Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Budgeting 201: An Immediate Debt Crisis


USA vs. Cyprus: Gross Government Debt to GDP

- By: Larry Walker, II -

According to Speaker of the House John Boehner, “We do not have an immediate debt crisis.” No, then what would you call it? Seems to me it was immediate in 1995, and again in 2008, so what is it now? Are we just screwed? And according to Barack Obama, “We don’t have an immediate crisis in terms of debt. In fact, for the next 10 years, it’s gonna be in a sustainable place.” Yeah, what place is that, Wonderland? Have you people lost your minds?

The chart above is from data published by the International Monetary Fund in its World Economic Outlook Database, October 2012. Based on what's happening in Cyprus, for some reason I don't believe either of them. We had an immediate debt crisis in 1995 when our debt-to-GDP ratio reached 71%, insomuch that the government was shut down. And another in 2008 when it reached 76%, just before all hell broke loose. And now suddenly, as gross U.S. debt has surged beyond 100% of GDP, the problem is no longer immediate. If the debt isn't an immediate problem, when will it become one? Let me answer that for you.

The debt will become an immediate crisis when our economy inevitably dips into recession, a phenomenon which has occurred historically about once every 5 years since World War II. In fact, recession is exactly what's happening in Cyprus right now. But surely recession will never reoccur in the U.S., because government fixed that problem once and for all, right? I mean it cost us around $6.7 trillion over the last four years, but the problem is solved, right? With GDP surging at a robust growth rate of 0.4% (revised) in the 4th Quarter of 2012, how can our government possibly be wrong? Oh give me a break!

I believe part of what exacerbated the crisis of 2008 was an excessive amount of government debt. So what do you think is going to happen with our debt hovering above 100% of GDP, as the next crisis hits? Is the U.S. government prepared for another recession? Is there anything left in the tank? It sure doesn't look like it. Well, we're not going to sit around and let the government continue to tax us to death, and we're definitely not going for the unlawful seizure of our money and property, so I suggest you government guys get your act together and get serious about your spending problem, and that means now.

Instead of loosening standards and letting everyone who wants to – go on disability, welfare and food stamps; granting any illegal alien who desires – a free pass; and subsidizing any and everyone's health insurance bill, while the other half of us and our grandchildren get stuck with the bill, now is the time to tighten standards and cut the slack. The sequester is right! Reducing the size of government is right!

Government needs to learn how to say, “No”. It should be, ‘Sorry, you're going to have to go back to work, and you're going to have to go back to your own country, and you're going to have to chip in on taxes, because we can't have 50% of the populace taking care of everyone else.’ If our government doesn't learn how to say no, it's going to destroy this nation and along with it our freedom. Yes, the debt is an immediate crisis, and it is an imminent threat to the survival of the Republic.

The chart above is from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. I'll ask again. Does this look like it might be an immediate crisis, or just a tiny little problem years and years from now? It sure looks immediate to me, but maybe I'm just a bit more focused on surviving the unknowns, than sitting around fooling myself into thinking everything is going to be rosy ten years from now, if I just fold my hands, play a little more golf, and trust that someone else will handle it for me. Yeah, just like Cyprus, right? It's time to stop playing politics and face reality.

References:

My Data - USA vs. Cyprus: Debt to GDP

IMF: World Economic Outlook Database, October 2012

Related:

Budgeting 101: A Balanced Approach

What Does Sequestration Mean To You?

From AAA to AA- in Four Years

Uncorrelated: GDP and National Debt

#Debt

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Budgeting 101: A Balanced Approach


I do believe that at some point government has borrowed enough. Although tax revenue is directly tied to economic growth, government spending is not.

- By: Larry Walker, II -

How does one balance a budget? Let me count the ways. Spend less than you take in annually, and you’ll live within your means. But how can governments comply? Why that’s easy. Simply calculate the rate of revenue growth in the previous year, then adjust the prior year's spending level by this multiple for the current year. If a deficit ensues, trim spending back into balance. If a surplus results, pass it back to taxpayers in the form of tax rate reductions. Most of us would call this a balanced approach.

Of course proponents of big-government will retort, “It doesn’t work like that. We must spend around 50% or more than we take in, to stimulate revenue; so that we can spend around 50% more than we take in, to stimulate even more revenue; so that we can spend around 50% more than we take in, stimulating ever more revenue, ad infinitum…” Yet, it’s rather obvious that the modern day extreme left-wing’s touted correlation between government borrowing and economic growth is nonexistent, as we proved in – Uncorrelated: GDP and National Debt.

It might be helpful for far left-wingers to remember the words of the Original Democrat, Andrew Jackson, who once said, “I am one of those who do not believe that a national debt is a national blessing, but rather a curse to a republic; inasmuch as it is calculated to raise around the administration a moneyed aristocracy dangerous to the liberties of the country.” For more, see my post entitled, From AAA to AA- in Four Years.

You see, “For Jackson politics was very personal,” says H.W. Brands, an Andrew Jackson biographer at the University of Texas. “He hated not just the federal debt. He hated debt at all.” Before he was president, Jackson was a land speculator in Tennessee. He learned to hate debt when a land deal went bad and left him with massive debt and some worthless paper notes. Thus, unlike POTUS #44, Jackson brought practical business experience to the White House.

When he ran for president, Jackson knew his enemy: banks and the national debt. He called it “the national curse”. In Jackson's mind, debt was “a moral failing”, says Brands. “The idea you could somehow acquire stuff through debt almost seemed like black magic.” But now days, if you listen closely to the Democratic Party, its enemy is no longer the national debt, but rather the average, anti-debt, fiscally responsible, Tea Party patriot.

The Balanced Approach

What would the federal government’s surpluses and deficits look like had it followed a balanced approach since 1929? Per the chart below, having begun with a surplus of $1 billion in 1929, the federal government would have realized a surplus of $835 billion in the 3rd quarter of 2012, compared to an actual deficit of around $1.1 trillion. Of course, all surpluses along the way could have been returned to taxpayers through periodic tax rate reductions, making income tax compliance at least somewhat worthy of the effort.

Under the balanced approach, when all spending is totaled from 1929 through 2012, the federal government would have spent a total of $39.4 trillion, versus the $66.9 trillion actually spent, for savings of $27.5 trillion. That means instead of a national debt fast approaching $17 trillion, we could be sitting on a national surplus of around $10.5 trillion.

The Unbalanced Approach

In contrast, what has the federal government’s unbalanced approach yielded? Per the second chart (below), having begun with a surplus of $1 billion in 1929, the federal government wound up running a budget deficit of approximately $1.1 trillion in the 3rd quarter of 2012. As you can see, the main imbalance has occurred since the year 2008, which is when the federal government adopted its current philosophy, where expenditures are completely decoupled from revenue growth – as if spending is suddenly a function of an imaginary 22nd Century economic boom. Meanwhile, approximately $6.7 trillion has been added to the debt since 2008, and the economy grew at a paltry annual rate of 0.4% (revised) in the 4th Quarter of 2012.

Conclusion

Although federal tax revenue is a function of economic growth, government spending is not. In other words, as the economy grows, tax revenue increases; and as it shrinks, tax revenue declines. Anyone who doesn’t understand this should return to the 6th grade for a refresher in basic math. On the other hand, government spending is a function of revenue. That is to say, as tax revenue rises and falls, so follows the amount available for government expenditures. Surpluses and deficits are directly linked to the level of government spending. When government spends less than it takes in, there is a surplus; when it spends more than it takes in, a deficit. It’s really that simple.

If the federal government is to ever regain control over spending, it must start with the rate of revenue increase (or decrease) in the previous year, since this is the only reasonable way of projecting the amount available for the current year, and then adjust its current year spending level accordingly (up or down). As soon as a deficit appears, the role of government is to trim spending back into balance. When a surplus results, government’s role is to pass the savings back to taxpayers, in the form of tax rate reductions. This we call, “the balanced approach” – and there is none other. Don't patronize me. There is really only one question, Will the Democratic Party ever recover its bygone common sense?

Reference:

My Worksheet on Google Drive

BEA: Table 3.2. Federal Government Current Receipts and Expenditures

Related:

From AAA to AA- in Four Years

Uncorrelated: GDP and National Debt

#Debt

Saturday, March 9, 2013

What Does Sequestration Mean To You?


Government is the Problem

- By: Larry Walker II -

“Originally passed as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011 on the heels of the debt ceiling compromise, the sequester was intended to pressure the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (the “Supercommittee”) to agree on a budget of $1.5 trillion by way of spending cuts and revenue increases over the next decade.”

The above excerpt is from the National Council on Disability’s webpage entitled, What Will Sequestration Mean for People with Disabilities? A similar blurb may now be found on about every other government agency website, followed by a breakdown of how many disabled, homeless, widows and orphans will be left for dead, unless the federal government repeals its week-old budgetary cuts and instead raises taxes by around 40.7% across-the-board, which is about what it would take to come anywhere close to balancing the federal budget without such cuts.

But, the real question is what does the sequestration mean to you? I can’t answer that, but I can tell you what it means to me. What the sequestration means to me is that the U.S. government has decayed to the point of passing dummy laws, solely for the purpose of pressuring the very lawmakers who pass them, to enact real laws. In other words, government enacted the Sequester as law; solely as a means of pressuring itself into repealing it, and when its attempt failed, the mock law remained permanent.

I mean it’s akin to me signing a blood covenant stating that, “In my household, we will do without cable television, cell phone data plans, dining out, movies, snacks, and all other non-necessities, until such time as we actually have the money to pay for it,” but doing so, solely for the purpose of pressuring myself into deciding which we are going to do without – cable television, cell phone data plans, dining out, movies, snacks, or all other non-necessities. However, since there already wasn’t enough money to go around, and since I had already signed the covenant in my own blood, there was really nothing else to decide. So why didn’t I just make that decision from the get go? Actually, I did. “To thine own self be true.” ~ Anonymous

The lesson for government: Don’t pass a law you don’t intend to enforce. And for the public: Government is not the solution to our problems, government is the problem. Signing a bill into law, solely for the purpose of pressuring lawmakers to repeal it, and then whining about it when they refuse, is indicative of the kind of leadership emanating from the White House these days. “In America you have a right to be stupid – if you want to be.” ~ John Kerry, Secretary of State (2/26/2013). Yeah, so who’s looking stupid now?