Politicians are notorious for fudging numbers to keep from being held accountable by the people who hired them—us!
John Steele Gordon, a business and economic historian, gives a good reminder in The Wall Street Journal about these accounting gimmicks happening today over the so-called “reconciliation bill”.
“Congressional rules require that spending bills project their cost over 10 years. But the $3.5 trillion “social infrastructure” bill now before Congress calls for several of its most expensive programs (such as Medicare expansion) to lapse after three years. But everyone knows that such programs, once enacted, are politically untouchable and will be made permanent. The actual projected cost of the bill is probably north of $5 trillion.”
“To fit $5 trillion to $5.5 trillion worth of spending and tax breaks into a $3.5 trillion budget, background documents to reporters explain that “the duration of each program’s enactment will be determined based on scoring and Committee input.” In other words, tax credits and spending programs will be set to expire at some point before the end of the decade, in the hope that future lawmakers will extend these programs. While some provisions could also be scaled down or otherwise adjusted, these premature expirations appear to be a key source of cost reduction.
This budget gimmick, which would obscure the true cost of the legislation and put program beneficiaries at risk, was rightly criticized in 2017 when used for some of the 2017 tax cuts. It would be unwise and irresponsible to use arbitrary expirations and sunsets to obscure the true cost of this legislation.”
It’s easy to lose sense of how massive something is when we’re discussing such huge numbers. But the National Taxpayers Union divided up this and calculated it, saying the “spending amounts to $24,252 per U.S. taxpayer ($3.5 trillion divided by 144.3 million taxpayers in 2018, the latest year for which IRS data is available).”
I’ll do a rough calculation here and do the calculation for the $5 trillion divided by 144.3 million taxpayers—that amounts to $34,650 per taxpayer. And that’s on top of the enormous burden we already have.
The Web site USDebtClock.org has a running tally of our existing national debt, here’s a depressing snapshot from today:
We can’t afford to keep squandering our future—that’s how empires collapse.