Members of Congress are giving each other high fives, pleased as punch that they reached a deal on the federal budget, while also increasing the government debt limit.
Even hard-to-please President Trump was taking a victory lap last week over the budget deal, in part because such an agreement avoids another damaging and embarrassing federal government shutdown, of which there have been several in recent years — and shutdowns are not good PR during an election cycle.
Federal budgets are a quagmire of confusing data. It’s difficult to tell who wins and who loses in a budget deal. Here’s a snapshot summary of winners: The nation’s short-term economy, Democrats and their sacred-cow programs, Republicans who get more military spending.
Just about everyone else loses, because this latest budget deal will produce a deficit of nearly $1 trillion, which is the difference between what the government collects in revenue vs. what it spends on programs and services. Government has to borrow to cover the revenue/expenses gap.
Among the aforementioned services is interest on the government debt, which is expected to approach $400 billion this fiscal year. What’s worse is that fiscal experts say interest payments will be nearly $1 trillion a year in less than 10 years.
Why should we care? Just about everyone has debt, right? It just keeps revolving, growing but never really disappearing.
Here’s the thing about mounting debt — and it’s what keeps many Americans awake at night — at some point you have to pay what you owe. It’s just how the process works.
Again, why should the federal government’s budget problems worry you? How many of you reading this editorial receive Social Security benefits? Are they helping you survive in your day-to-day lives?
If you answered yes to any or all of those questions, the federal government’s budget problems will not help you sleep at night, because a recent report from the Social Security Board of Trustees says the system’s reserve fund is disappearing, and could be gone within 15 years without some kind of help from the executive and legislative branches of the federal government. Think — taxes.
What that means is that everyone on Social Security could see their monthly benefit check reduced by nearly 25 percent in the near future.
It’s what fiscal conservatives refer to as profligate spending, borrowing money to such a great degree that paying off the loan is virtually impossible. And here’s the kicker:
The debt is divided into two categories, intergovernmental debt and public debt. Most of the intergovernmental debt is owned by the Social Security Trust Fund, money the federal government has borrowed from what folks have paid into the fund, and money the federal government does not have to pay back to the fund, now totaling about $2.8 trillion.
A big chunk of the public debt is held by China, about $1.2 trillion, and the Chinese government is under considerable pressure from the Trump administration’s tariff threats, which probably puts the Chinese in a dark, unforgiving mood.
And you thought your outstanding loans were a headache.
Kicking the debt can down the road to be handled by somebody else is really poor public policy, a point retiring 4th District County Supervisor Peter Adam has been making for years, but that has essentially fallen on deaf ears.
Government debt, student loan debt, credit card debt — they’re all major problems just waiting to pounce. Paying off loans is a little like saying goodbye to a friend you may never see again, but it’s something that, eventually, has to be done.