Baseline Budgeting, Sequestration and Lies

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 21st, 2013

Politics 101

The Sequester Automatic Spending Cuts equal about 2% of Current Federal Spending

If you heard the president speak recently we’re all doomed.  The automatic spending cuts in the sequestration he proposed and signed into law will take food away from children.  And lead to the collapse of society as we know it.  Ushering in the end of the world.  For he warned…

Border Patrol agents will see their hours reduced. FBI agents will be furloughed. Federal prosecutors will have to close cases and let criminals go. Air traffic controllers and airport security will see cutbacks, which means more delays at airports across the country. Thousands of teachers and educators will be laid off. Tens of thousands of parents will have to scramble to find child care for their kids. Hundreds of thousands of Americans will lose access to primary care and preventive care like flu vaccinations and cancer screenings.

President Obama gave this speech in front of some first responders.  Police officers.  And firefighters.  Always the first they threaten with layoffs when the government can’t raise taxes.

Amazing what $85 billion can buy today.  And if it can buy all that you’d think we wouldn’t have to spend $3.8 trillion at the federal level.  For if we can get all of that for a little over 2% of all federal spending it makes you wonder what else that 98% is buying.  What’s even more remarkable is that the federal government doesn’t even pay police officers, fire fighters or teachers.  We pay for these with property taxes.  At the city and county level.  Which the federal government cannot cut.  Because they don’t pay for these.  Yet the president says the sequester will even cut these.  Remarkable.

The Important Thing to understand about Baseline Budgeting is that Spending Cuts don’t Cut Spending

To understand sequestration you have to first understand baseline budgeting.  Which goes back to the Congressional Budget Act of 1974.  When we stopped being responsible.  And set government outlays to forever increase.  The baseline is the starting point for the following year’s budget.  And the baseline is last year’s outlays.  This year’s spending will be last year’s spending plus an additional amount based on inflation and population growth.

So spending always increases from year to year.  Automatically.  No one has to request an increase in appropriations.  And no one has to cut spending elsewhere for new spending someplace else.  Because all of last year’s spending is approved.  No matter how wasteful and pointless it may have been.  And on top of that spending there is new spending.  Always.  Guaranteeing that federal spending will always grow greater.  There will always be deficits.  And always a growing federal debt.

Now the important thing to understand about baseline budgeting is the meaning of ‘spending cuts’.  In a household if a family decides to cancel the family vacation because things are a little tight that is a spending cut in the real world.  Because it results in less spending.  But a cut in baseline budgeting doesn’t result in less spending.  For the only thing they cut is the amount they will increase future spending by.  For example, if spending for ‘X’ is scheduled to increase by $100 million but will only increase by $75 million that is a $25 million spending cut.  Even though spending will still increase by $75 million.

The President’s Sole Objective now is to destroy the Republican Party

President Nixon decoupled the dollar from gold in 1971.  Taking American off the gold standard.  Unleashing the inflation monster.  Allowing government to spend more.  As they paid for that additional spending by printing money.  And with the addition of baseline budgeting added in 1974 they spent more.  A lot more.  Total federal outlays from 1974 to 2008 increased on average 7.5% each year.  Total federal outlays in 2012 were approximately $3.8 trillion.  So the scheduled increase in spending (thanks to baseline budgeting) for 2013 is approximately $284.7 billion.

The spending cuts of the sequester are $85 billion.  Which President Obama says will usher in the end of the world as we know it.  But these ‘cuts’ are not cuts per se.  They are not like the cuts a household makes when they cancel the family vacation.  These are cuts that reduce the increase in future spending.  So instead of increasing future spending by $284.7 billion they will only increase by $199.7 billion.  Which is 2.3 times greater than the amount of the sequester.  Now President Obama said the sequester cuts would be the end of the world as we know it.  Even though total federal outlays will actually increase by an amount 2.3 times the sequester.  So one cannot but ask the question how will this sequester usher in the end of the world as we know it when we are actually increasing spending?

Because it is not the end of the world.  The president is lying.  Everything that we can pay for today we can still have after the sequester.  Because there are no real spending cuts.  We’re just increasing spending less than the original baseline projection.  Which means all the jobs we will lose will be future jobs.  But talking about losing future jobs doesn’t put the fear of God into people like telling them they won’t have any police or fire protection anymore.  Or telling them that their children’s teachers will lose their jobs.  You see, the president’s sole objective now is to destroy the Republican Party.  The only thing standing between the country and the liberal agenda he wants to impose on the country is the Republican opposition.  Which is why the sequester that he proposed and signed into law is now the fault of the Republicans.  This is the reason for all of this theater.  To get people to hate Republicans.  For why else would the president call a spending increase a spending cut?  If it wasn’t to demonize the people who keep demanding spending cuts?

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State of the Union, Benghazi, Sequestration and the Politics of Spending

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 14th, 2013

Politics 101

President Obama’s Idea of Compromise and Bipartisanship is Unconditional Surrender

President Obama’s State of the Union Address was a little light on details.  But the general gist is no spending cuts.  And more taxes.  Which makes the sequestration about to hit a crisis in the making for the president.  For it was sort of his idea.  And he did sign it into law.  But to him it was more like playing a game of chicken.  Confident that the Republicans would cave and roll over.  Giving him whatever additional tax increases he wanted to prevent cuts in defense spending.  But the Republicans aren’t blinking.  Because this is the only way they’re going to get any spending cuts.  Even if it means gutting defense spending.  Something the president didn’t consider.

Despite being an architect of the sequestration he called it a stupid idea during the State of the Union.  He doesn’t care about the cuts in defense spending.  He is, after all, a leftist liberal.  And they hate defense spending.  He even denied Ambassador Stevens’ request to beef up security in Benghazi.  Which led to Ambassador Stevens’ death.  Along with three other Americans.  But it’s the equal cuts in things he does care about that has him worried.  That social spending.  The kinds of things that buy votes.  And makes people dependent on government.  Helping to endear the Democrat Party to the American people.  While making them hate the Republican Party.  Who want to take away the great things the Democrats so generously give them.  Even if the government can’t afford to give these things to the American people.

President Obama may talk about compromise and bipartisanship but he doesn’t mean it.  His idea of bipartisanship is unconditional surrender.  He has no interest in meeting Republicans halfway.  He wants to destroy the Republican Party.  And undo the Reagan Revolution.  And bring back the Big Government of the Sixties and Seventies.  When the Democrats ruled supreme.  And you do that with spending money.  Not cutting spending.  Which is why the sequestration bothers him so much.

Running Deficits is OK if it provides for Senior Citizens, Our Children and Clean Stuff

Leading Democrats are saying we don’t have a spending problem.  We’re just not paying enough for the stuff we want.  Which also happens to be the stuff that buys votes.  So the excess spending to buy votes is not the problem.  The problem is that we’re not raising taxes enough to pay for this orgy of spending that is the problem.  We’re not taxing rich people enough.  Or corporations.  And once we do then we won’t be taxing the middle class enough.  And once we do that it probably won’t matter what we do as the country will be so deep in debt that no amount of new taxes will help.  Unless they figure out a way to tax away more than 100% of a person’s earnings.

So low tax revenue is the problem.  Well, that, and spending money on the wrong things.  On things that don’t buy votes.  Things that weren’t on the laundry list President Obama rattled off during the State of the Union that we need to spend more on.  Defense spending.  And…, well, defense spending.  Which is the only thing the Obama administration is willing to consider cutting.  Because we can get a lot of free things by gutting defense.  New programs that won’t add a single dime to the deficit.  Something he said more than once during the state of the union.  Obamacare, for example, will be deficit neutral.  Because the money we were going to spend on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will pay for it.  So even though the spending will still add to the deficit it’s now Obamacare spending.  Not defense spending.  Which is OK.

You see, running deficits is OK if it provides for senior citizens.  Our children.  If it gives us clean water.  And air.  Invests in clean energy.  And in those jobs of the future.  If it builds roads and bridges.  For less face it, we would be nothing without our government-provided roads and bridges.  Which we simply could not have it if it weren’t for government.  (Then again railroads build and maintain their own roads and bridges.  With funds they earn operating their railroads.  But I digress.)   In fact, any deficit reduction that comes from cutting this spending is just about the worst thing in the world we could do.  According to those on the left.  So we should tax rich people and corporations more.  And cut defense spending more.  Because we spend way too much on defense spending anyway.  And for what?  It’s not like we’re going to use it for anything.  Such as protecting our ambassadors in hostile lands.

Defense Spending is the only Spending growing at a Rate less than Total Federal Outlays

If you listened to the State of the Union (and didn’t fall asleep during it) you’ve learned that we don’t spend enough on our social spending.  And too much on defense spending.  That’s what the president said.  But what do the numbers say?  To find out let’s look at federal outlays (see Table 3.1—OUTLAYS BY SUPERFUNCTION AND FUNCTION: 1940–2017).  The following chart graphs the historical data from 1958 to 2011 and the projection for 2012.  We look at 4 areas of spending: defense; education, training, employment and social services; Medicare; and Social Security.  We calculate the spending as a percentage of total spending and graph the results.

Percent of Total Federal Outlays

The one area we spend too much on that the Obama administration is willing to cut is the one area that has seen the greatest decline in spending.  Defense spending.  Which as a percentage of total outlays has fallen while non-defense has trended up or held steady.  This tells us the government has pulled money from defense to pay for these other things.  But this chart doesn’t tell the whole story.  For although Medicare and Social Security have trended up they haven’t taken as big a piece of total spending as defense gave up.  And education spending has been pretty flat.  Perhaps giving credence to President Obama’s claim that we’re not spending enough on education.  But if you look at the year-to-year growth in spending you see a different picture.

Federal Outlays as a Percentage of 1958 Outlays

Here we divide each year’s spending by the spending in 1958 (or 1966 for Medicare).  Showing the increase in spending over time.  This chart also includes total federal outlays.  Which tells a startling story.  Not only is defense spending being gutted to pay for other spending it is the only spending growing less than the growth rate of total federal spending.  While the other three areas are growing at greater rates.  In 2011 Social Security spending was 8,892% of the spending in 1958.  Medicare, which came into existence in 1965, grew at an even greater rate.  In 2011 it was 17,673% of the spending in 1966.  More than twice the growth in less time.  And education spending tracked pretty close to Medicare spending.  In 2011 it was 15,744% of the spending in 1958.  While defense spending in 2011 was only 1,509% of the spending in 1958.

Note that the general trend of increased spending holds regardless of who is in power.  That’s because of baseline budgeting.  Which provides for automatic increases in spending.  When government talks about spending cuts it not really spending cuts.  It a cut in the rate spending increases.  You can see some dips in the graphs and where they may have cut the rate of growth.  But nowhere is there really a cut that results in reducing net spending.  Except for defense.

Increases in spending on education (and training, employment and social services) has grown at a rate greater than most other spending.  And what can we learn by throwing money at education?  Well, based on the president’s remarks, it doesn’t work.  It doesn’t increase the quality of education.  At least based on the great increases year after year that only give us the need to spend more money.  And this spending doesn’t even include the bulk of education spending.  That generated from property taxes.  Which can mean only one thing.  If we’re paying more and need to spend even more the quality of education is not as good as it should be.  Or all that money is going to teachers’ salaries, pensions and health care benefits.

Of all this spending the only sustainable spending is defense spending. For it is the only one growing at a rate less than total federal outlays.  While increases in the other spending is going off the chart.  With the slopes of these graphs getting ever steeper.  And the closer they get to vertical the more impossible it will be able to pay for these programs.  That’s why Medicare is near crisis mode.  With the cost of our aging population pushing that graph closer and closer to vertical.  Where our spending obligations will approach infinity.  Which is, of course, impossible to sustain.

Of all this spending the only sustainable spending is defense spending. For it is the only one growing at a rate less than total federal outlays.  While increases in the other spending is going off the chart.  Contrary to what the president said we are increasing spending in these areas so much that we won’t be able to sustain it.  For there just won’t be enough money to tax away from the people.  Unless we figure out a way to tax away more than 100% of their earnings.

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The Politics of Tax Rates

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 19th, 2012

Politics 101

Cash Starved Small Businesses cannot Afford to pay a Dime more in New Taxes

America is staring at a fiscal cliff.  Thanks to the budget debt limit debate in 2011.  The US was in danger of running out of money and defaulting on their sovereign debt.  The Republicans controlled the House of Representatives.  And the House is in charge of the money.  Before increasing the debt limit the Republicans wanted to get some spending cuts to reduce the federal deficit.  The Democrats wanted to raise tax rates (letting the Bush tax cuts expire, returning to the Clinton tax rates) to reduce the deficit.  They couldn’t reach an agreement.  So they did what politicians always do when they want to run away from a problem.  Create a committee.

The so-called super-committee.  Tasked to come up with $1.2 trillion in spending cuts (over ten years) by the end of 2012.  Or else.  With the ‘or else’ being sequestration.  Automatic budget cuts in defense and entitlement spending to the tune of $1.2 trillion.  The politicians knowing how unpleasant sequestration would be were full of confidence that the super-committee would overcome hell and high water to complete their task.  Because sequestration would be so very, very unpleasant.  Of course, politicians being politicians, kept running away from that problem.  And now we’re staring into the face of sequestration.  Taxmageddon.  The fiscal cliff.  Because the Democrats want to raise taxes on everyone earning over $200,000 (single) or $250,000 (married filing jointly).  But Republicans don’t want to because that will raise taxes on the job creators.  Something that won’t make an anemic economic recovery any better.  So let’s look at the numbers and see what kind of damage we’re looking at.

President Obama’s proposal for new tax rates leaves everything at the 28% marginal rate and below the same.  He proposes increasing the 33% rate to 36%.  And the 35% rate to 39.6%.  The new rates kick in at earnings of $250,000 (all the examples here are calculated for a married couple filing jointly).  Which raises the top income band at the 28% rate.  Holding the net tax increase to only $1,115 for a small business owner with a net income of $350,000.  Which doesn’t seem that bad.  But a small business owner with a net income of $350,000 isn’t exactly rich.  Despite paying income taxes like they are rich.  For most small business owners are S corporations or LLCs.  With their net income passing through to their personal income tax return.  So if the business owner lives on enough to equal two incomes (say $75,000 X 2 = $150,000) so his or her spouse can be a stay-at-home spouse that $1,115 comes out of $107,045 ($350,000 – $92,955 – $150,000).  Which is all they can put back into the business.  To pay for new equipment (which isn’t enough for most purchases forcing them to borrow more money and go further into debt).  To repay debt.  To cover unpaid accounts receivable.  To pay for customer write-offs for an employee error on a project.  To pay for a production run that failed to meet specifications that they couldn’t sell.  To pay for inventory shrinkage (damaged, lost and stolen goods).  To pay for employee raises.  Bonuses.  To hire new employees.  Or to pay for the newly mandated Obamacare.  When you factor in all these cost issues a small business owner may face $107,045 of retained earnings is not a lot of money and leaves a very small cash cushion.  Which is why Republicans do not want to raise taxes on small business owners.

Taxing the Rich more will do nothing to Lower the Deficit

Then presidential candidate John McCain opposed then presidential candidate Barack Obama’s proposed tax rate increases in the 2008 campaign.  Saying it would raise taxes on 23 million small business owners.  FactCheck.org debunked this number saying the actual number is closer to 6 million.  So using their number the additional tax revenue from small businesses would equal about $6.7 billion.  Approximately 0.48% of the federal deficit.  Which will do nothing to reduce the deficit.  But it will take more money away from cash-starved small businesses.  So what about millionaires?  What’s their damage?  And how much will they reduce the deficit?

The proposed tax rates will increase a millionaire’s tax by $30,549.  According to the IRS there were about 119,810 tax returns filed by people earning a million dollars in 2010.  Meaning the proposed increase in tax rates would raise another $3.7 billion in tax revenue from those earning a million dollars.  Which is only 54.7% of the new tax revenue from small business owners generated by those same new tax rates.  And only 0.26% of the federal deficit.  Which will do nothing to reduce the deficit.  So what about richer people?  Will taxing richer people do anything to reduce the deficit?  Let’s look at the numbers for someone earning $5 million.

Someone earning $5 million will pay an additional $214,549 in taxes.  Which is a huge increase.  But according to the IRS there were only 16,574 people who earned $5 million.  Which brings the total increase in tax revenue to only $3.6 billion.  Which is a $100 million less than the millionaires.  And only 0.25% of the federal deficit.  Meaning it will do nothing to reduce the deficit.  Even though they are taking an additional $214,549 away from each person earning $5 million.  That’s a lot of money from each person that results in no significant deficit reduction.  Which is the purpose of the higher proposed tax rates.

We’re simply Spending More than our Tax Revenue can ever Hope to Pay For

Crunching these numbers further we find that the proposed higher tax rates will increase tax revenue by $38.2 billion for everyone earning a million dollars and more based on 2010 IRS tax information.  Which is only 2.7% of the federal deficit.  Which is less than the automatic increases included in baseline budgeting.  Which means these proposed tax increases won’t do anything to reduce the deficit.  In fact the deficit will still grow larger.  Thanks to baseline budgeting.

The problem is that there aren’t enough rich people to tax.  The top 10% of earners are already paying 70% of all federal income taxes.  To raise new tax revenue you have to go to the middle class.  Based on the IRS there were 44,637,653 people filing income tax returns who earned between $50,000 and $200,000.  If each of these people paid an additional $1,115 like those small business owners that would raise an additional $49.8 billion in tax revenue.  Which is 3.6% of the federal deficit.  If you increased their taxes by $2,500 that would increase tax revenue by $111.6 billion.  Or 8% of the federal deficit.  Which may actually keep the deficit from growing.  But it won’t pay it down.

To get serious deficit reduction from the rich you have to take very large sums of money from them because there are so few rich people.  And even then it’s probably not possible to raise tax revenue enough to offset the automatic spending increases included in baseline budgeting.  But it’s a different story with the middle class.  Because there are so many more people in the middle class than there are rich people.  You can keep the deficit from growing by taking a far smaller amount from each of them than you would have to take from the rich.  You could even take enough to overcome the automatic spending increases of baseline budgeting to keep the deficit from growing.  But even the middle class doesn’t have enough people in it to wipe out a $1.4 trillion deficit.  Or make a dent in the federal debt.

No.  The only way to make any significant deficit reduction is with spending cuts.  Which the Democrats are steadfast against.  Because spending is their power.  It’s why people vote for them.  Which is why they will fight for increasing tax rates to the bitter end.  And never negotiate them away.  To continue the facade that new revenue can reduce the deficit.  Even though no amount of new revenue can.  Only spending cuts can.  For our spending has long since passed the Rubicon.  We’re simply spending more than our tax revenue can ever hope to pay for.  And any further increases in tax rates only reduce economic activity.  Causing the small business owners to stand fast on expanding and hiring.  Because economic growth is rewarded with punitive taxation.  So they will grow less with every increase in tax rates.  And with every increase in tax rates tax revenues will fall.  Which will lead to a downward spiral of deficits, debt, lowered credit ratings and possible default.  But anything is better to Democrats than admitting they are wrong.

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