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Government Spending

Predicting the Fiscal Future
Posted By: Michael Tasselmyer - 02/06/13

On Tuesday, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued "The Budget and Economic Outlook: Fiscal Years 2013 to 2023," giving taxpayers an in-depth look at the economic situation our nation will most likely be facing over the next ten years. The report covers far more ground than I can go over in the space this blog affords me, but there are some noteworthy findings I thought were worth sharing.

  • Federal debt will remain very high. CBO's forecast predicts that federal debt held by the public, as a percentage of GDP, will stay around 73 percent over the next five years- a historically high figure. For some context, the average debt/GDP percentage over the last four decades was nearly half that, at 39 percent. The federal deficit in 2013 is projected to slip below $1 trillion for the first time in five years -- down to $845 billion, assuming sequester cuts take effect in March. But CBO expects total debt to keep climbing, as deficits amount to $7 trillion over 2014-2023. 
  • The recovery hasn't arrived yet. CBO doesn't expect actual GDP to match potential GDP until 2017. In 2013, unemployment is expected to remain around 8 percent, and interest and inflation rates will likely remain extremely low. By 2014, CBO expects more substantial growth in GDP and a slight dip in unemployment rates, down to 7.6 percent. The projected annual average by 2019 is expected to be about 5.2 percent.
  • Federal revenues and spending are both projected to increase. Recent changes in tax policy, as well as an expected growth in income from improving economic conditions, will mean more tax revenue for the federal government in coming years. However, federal outlays are expected to grow as well -- and remain higher than revenues for the foreseeable future. By 2023, federal outlays are expected to reach 23 percent of GDP (and on an upward trajectory), while revenues would remain around 19 percent of GDP.

When discussing CBO's projections, it's important to keep in mind that their baseline forecasts are made under the assumption that current law will remain in place over the next ten years. No forecast is perfect, but this gives budgetary analysts a benchmark against which we can compare how future cuts or spending increases would affect the budget relative to the path it's on now. The forecast could be significantly impacted depending on how Congress decides to act regarding:

  • Sequester cuts set to take effect March 1st;
  • The Continuing Resolution set to expire March 27th; and
  • The statutory limit on federal debt, postponed from taking effect until May.

The Washington Post has a nice visual summary of some of the data from CBO's report, including a helpful graph comparing how health care spending and debt interest payments are expected to grow relative to programs like defense spending and Social Security.

Also, NTUF's own Demian Brady was featured on last month in a piece highlighting where Congress might begin trimming down the deficits CBO has projected. It features preliminary BillTally data from the 112th Congress.

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Keep the Sequester... and Keep Cutting More
Posted By: Brandon Arnold - 02/06/13

The sequester spending cuts are scheduled to take effect in a few weeks and politicians are scrambling to find a way to delay or scrap them.  Earlier this week, President Obama proposed postponing the cuts again in exchange for a combination of tax hikes and targeting spending reductions.  Meanwhile, a group of hawkish Republican legislators led by Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA), Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), and Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) are trying to replace cuts to military spending with savings that would be achieved by reducing the size of the federal workforce through attrition.  

Let’s try to put their efforts in context. According to new numbers from the Congressional Budget Office, the sequester will reduce spending by $995 billion over the 10 year budget window.  While that is a lot of money, it’s but a small percentage of the $47.2 trillion the federal government is projected to spend over that same timeframe.  It seems even smaller when you consider that nearly $7 trillion of this spending will be heaped onto our national debt.  It should be pretty clear to anyone that even with the sequester, we have an enormous debt and deficit problem.

This is what makes efforts to “offset” the sequester so peculiar. If we’re ever going to approach a balanced budget, the sequester should be viewed as a starting point, not the finish line.  Spending reductions offered up by President Obama or these Members of Congress should be considered as additions – not replacements – to the level of sequester cuts.  To do otherwise, is to implicitly accept the addition of a jaw-dropping $7 trillion to our national debt over the next 10 years.  

At the same time, some including Sen. Inhofe have proposed giving military leaders additional flexibility when making cuts to the Pentagon budget. This is certainly not an ideal solution, since it could open the door to gimmicks and oversight problems. Still, it could allow for more prudent decisions and would be a preferable option to reducing, delaying or eviscerating the sequester.

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Play the State of the Union "Price the Proposals" Game
Posted By:  - 02/05/13

Think you can guess how much the President's 2013 State of the Union Address could add up to? 

Enter our "Price the Proposals" contest and your best prediction could win you a prize!


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The Late Edition: February 4, 2013
Posted By:  - 02/04/13

Today’s Taxpayer News!

Today NTU sent a letter urging the Idaho Legislature to oppose Governor Otter's call for a state health insurance exchange as it violates the Idaho Health Care Freedom Act.

Take a swing at guessing how much President Obama’s State of the Union proposals will cost here, and you could win a $50 iTunes Gift card OR an autographed copy of Steve Forbes' The Freedom Manifesto: Why Free Markets Are Moral and Big Government Isn't. Enter now!  

Have you caught the latest Speaking of Taxpayers podcast? Get updated on the fiscal costs of immigration reform, the latest taxpayer news from the state level, and more. Listen here

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State of the Union: Second Annual "Price the Proposals" Contest
Posted By: Douglas Kellogg - 02/04/13


On Tuesday, February 12th, President Barack Obama will deliver his 2013 State of the Union Address (SOTU) to Congress. In this speech, the President will have the opportunity to tell the nation what his policy priorities will be as he takes office for his second term. How much will his renewed agenda cost taxpayers?

Play “Price the Proposals,” NTU’s “Price is Right”-style game, and win prizes if you can answer that question!

Each year, the National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTUF) tallies an estimated cost of the President’s State of the Union speech…

Predict what you think the total cost of the President’s SOTU proposals will be, submit your entry below, and if your guess is one of the closest to NTUF’s assessment, we’ll send you a prize!

The top predictions will win a $50 iTunes Gift Card, or a signed copy of Steve Forbes’ The Freedom Manifesto: Why Free Markets Are Moral and Big Government Isn’t. 

Don’t forget: Join NTU, NTUF, and your fellow taxpayers online for conversation and insight during the speech.

1. Join NTU experts in our Google+ Hangout live on YouTube and the Government Bytes Blog (open 20 min. before speech)

2. Tweet away on Twitter using #SOTUcost to join the conversation

3. Check out Facebook for poll questions and discussion

Deadline for entry: February 12th at 10 p.m. ET!


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Speaking of Taxpayers, Feb. 1 (AUDIO): Predicting Costs of Immigration Reform; State Update, & More
Posted By:  - 02/03/13

Subscribe to our podcast "Speaking of Taxpayers" via iTunes!


NTUF's Michael Tasselmyer joins the podcast to discuss potential costs for immigration reform measures, NTUF's Dan Barrett has some "Wild Card" bills that might surprise you, and NTU State Affairs Manager Lee Schalk delivers a summary of all the action on the state level. Plus the Outrage of the Week!
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The Late Edition: January 31, 2013
Posted By:  - 01/31/13

Today’s Taxpayer News!

NTU’s Pete Sepp explains the role of the income tax in vastly expanding government in this article from the Media Research Center.

Does more government spending really alleviate poverty? Check out this chart from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University illustrating the real cause of poverty: unemployment.


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Debt Dilemma
Posted By: Pete Sepp - 01/23/13

Another week, another debt ceiling struggle. That’s what many taxpayers must be thinking as House Republicans ready their response to President Obama’s take-my-marbles-and-go-home stance that he get an unconditional increase in the federal borrowing limit.

The House Republican package pairs a short-term debt ceiling boost with a congressional salary-suspension gimmick that takes effect if Congress once again fails to pass a budget. Once again, Washington appears unable and unwilling to confront the fiscal forces that will make future debt showdowns inevitable. These are the entitlement programs that will, left unreformed, devour an increasingly large share of the federal budget and trigger monstrous middle-class tax increases in the years (no longer the many decades) ahead. At the same time, military and discretionary programs offer opportunities for savings that elected leaders time and again leave on the table. Failing to address these issues makes a future hard default increasingly likely.

Tactically, the GOP package is somewhat understandable, and perhaps even palatable. The offer dulls one of Obama’s rhetorical bludgeons (that Republicans are about to risk default/downgrade/doom of civilization for spending reductions) while calling the President’s bluff (that he’s willing to talk about such reductions outside the context of debt ceiling debate). Further, it puts pressure on the Senate to finally pass a budget and tell the American people how it plans to address our fiscal problems. The short extension will give Congress and the White House that “outside the context” – shifting focus to other deadlines such as the $109 billion sequester and providing room to craft deeper reforms.

On balance, approving another boost in the debt ceiling is never cause for celebration. It is another reminder of Washington’s wanton overspending. Indeed, when President Obama waved his sanctimonious finger earlier this month at reluctant Republicans for the equivalent of eating a huge meal and skipping out on the bill, he revealed his cluelessness. Raising the debt limit isn’t “paying the bill,” it’s passing the bill along to another hapless generation of taxpayers who will be left to starve financially.

Nonetheless, the alternative, caving completely to the President’s ultimatum and passing a long-term increase in the ceiling, is much less appetizing. Short-term debt extensions were commonplace when Ronald Reagan was President and Democrats controlled one or both chambers of Congress and we are hopeful that this extension will create an opportunity to enact the real fiscal reforms that are essential.

Still, call us underwhelmed, as we await the end of the sideshow and the beginning of the main event taxpayers keep getting promised.

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The Late Edition: January 22, 2013
Posted By:  - 01/22/13

Today’s Taxpayer News!

Sepp explains why it’s a good thing for taxpayers and banks alike that the Senate defeated the renewal of the Transaction Account Guarantee (TAG) program in this article from Heartland.

It’s been four years since the Democratic-controlled Senate passed a budget, and Republican House Speaker John Boehner’s office recently released this infographic to visually illustrate just what could have been accomplished in that time period. Read the full story from Yahoo! News.

No Budget

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Harper on Spending Transparency in Committees
Posted By: Dan Barrett - 01/09/13

Via the Washington Examiner, the Cato Institute's Director of Information Policy Studies, Jim Harper, asks why the Appropriations Committees in both federal chambers don't use technology to better convey their spending intentions when considering legislation:

"For better or worse, the movement of money is a reflection of our values, but the appropriations process is the cloudiest mirror America ever gazed into. More than a trillion dollars move each year based on appropriators' instructions, but Congress's spending decisions are so cloistered in arcane language and inaccessible documentation, the appropriation committees might as well be a pair of mountain monasteries.

"Why not publish proposed spending in appropriations bills using digital formats and uniform codes to indicate what agencies, bureaus, programs, and projects would get the money, as well as what they're supposed to do with it? So far, appropriators have deeply lagged their colleagues in Congress and the rest of the government. There's no sign they plan to change that."

Props to Jim in his efforts to not only change the way government releases information for taxpayers to better understand government but to be active in allowing Americans to voice their opinions on proposed legislation through his website. Check it out & you’ll see some NTUF BillTally figures there!

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