Have to update
last week’s column, in which I told you the national debt was
$16,745,555,054,000 with my twin grandchildren owing $105,746.
A week later, the
national debt is $16,959,161,700,000; the kids now owe $107,072.
Also, the Social
Security liability is $16.6 trillion. The Medicare liability is
$87.4 trillion. Someone just sent me an email: “We’re always hearing
about how Social Security is going to run out of money. How come we
never hear about welfare running out of money?”
Got another email,
noting last-minute government spending as government agencies use up
their budget or risk losing some of the next year’s appropriation.
From the Washington Post: The Veterans Affairs Department spent more
than a half-million dollars for artwork, the Coast Guard spent
nearly $200,000 on “cubicle furniture rehab,” and the Agriculture
Department spent $140,000 on toner cartridges in just one day.
Fox News reported that
“federal agencies last week spent money on junkets for Chinese wine
connoisseurs, Christmas tree initiatives, radio ads promoting New
Jersey blueberries, a maple syrup recipe contest and produced a
YouTube video to instruct on the proper handling of watermelons.”
I recall such activity
from my years as a Navy wife. At the end of the fiscal year, the
word went out: Spend! Build a tennis court, paint the offices, paint
the flagpole! Or we’ll get our budget cut for next year!
You may correctly
assume that this was the beginning of my taxpayer activism.
Last week, Sen. Ted
Cruz reached out during a filibuster-like address to the nation,
comparing the quixotic effort of tea party Republicans to stop
ObamaCare to other historic resistance to Big Government. Now he’s
said he’ll donate his salary to charity for each day that Senate
Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, refuses to negotiate. This
is a clever way to remind voters which party is insisting on the
government shutdown instead of compromising with even a one-year
delay of ObamaCare.
Americans for Tax
Reform’s Grover Norquist, a guest on Barry Armstrong’s “Financial
Exchange” on WRKO this week, explained that while the media enjoys
painting the Republicans as “at war,” they are in fact “in
agreement” on major issues like school choice, welfare reform and
Obamacare; their differences are on strategy.
As I write this, the
Republican House has offered a compromise: Pass the continuing
resolution (short-term budget) that both branches have agreed to,
delay the individual mandate in Obamacare just as Obama has delayed
the business mandate, remove the generous health insurance subsidy
that members of Congress have been given by Obama. The Senate has so
far rejected any compromise.
I’m afraid that simply
delaying some aspects of Obamacare would mean another year of
recession as businesses continue to avoid having the number of
employees that will force them to comply with this expensive
mandate. Yet, immediate implementation could drag so many Americans
off their existing health insurance into the subsidized government
exchanges that they become dependent, like many welfare recipients,
on Big Government to take care of them forever.
Another strategy could
be for House Republicans to fund one essential part of government at
a time, sending each funding proposal to the Senate, letting Harry
Reid continue to refuse any compromise. That, too, makes it obvious
which party is shutting down the government to get its own way.
Have you noticed that
different polls show different public opinion on the new health care
law? There is some indication that the
public responds differently if it’s called “Obamacare” than if
it’s called the “Affordable Care Act.” As CNBC put it, Obama’s name
“raises the positives and the negatives.”
Of course, ObamaCare is
no more likely to be affordable than Social Security or Medicare
(see liabilities above). Even without it, Sen. Tom Coburn,
R-Oklahoma, has been arguing that the budget itself contains
out-of-control spending. “The big spenders say sequestration has cut
government to the bone, yet this restraint is helping to heal our
economy by reducing the debt — and deferred taxes — on future
generations. And in terms of waste, we’ve just scratched the surface
...” Coburn notes that the Senate version of the budget violates the
sequestration agreement and begins adding to the deficit again.
Coburn is at odds with
Norquist and his “no new taxes” pledge and with Cruz and his
insistence on using the budget debate to address Obamacare. But,
again, this is a battle about strategy, not substance.
Moving on then to the
coming debt-ceiling debate. This week, former President Bill Clinton
explained it this way: The debt ceiling is actually two votes. The
first is the vote to spend beyond what can be covered within the
present debt ceiling, so that raising it becomes necessary.
I get that. So, the
only responsible action is: Stop spending before you reach the limit
of the debt ceiling. Government has to pay its debts; it can fund
that priority from within the present budget, though other things
will have to be cut. Maybe this will discourage politicians from
spending more than we can afford during the new budget year.
One final debt number:
The total unfunded liability of the United States is almost $126
trillion. If you don’t like the idea of a government shutdown,
imagine a government collapse under the weight of ever-increasing