[Homestead] Crushing BushDebt---$330, 000 per each worker in the U.S.
tvoivozd at infionline.net
Fri Oct 1 17:48:11 EDT 2004
My grandchildren aren't thrilled---Bush is going to make them pay for
the Public Deficiy Bush is so recklessly racking up, now up to four
times the size of the National Economy and growing each day.
The certainty of tax cuts and deficits
By Marie Cocco | October 1, 2004
/IN THIS time of global tension and political uncertainty, here is
something you can count on before Nov. 2: another tax cut. President
George W. Bush intends in the next few days to put his signature on a
$146 billion tax cut, the fourth of his presidency. Depending on your
outlook, this is either a necessary down payment on the president's plan
to help hard-working Americans by offering them another $2.2 trillion in
tax cuts over the coming decade or the latest step toward bankrupting
the nation just as these hard-working Americans approach the age when
they need government support in retirement.
This president certainly didn't invent election year tax cuts. And
there's nothing so naive as the hope that Congress, whose members in the
House stand for election every two years and in the Senate every six,
would pause momentarily to think about the longer term. The members'
vision extends only until Nov. 3, when they very much hope to be sent
back into the same chairs they warm today.
Still and all, there was a time not long ago -- in the 1980s and the
1990s -- when there were people in power who actually thought about the
future fallout from their actions. One of them was David M. Walker, a
former Reagan administration Labor Department official and later a
public trustee of Social Security and Medicare.
Walker is now the US comptroller general. It is a highbrow title the
press often translates as "the government's chief watchdog." He is in
charge of the Government Accountability Office, a sprawling agency that
used to be known as the General Accounting Office. Its mandate is to
make government agencies accountable for following the law and generally
performing in the way taxpayers expect them to.
It is not necessarily Walker's job to go around warning about policy and
political failures as opposed to legal or regulatory ones. Nonetheless,
he is a public servant and an auditor -- and the numbers, he says, are
heading in such a miserable direction he is compelled to issue a warning.
"I know that our financial condition is worse than advertised," Walker
said in an interview.
That is, the budget game Congress plays -- the one whose rules force the
members only to show, at best, how bad the fiscal condition is for the
next 10 years -- clouds a broader fiscal picture that is far, far worse.
It's not just the deficit of $422 billion for 2004 we should worry
about. We are, quite obviously, not worried about it in the least --
though Walker puts this politically convenient blindness to an amusing
test. "If you look at the operating deficit, we're approaching record
levels. We're almost double what the standard is for admission to the
The really worrisome deficit is the $42 trillion mismatch we face when
you add up all the government's promises to the retirees of the future
and hold them up against its expected revenues for the next 75 years.
That comes to about four times the size of the entire US economy, Walker
says. Or a bill of $330,000 for every full-time worker.
Contrary to popular myth, Social Security isn't nearly contributing to
this imbalance so much as are Medicare and Medicaid, whose costs are
driven upward not just by more old people but by healthcare inflation.
And contrary to popular myth, there is no hope of "fixing" the
government healthcare programs without fixing the problems in the
broader healthcare system.
Here, in Walker's view, is how they interact in the economy: Spiraling
health insurance costs are part of the reason businesses "outsource"
jobs overseas. They're part of the reason employers hire so many
part-timers and temps instead of full-time workers with benefits. And
health costs erode the tax base directly: The higher premiums go, the
less income there is to tax, because employers and workers get a tax
break on outlays for premiums.
The annual tax cuts our current leaders demand, the political insistence
that fiscal choices made now have no bearing on the future, the national
refusal to pull up a rotting health insurance system by the roots all
drain the economy and seed a disaster for the future. "You're not going
to solve a problem until you admit that you have a problem," Walker says.
It is a truism that is in vogue these days, in good measure because the
blinders our leaders keep in place seem never to have been darker.
Marie Cocco is a syndicated columnist.
© Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.
More information about the Homestead