President Trump rarely mentions our federal spending problems. Congress sweeps it under the rug. The news media all but ignore it, even though wasteful federal spending and an uncontrolled budget threaten to bankrupt our country. In fiscal 2020, the federal budget is forecast to produce a line of deficits totaling $1 trillion a year.
But it gets worse — a lot worse.
“The federal debt increases each year more than the deficit,” said conservative blogger Christopher Chantrill. “For FY 2019, it’s estimated that the federal debt will increase by about $1.32 trillion. That’s about $228 billion more than the official ‘deficit.’”
The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget reported that, when the Congressional Budget Office released its long-term budget outlook last summer, it projected that “debt held by the public will roughly double as a share of the economy under current law, from 78 percent of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) at the end of 2018 to 152 percent of GDP in 2048 — an unprecedented level.”
But here’s the really, really scary part, as reported by the CRFB: “CBO projects spending will grow rapidly, from less than 21 percent of GDP in 2018 to over 29 percent by 2048. Revenue will grow slowly, from less than 17 percent of GDP in 2018 to nearly 20 percent of GDP. As a result, annual deficits grow from 3.9 percent of GDP in 2018 to 9.5 percent by 2048.”
This will lead to much slower growth, reduced incomes, higher interest rates, and, maybe, a fiscal crisis, said the group. Even worse, major trust funds could be headed toward insolvency, including Social Security Disability Insurance and Medicare Hospital Insurance, if reforms are not enacted.
With spending growing faster than revenue, the answer is to slow the growth of federal spending, and that means getting rid of wasteful, ineffective, outdated federal programs.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, I was a Washington reporter assigned to dig into hundreds of federal spending programs for a series of articles that newspapers gobbled up faster than I could write them. In 1980, my reporting was turned into a book, “Fat City: How Washington Wastes Your Taxes.”
The opening paragraph described my findings: “Our federal government has become a bloated, extravagant, paternalistic, remote, cluttered, disorganized, inefficient, frivolous, duplicative, archaic wasteland.”
I discovered that tens of billions of dollars were lost each year by the government through mismanagement, fraud, abuse, waste, error, theft and corruption.
There was the U.S. Assay Commission that, for 187 years, met to “do the job it had been faithfully performing since April 2, 1792, even though government officials said it was an agency that no longer performed a useful function.”
There were anti-poverty programs, totaling $30 billion, that enriched an industry of consultants.
In all, I uncovered more than 100 “nonessential programs.” Many no longer exist, but have been replaced by other equally wasteful bureaucracies.
The budget shortfall has continued to increase under Trump, “driven by a combination of Republican tax cuts that will add up to about $1.5 trillion over a decade, and increased government spending,” Bloomberg News reported last week.
It’s enough to make you sick. Is it is enough to make us stop?