Our Budget Boondoggle

Perusing the Congressional Budge Office website, I came across some fascinating numbers from the Federal budget. For instance, where does Federal revenue primarily come from? Let's look at the historical budget numbers. In 2003, personal income taxes provided 44.5% of all revenues; in 2000 it was 49.6%. Corporate income taxes provided 7.4% of all revenues; in 2000 it was 10.2%. But in that time, total Federal revenues have dropped from 2 trillion dollars to 1.78 trillion dollars, while federal spending has gone from 1.79 trillion to 2.16 trillion - almost an exact reversal. The result?

In 2004, the total interest paid on the accumulated debt that we've run up in the past was $322 billion. In 2007, it is projected to go over a half a trillion dollars and keep going up sharply for the foreseeable future. There are approximately 132 million individual taxpayers in the US (not counting those who pay no taxes or get a refund, just those who pay add revenue to the government). Which means that the average taxpayer paid $2439 this year just to pay the interest on the debt, which is now 15% of the entire Federal budget. And with the deficit spending continuing to go up, that number will continue to rise. But that's not all...

That number is actually considerably lower than the real debt, both current and projected, because it includes what is facetiously called the Social Security Trust Fund. Social Security and Medicare run a surplus every year of around $160 billion. That surplus was supposed to build up until the baby boomers retired to insure that there was enough money to pay their social security without breaking the back of the much smaller next generation who will continue to pay in to the system after they retire. But because Social Security is part of the general fund, that $160 billion makes the deficit look smaller than it is and essentially becomes another debt we'll have to pay in the future in higher taxes.

What does all of this mean? Well first, it means that all the talk about tax cuts is simply fraudulent. There was no tax cut in either 2001 or 2003, there was only a tax delay. If spending keeps going up while you cut revenues, you only pass on the cost of our current spending to future budgets. Just like we are now paying much higher taxes than necessary in order to cover the overspending of the past, in the future we will be even more overtaxed to pay for our overspending now. We are essentially borrowing from ourselves, but eventually we have to pay the piper through higher taxes. So Bush and the Congress didn't actually cut your taxes, they just deferred them until later, when you'll not only have to pay the normal (and itself vastly too high) amount of Federal taxes, but you'll have to pay even more to make up for the debt we're running up now.

Secondly, it means that we have got to get serious about budget restraint. We simply have to stop spending so much. And that has to begin with putting an end to the unbelievable giveaways and loopholes given to the corporate fatcats who buy off the politicians. Corporate welfare in the United States amounts to hundreds of billions of dollars per year in the form of tax breaks, subsidies (including farm subsidies, the bulk of which go to corporate agribusiness firms, not to local family farmers), and other payouts.

Citizens for Tax Justice reports that from 1993 to 1995, AT&T received $3.1 billion in tax subsidies; in the same time period, they laid off 40,000 workers. Their pretax profits in that same time frame? $20.8 billion. And they're not alone. The ten largest companies with the most jobs cut during that time period received, in total, $8.3 billion in Federal tax subsidies and laid off over 134,000 people at the same time, while their collective corporate profits were almost $61 billion. We are in essence transferring billions of dollars from individual taxpayers to these hugely profitable corporations. Last year's energy bill contained $22 billion in corporate welfare, the result of $110 million worth of lobbying efforts by energy corporations (not a bad return on the investment). The Medicare prescription benefits bill, after around $140 million worth of lobbying campaigns by drug companies and HMOs, gives away nearly $150 billion to those same companies, according to a Boston University study.

Of course that's just a start. We also need to get the Federal government out of a whole range of areas they simply do not belong. Half of all law enforcement spending in the United States at all levels goes to police consensual crimes like drug use, prostitution and gambling. It should all be done away with. The bottom line is that we have to overhaul the Federal government from top to bottom. If a corporation ran its books the way the government does, the upper management would all be in prison. It's our money, folks, and we are allowing the government to take it from us and give it away to those who paid for their election. Enough is enough.

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Hello? Anybody at home?

The bit about these being "tax deferments" was a very nice piece of imagery.

One would have thought that this issue would have attracted some comments by now.

Hey Wes. I thought it was a great line too. No respect, I tell ya, I get no respect at all. :)