Category Archives: Debt and deficits

We won the lottery, but who bought the ticket?

By Steve Brawner
© 2017 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.

Should welfare recipients be required to pay back the state if they win the lottery? Maybe the better question is, should all of us?

Those questions came to mind after hearing a presentation by Rep. John Payton, R-Wilburn, of his House Bill 1825 before the House Rules Committee at the State Capitol Wednesday.

The bill would require lottery winners to reimburse the state for their last 10 years of Department of Human Services benefits, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly the food stamp program.

Payton said the lottery is a bad deal for poor people, who gamble their sparse dollars with the odds stacked mightily against them. This arrangement would make them think twice about doing that and remind them that their benefits come from the taxpayers.

Please, Congress, if you cut taxes, cut spending too

Uncle Sam hangs on for webBy Steve Brawner
© 2016 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.

Here’s a simple request of our elected officials when they gather in Washington next year with Republicans in charge of everything: If you’re going to cut taxes, please cut spending, too.

I make that request for the future because I am not reassured by the past – not the past year, or the last 35, or the last 200.

Since 1790, the United States has been in a continual state of debt. There was a brief period in the mid-1830s when the debt was very small – it even briefly was paid off in 1835. But it reached $1 billion in 1863 during the Civil War and has never looked back. It has grown smaller at times as a percentage of gross domestic product, but the overall trajectory has been ever higher. In fact, the last time the United States owed less one year than the previous one was 1957, according to the government’s own Treasury Department website.

If Trump or Clinton succeed? More debt

Uncle Sam hangs on for webBy Steve Brawner
© 2016 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.

Presidential candidates can’t possibly fulfill all their campaign proposals, and few would even want to try. But what would happen if Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump actually did what they said they want to do? Clinton would grow government and do nothing to reduce the growth of the national debt. Trump would explode the debt.

Those are the findings of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a nonpartisan group that advocates for deficit reduction. It scored the two candidates’ campaign proposals to find out how much they would increase the debt, determined maximum and minimum amounts based on various factors, and then came up with midrange amounts.

The CRFB found that Clinton’s proposals would increase spending by $1.4 trillion over 10 years, but she has proposed $1.2 trillion in tax increases over that time period. That’s $200 billion in new debt, plus another $50 billion in additional interest costs her policies would cause.

Fiddling around, ignoring problems

Uncle Sam hangs on for webBy Steve Brawner
© 2016 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.

You know the story about Nero fiddling while Rome burned? It didn’t actually happen, but it illustrates a point about leaders crazily ignoring a problem.

These days, no illustration is needed. The government’s largest programs, Social Security and Medicare, are not burning up, but their problems are being ignored.

On Wednesday, the Social Security trustees and Medicare trustees each released their annual reports.

Social Security’s trustees wrote that the trust fund that supposedly finances the program – but actually has been raided to pay for other programs and then filled with IOUs – will be empty by 2034. That’s when today’s 49-year-olds (I’m 47) reach the normal retirement age. When that happens, benefits for all recipients, including 85-year-olds, theoretically would be cut 21 percent.