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December 11 2015

Fiscal 2016 Already Off to a Bad Start

Patrice J. Lee

2016 is getting off to a stellar start for big government.

Forget the spending caps of just a few years ago or the austerity measures some European countries have been forced to make just to stay afloat. Uncle Sam stuffed his pockets with more of our tax dollars and spent more of our money in the first two months of this fiscal year than the same time a year ago.

According to data from the Congressional Budget Office, for the first two months of fiscal year 2016, which actually begins during calendar year 2015, the federal government collected $12 billion more than this time last year. We gave up six percent more in income and payroll taxes (some $19 billion).

Uncle Sam's biggest expenditure was healthcare, largely attributable to the Medicaid expansion from ObamaCare. Medicare spending increased by 9 percent ($8 billion) while Medicaid rose by 12 percent ($6 billion) as ObamaCare increased the Medicaid rolls. Social Security benefits rose by five percent (or $7 billion) as more Baby Boomers reach an age to collect benefits.

Our debt has more digits than most people can count – ringing up to $18,786,830,545,682.60, according to the U.S. Treasury. But when we break it down by household, each of the more than 117 million U.S. households owes a bill of $159,551.16. It would take the median household with an income of $53,000 a long time to pay that off. Forget vacations, Christmas shopping and new clothes for back-to-school. In fact, forget paying for a place to live, eating, or paying for healthcare.

If the typical American family ran its household the way our leaders run our national finances, we’d be out in the cold. Heritage made this point earlier this year:

If a median-income family spent and borrowed like the federal government does, it would spend $61,000 despite earning only $52,000. It would pile $9,000 on top of an already massive debt of more than $311,000--like having a mortgage, only without the house.

 

If these numbers sound incomprehensible and even depressing, they should. They represent irresponsible governing from across the aisle and over decades. The monster of big government spending is engrained in the fabric of Washington governance. Politicians running for office rail against it, yet do little to slow the growth of spending or reform the major contributors: entitlements.

Going into a major election year, the words of Stephen Moore from exactly one year ago still rings true:

…Yes, President Obama has made the problem much, much worse, but the scary truth is that the national debt keeps rising inexorably no matter who or which party is in office. That’s the new law of American politics.

When I first arrived in Washington in the early 1980s, the debt was roughly $2 trillion. This week, 30 years and five presidents later, the debt for the first time exceeded $18 trillion. We have been in the red in all but four of the last 40 years.

That’s $18,000,000,000,000. We all know that $18 million is a lot of money. This is $18 million times another million. The number is so gigantic we won’t or can’t try to fathom it.

Why worry? We owe it to ourselves, we’re told. The mighty American economy is big enough to absorb it. This country was built on debt. There is no better time to borrow than when interest rates are at a 40-year low.

But what we have bought with most of our debt of the last two decades has been a bigger, more expansive welfare state. Almost half of all American households, according to the Census Bureau, get a government check or some direct benefit from government today. More than one-third of households get some kind of unearned welfare.

Maybe this debt bubble won’t burst. Let’s pray that it doesn’t. If it does, the 2008–09 real-estate crash could look like a picnic by comparison.

We can do our best to educate our friends and family about the impending peril of irresponsible borrowing and debt accumulation. But our elected leaders are reluctant to make the choices that would begin to bring financial sanity on a national level.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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