— Kendall Harmon (@KendallHarmon6) October 12, 2017
Category : Budget
Mr. [John] Cogan has just written a riveting, massive book, “The High Cost of Good Intentions,” on the history of entitlements in the U.S., and he describes how in 1972 the Senate “attached an across-the-board, permanent increase of 20% in Social Security benefits to a must-pass bill” on the debt ceiling. President Nixon grumbled loudly but signed it into law. In October, a month before his re-election, “Nixon reversed course and availed himself of an opportunity to take credit for the increase,” Mr. Cogan says. “When checks went out to some 28 million recipients, they were accompanied by a letter that said that the increase was ‘signed into law by President Richard Nixon.’ ”
The Nixon episode shows, says Mr. Cogan, that entitlements have been the main cause of America’s rising national debt since the early 1970s. Mr. Trump’s pact with the Democrats is part of a pattern: “The debt ceiling has to be raised this year because elected representatives have again failed to take action to control entitlement spending.”
A faculty member at Stanford’s Public Policy Program and a fellow at the university’s Hoover Institution, Mr. Cogan, 70, is one of those old-fangled American men who are always inclined to play down their achievements. The latest of his is the book that draws us together in conversation. To be published later this month by Stanford University Press, it is a 400-page account of how federal entitlement programs evolved across two centuries “and the common forces that have been at work in causing their expansion.”
(Wired) America’s infrastructure is such a mess it earns a D+ grade, and we need $4.6 trillion just to bring it to a B
One of President Donald Trump’s first promises after getting elected was to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure—bridges, roads, tunnels, pipes, dams. And whether you’ve had to evacuate a town in the shadow of a crumbling dam, buy filters for tainted municipal water, or even just bounced over potholes on a highway, you’ve experienced the problems the president alluded to.
Well, it really is as bad as you think. The American Society of Civil Engineers has just released its latest infrastructure report card, and grades the United States at D plus. That means the country’s public works are in substandard condition, with a risk of failure. The ASCE releases its reports every four years, and the mark hasn’t changed since the last time. “While our nation’s infrastructure problems are significant, they are solvable,” says ASCE President Norma Jean Mattei. But that’ll take money.
So … $1 trillion, right? Great news! Except the ASCE report says it’ll take $4.59 trillion to bring things up to a B, or adequate grade, by 2025. That’s a shortfall of $2 trillion over current spending plans. Again: $1 trillion is nowhere near enough.
Yes, this country can handle the nearly $600 billion federal deficit estimated for 2016. But the deficit has grown sharply this year, and will keep the national debt at about 75 percent of the gross domestic product, a ratio not seen since 1950, after the budget ballooned during World War II.
Long-term, that continued growth, driven by our tax and spending policies, will create the most significant fiscal challenge facing our country. The widely respected Congressional Budget Office has estimated that by midcentury our debt will rise to 140 percent of G.D.P., far above that in any previous era, even in times of war.
Unfortunately, despite a brief discussion during the final presidential debate, neither candidate has put forward a convincing plan to restrain the growth of the national debt in the decades to come.
Read it all. For a very important background on this, please see this 2011 post and the comments thereon, in which Boston University’s Laurence J. Kotlikoff makes clear that the true figure of our actual indebtedness is in excess of 200 Trillion dollars–KSH.
Americans have major doubts about the financial health of Social Security.
A new survey by Pew Research Center finds that 41 percent of Americans think there will be no Social Security benefits for them when they retire and nearly a third expect reduced levels of benefits. (Tweet This)
Some of those fears may be overblown. “People who think they will get zero benefits from Social Security are wrong and they should look at the facts,” said Andy Landis, a former claims representative for the Social Security Administration (SSA) and author of “Social Security: The Inside Story.”
There are concerns that benefits may be reduced, however.
Disneyland has become a time capsule not of the romantic idea of 19th century Main Street or even the possibilities in Tomorrowland but of a time when Americans believed in a better future ”” and were willing to invest in it. A half-century ago, we put almost 1 percent of our economy into landing men on the moon, yet today we fall behind other countries in exploring space, supposedly because we cannot afford it.
We pay a huge price for our lack of investment and faith in the future of America. We pay for all the inefficiency of our decrepit infrastructure. We pay with minds that will never be fully developed and with scientific breakthroughs that will enrich other countries. And we pay with lives of daily grind and unpleasantness without hope of respite.
Would that as a people we thought like Walt Disney so we could make America into a happy place.
Shaw Air Force Base was spared in this round of the Air Force’s budget cuts, losing no jobs, but Joint Base Charleston will have 19 positions eliminated.
The announced cuts were the first permanent jobs lost in South Carolina in what is expected to to be a deep reduction in the military following 13 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. State leaders are preparing to fight for the state’s seven installations, based mostly in Columbia, Charleston and Beaufort.
The installations and their missions, as well as a large National Guard, numerous defense contractors in the Upstate and a high number of retirees, especially on the coast, pump nearly $16 billion a year into the state’s economy, according to a study by the S.C. Department of Commerce.
The $2.8 trillion Social Security Trust Fund is on track to be totally spent by 2030, the Congressional Budget Office said Tuesday.
That’s one year earlier than projected in 2013 and a decade earlier than the CBO estimated as recently as 2011.
The CBO delivered the warning in a gloomy long-term budget outlook that shows federal debt reaching 106% of GDP in 25 years, up from 74% now.
In the first large-scale study to directly measure wasteful spending in Medicare, researchers found that Medicare spent $1.9 billion in 2009 for patients to receive any of 26 tests and procedures that have been shown by empirical studies to offer little or no health benefit.
By analyzing Medicare claims data, researchers in the Harvard Medical School Department of Health Care Policy found that at least one in four Medicare recipients received one or more of these services in 2009. What’s more, those 26 services are just a small sample of the hundreds of services that are known to provide little or no medical value to patients in many circumstances.
“We suspect this is just the tip of the iceberg,” said study author J. Michael McWilliams, associate professor of health care policy. The study appears today in JAMA Internal Medicine.
We start with this reality: Social Security and Medicare are practically sacrosanct. Nearly nine-in-ten Americans say they’re good for the country. That’s an amazing number. But the popularity of these programs really isn’t all that surprising. People love them because they do what they were created to do. They ease many of the frets and dreads of old age ”“ a blessing not just for seniors but for everyone who loves, supports and depends on seniors. Which is to say, everyone.
But the status quo is unsustainable. Some 10,000 Baby Boomers will be going on Social Security and Medicare every single day between now and 2030. By the time everyone in this big pig-in-the-python generation is drawing benefits, we’ll have just two workers per beneficiary ”“ down from three-to-one now, five-to-one in 1960 and more than forty-to-one in 1945, shortly after Social Security first started supporting beneficiaries.
The math of the 20th century simply won’t work in the 21st. Today’s young are paying taxes to support a level of benefits for today’s old that they have no realistic chance of receiving when they become old. And they know it ”“ just 6% of Millennials say they expect to receive full benefits from Social Security when they retire. Fully half believe they’ll get nothing.
The Defense Department on Monday proposed cutting the Army to its smallest size in 74 years, slashing a class of attack jets and rolling back personnel costs in an effort to adjust a department buoyed by a decade of war to an era of leaner budgets.
The five-year budget blueprint outlined by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel reflects a willingness by the Pentagon to make deep cuts to personnel strength to invest in technology and equipment as it eases off a war footing.
“The development and proliferation of more advanced military technologies by other nations mean that we are entering an era where American dominance on the seas, in the skies and in space can no longer be taken for granted,” Hagel told reporters at an afternoon news conference.
Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew warned Congress on Wednesday that the government would most likely exhaust its ability to borrow in late February, setting up yet another fiscal showdown with Republicans, and this time earlier than congressional leaders had anticipated.
In a letter to Speaker John A. Boehner and the other top three congressional leaders, Mr. Lew said a surge of February spending, mainly tax refunds for 2013, would leave the Treasury with little room to maneuver after the official debt limit is reached on Feb. 7.
The letter amounts to an early alarm bell, coming just weeks after Congress passed its first bipartisan budget and comprehensive spending bill in years. Those bills were supposed to serve as a cease-fire in the budget wars that have rattled the country and the economy since Republicans took control of the House in 2011.
Although the Fed expects to keep reducing the program “in measured steps” next year, the timing and the course isn’t preset. “Continued progress [in the economy] is by no means certain,” Mr. [Ben] Bernanke said. “The steps that we take will be data-dependent.”
If the Fed proceeds at the pace he set out, it would complete the bond-buying program toward the end of 2014 with holdings of nearly $4.5 trillion in bonds, loans and other assets, nearly six times as large as the Fed’s total holdings when the financial crisis started in 2008.
Still, officials””worried that investors would quake at the thought of less Fed support””went to lengths to demonstrate that they would keep interest rates low for years to come, even after the bond-buying program ends.
Read it all.
But there’s a problem. [Charles] Lindblom’s common-sense insight has a giant exception: crises. Change, forced by outside events, then happens by “leaps and bounds.” The recent financial crisis caused Congress and two presidents to embrace measures (the rescue of big banks, General Motors and Chrysler) that were unthinkable a few months earlier. In the 1960s, civil rights demonstrations pushed Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that, in outlawing most public racial discrimination, wasn’t “incremental.” History offers other examples, including the Civil War, the New Deal and both World Wars. Small changes won’t suffice when big changes are required.
On the budget, muddling through comes with a crucial assumption. It is that continuous deficits won’t provoke a crisis that compels political leaders to take harsh steps that they would otherwise not take. This optimism may be justified. For decades, “experts” have warned of the dire consequences of unchecked deficits. Yet no great crisis has occurred. But this conviction also could be complacency. Government debt is in territory that, except for wartime debt, is unprecedented. We don’t know the consequences. Someday, we may no longer have the luxury of muddling through.
House and Senate negotiators have reached agreement on an $85 billion package to fund the government past Jan. 15, avoid another federal shutdown and end the cycle of budget crises that have dominated Washington for much of the past three years.
The deal did not include a key priority of House Democrats who wanted an extension of long-term benefits for the unemployed. But Democrats said they would continue to press Republicans on the issue in hopes of preventing more than 1 million people from losing their unemployment checks at the end of the month.