Surplus dwindles to zero amid tax cuts, spending

greenspun.com : LUSENET : Exposing Rightwing Corruption : One Thread

What Surplus ?
(M/Sioux City, Iowa.) 8/7/01 12:49 pm

Surplus dwindles to zero amid tax cuts, spending

As Congress takes a summer recess, there's one dubious achievement members aren't likely to point out to constituents back home: The federal budget surplus is gone.

Zip. Nada. Nothing left.

Thanks to Congress' insistence on hurry-up tax cuts and an inability to restrain spending, coupled with the economic slowdown, the $5 trillion, 10-year surplus predictions from January have melted like a snowman in August. New estimates expected next week are almost certain to show little or no discretionary money for the rest of this year.

That means there's nothing left to pay for hot military toys, politically popular education aid and ballooning farm bailouts. There's no surplus to fund tax breaks promised to groups ranging from big oil companies to individuals buying their own health insurance. And Congress could be forced to again dip into funds supposedly reserved for paying down the massive national debt.

Already, congressional budget analysts are warning members that, unless spending is cut or tax breaks pared, revenues earmarked for Medicare will be needed to get through the budget year starting Oct. 1. The outlook for the following year is even tighter, raising the near-certainty of a return to hitting Social Security funds as well.

Both funds are supposed to be off limits. Congress' own budget, adopted scarcely three months ago, included a solemn pledge to use the short-term Social Security surplus only to pay down the $5.7 trillion national debt and reduce the more than $300 billion a year frittered away on interest payments. Democrats, and many Republicans, vowed to do the same with Medicare.

But the budget-busting continues:

Last week, the House approved $33.5 billion in energy tax breaks, triple President Bush's request, 80% of it going to oil, gas, coal and electricity producers.

Bush's $18.4 billion budget add-on for defense has triggered a tug of war with those who insist it be offset by cuts elsewhere. But Congress is dragging its feet on scaling back outmoded weapons or closing unnecessary bases.

A $168 billion farm bill coming to the House floor soon would bring back defunct subsidies, boost others by 75% or more and launch new payments for growers.

Instead of business-as-usual, Washington needs to face reality:

The party's over. Fiscal responsibility demands that the Social Security and Medicare surpluses remain earmarked for reducing the debt and the billions spent year after year on endless borrowing costs.

Outnumbered budget hawks are right to insist that additional spending, military or domestic, be balanced by cuts elsewhere.

Likewise, it's time to declare a moratorium on further tax breaks unless offset by new revenue somewhere else. If that means taking back some of the goodies promised in this year's $1.35 billion tax cut, so be it.

Otherwise, there's trouble ahead. The $200 billion deficits of a few years ago, and the drag they put on the economy for years, are a reminder of the cost of irresponsibility.



-- Cherri (jessam6@home.com), August 08, 2001

Answers

all right!! I want out of the social insecurity program, today! Even with the market tanking as it is, I know I can do a better job ensuring a stable and secure future for myself. I have a good 30 years left to work, they can keep everything I've put in to date and I'll go in alone the remainder. Where is the backbone in congress??

-- Gary (gcphelps@yahoo.com), August 18, 2001.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ