pay its bills. It thus creates a new, even more dangerous fiscal cliff….

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Update: George Will has also written on this I see–Perils Of The Entitlement State And Our Decadent Democracy.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Budget, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, House of Representatives, Medicare, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Social Security, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology

AP Analysis: Cliff deal is another pain-free punt

Congress’ hectic resolution of the “fiscal cliff” crisis is the latest in a long series of decisions by lawmakers and the White House to do less than promised ”” and to ask Americans for little sacrifice ”” in confronting the nation’s burgeoning debt.

The deal will generate $600 billion in new revenue over 10 years, less than half the amount President Barack Obama first called for. It will raise income tax rates only on the very rich, despite Obama’s campaign for broader increases.

It puts off the toughest decisions about spending cuts for military and domestic programs, including Medicare and Social Security. And it does nothing to mitigate the looming partisan showdown on the debt ceiling, which must rise soon to avoid default on U.S. loans.

In short, the deal reached between Obama and congressional Republicans continues to let Americans enjoy relatively high levels of government service at low levels of taxation. The only way that’s possible, of course, is through heavy borrowing, which future generations will inherit.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Budget, Economy, House of Representatives, Medicare, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Social Security, Taxes, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

(Bloomberg) The Deal Congress Passed Means Higher Taxes on 77% of Households

The budget deal passed by the U.S. Senate [and House]… would raise taxes on 77.1 percent of U.S. households, mostly because of the expiration of a payroll tax cut, according to preliminary estimates from the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center in Washington.

More than 80 percent of households with incomes between $50,000 and $200,000 would pay higher taxes. Among the households facing higher taxes, the average increase would be $1,635, the policy center said. A 2 percent payroll tax cut, enacted during the economic slowdown, is being allowed to expire as of [December 31]

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Budget, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, House of Representatives, Medicare, Office of the President, Personal Finance, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Social Security, Taxes, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

(Washington Post) The House approves the ”˜fiscal cliff’ stop-gap measure passed by the Senate

Congress approved a plan to end Washington’s long drama over the “fiscal cliff” late Tuesday after House Republicans surrendered to President Obama’s demand to let taxes rise on the nation’s richest households.

The House voted 257 to 167 to send the measure to Obama for his signature; the vote came less than 24 hours after the Senate overwhelmingly approved the legislation.

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Update: Here are the new numbers for 2013 in Congress–Democrats control of the Senate by 55 to 45 (change of 2) and Republicans control of the House of Representatives by 234-201 (change of 8)

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Budget, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, House of Representatives, Medicare, Office of the President, Personal Finance, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Social Security, Taxes, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology

(The Hill) Lawmakers have no bill, no deal and New Year's Eve on the cliff

Senate leaders are racing against the clock to reach a “fiscal cliff” deal the House and Senate can approve on New Year’s Eve.

Leaders in the upper chamber narrowed their differences Sunday as Republicans agreed to drop a demand to curb cost-of-living increases to entitlement benefits, while Democrats showed flexibility on taxes.

Yet after months of talks on ways to avoid the fiscal cliff of tax hikes and spending cuts at the end of 2012, House and Senate lawmakers find themselves approaching the new year without a bill to present to their members.
Significant differences remain over two key parts of a deal ”” the automatic spending cuts known as the sequester and the estate tax.

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Update: a BBC article is there.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to at KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Budget, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, House of Representatives, Medicare, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Social Security, Taxes, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

Oops! Gregory Mankiw tells the truth–The middle Class will Pay more for Any Fiscal crisis Solution

When President Obama talks about taxing the rich, he means the top 2 percent of Americans. John A. Boehner, the House speaker, talks about an even thinner slice. But the current and future fiscal imbalances are too large to exempt 98 percent or more of the public from being part of the solution.

Ultimately, unless we scale back entitlement programs far more than anyone in Washington is now seriously considering, we will have no choice but to increase taxes on a vast majority of Americans. This could involve higher tax rates or an elimination of popular deductions. Or it could mean an entirely new tax, such as a value-added tax or a carbon tax.

To be sure, the path ahead is not easy. No politician who wants to be re-elected is eager to entertain the possibility of higher taxes on the middle class. But fiscal negotiations might become a bit easier if everyone started by agreeing that the policies we choose must be constrained by the laws of arithmetic.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Budget, Economy, House of Representatives, Medicare, Office of the President, Personal Finance, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Social Security, Taxes, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government