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Economy: Budgets and Debt

When the Constitution was written, the intent was that our government exist solely to benefit the American people. It follows that anything the government spends money on should be for the benefit of the nation as a whole.

For the most part, our government gets the money to pay for these services from just one source - taxes. Even if it decides to spend more than it has received in taxes and borrows the rest, the money to repay the debt will need to come from taxes.

In this section we'll inform you on how the government is managing the money it spends and borrows.

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Two year budget will assure trillion-dollar deficits for years

2018-Feb-09By: Barry Shatzman

After two shutdowns of the federal government within a month, Congress finally passed a budget for the 2018 and 2019 fiscal years by simply raining money on everyone. And by creating some of the biggest deficits in the country's history.

The budget increases yearly defense spending by about $75 billion and non-defense spending by about $60 billion.

Some of the things the budget does...

o Funds the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for the next 10 years and community health centers for 2 years. it also provides help to those on Medicare... including the elimination of the doughnut hole for prescription drugs.

o Provides $4 billion over two years to speed up appointments at Veterans Health Administration (VA) health centers.

o Provides $20 billion for infrastructure.

o Eliminates the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) - a committee established by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) to recommend ways to reduce Medicare costs (though it was never implemented).

o Creates a committee to address threats to pensions.

The expenses are not necessarily a problem. Paying for them could be...

All that is made possible because the budget also suspends the debt limit for two years and eliminates the sequester - the across-the-board reductions enacted in 2013.

Of course, the money to pay for all that has to come from somewhere.

It won't come from taxes, because the tax bill passed by Congress and signed by the president in December is projected to reduce tax revenues by $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years.

That only leaves borrowing. Under the new budget, the deficit - the amount the government would need to borrow - would be about $1 trillion in each of the next two years.

If these policies continue in combination with the lowered tax rates, it "would cement the return of trillion-dollar deficits," the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) reported in their analysis.

Congressional Republicans pass tax reduction. Who benefits?

2017-Dec-20  (Updated: 2017-Dec-29)By: Rob Dennis

Republicans in Congress have passed a bill to temporarily reduce taxes for most Americans, although it ultimately would raise taxes for many. The tax reductions are skewed heavily toward the richest Americans.

The bill also gives corporations a 40-percent tax reduction - lowering their maximum tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent. The corporate tax reductions are permanent.

Eighty percent of taxpayers will see a tax cut next year, according to a Tax Policy Center analysis of the final bill. The cuts, however, would disproportionately benefit the wealthy.

In 2018, for example...

o Individuals with incomes between $49,000 and $86,000 will see an average tax reduction of about $900, or 1.6 percent of their after-tax income.

o Individuals with incomes of more than $733,000 will see an average tax reduction of about $50,000, or 3.4 percent of their after-tax income.

In the Senate, the bill was passed using a process known as budget reconciliation. This allowed Senate Republicans to pass the bill with a simple majority, without subjecting it to a filibuster.

A bill passed using budget reconciliation may not cause an increase in the country's deficit after 10 years. However, the reduction in the highest corporate tax rate amounts to a $1 trillion tax cut for businesses over the next decade. With those cuts being permanent, the bill needed make up that $1 trillion shortfall. It does that by re-increasing individual rates over that time.

By 2027 more than half of Americans will find themselves paying more in taxes, according to the Tax Policy Center.

Some beneficiaries...

One group that will benefit from the bill are those who receive income through a pass-through company. The tax on income received through these companies will be reduced by 20 percent through 2025.

Those who will directly benefit from the pass-through provision include President Trump (who pressed for the bill) and several Republicans (who wrote it).

Foreign investors also benefit. Foreign investors own more than a third of U.S. corporate stock. The reduced corporate tax rate will save them more than $50 billion a year - money that could have gone to help Americans.

The bill also will allow people to pass on twice as much to their heirs tax-free (up to $22 million for married couples).

The new tax policy is expected to add nearly $1.5 trillion to America's debt in the next decade.

Miscellaneous provisions in the bill

The bill essentially repeals Obamacare's individual mandate starting in 2019 (Click here to see how).

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates this would increase insurance premiums by 10 percent - leading to 13 million fewer Americans purchasing health care insurance a decade from now.

Eliminating the mandate was done to offset some of the lost revenue from lower taxes - as the federal government will not have to subsidize the cost of the insurance some people won't purchase.

The bill also allows oil drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

Update 2017-Dec-22: President Trump signed the bill into law.

Debt Ceiling looms after year-long respite

2017-Jun-06By: Barry Shatzman

The federal government is again reaching a point where it must increase the debt limit or default on payments it owes.

The debt limit has nothing directly to do with how much debt the country incurs. Congress controls much of that through taxation and spending. But when there's a deficit that exceeds the amount the government is allowed to borrow, one of two things will happen...

o Congress will raise the debt limit, allowing the government to borrow more

o The government will not have enough money to pay debts it has incurred.

Technically, the government already has reached the debt limit. In 2016, Congress extended it through this March. Since then, the Treasury Department has been moving cash from one account to another to pay debts.

But there might be enough money for only another few months due to less than expected tax revenue, according to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

Threatened government shutdown put on hold

2017-Apr-28By: Rob Dennis

A possible government shutdown was put off for at least a week as Congress approved a continuing resolution (CR).

The temporary bill that had been funding the federal government expires at the end of the month. To avoid a shutdown, Congress must pass a spending plan ? or keep extending current funding levels.

A shutdown appeared possible when President Trump said he would not sign a spending bill unless it included funding for his proposed border wall. He later backed down from that demand. Trump says he will request money for the wall in the budge for the upcoming fiscal year.

Estimates for the cost of the wall range from $21 billion to $70 billion.

Even though Republicans control both houses of Congress as well as the presidency, they need support from Democrats in order to pass the spending plan, which is subject to the 60-vote threshold of the filibuster in the Senate.

Congress approves Debt Ceiling increase

2014-Feb-11  (Updated: 2014-Feb-12)By: Barry Shatzman

The Senate has voted to approve raising the nation's debt limit enough to cover spending through March 2015. The bill passed the House of Representatives on Feb. 11. It is expected to be signed by President Obama.

As we have explained, raising the debt limit does not increase spending by the government. It merely allows the U.S. Treasury to borrow money to pay for services previously approved by Congress (and signed by the President) in a budget or other spending bill.

For more on the passage of the bill by the House of Representatives, read this Politico.com story.

For more on the passage of the bill by the Senate, read this Politico.com story.

To see how your representative voted on the debt limit extension, click here.
To see how your senators voted on the debt limit extension, click here.

Why does this bill have a funny name? See our explanation.

Congress restores government funding through January

2013-Oct-17  (Updated: 2013-Oct-18)By: Barry Shatzman

Government employees returned to work, services resumed, and the Treasury Department was assured it would be able to pay the country's bills after Congress agreed to end the most recent shutdown of the government and raise the debt limit.

Most government services shut down Oct 1. when Congressional Republicans refused to pass a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government running into December unless implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was rolled back or delayed.

The Continuing Resolution that Congress passed on Oct. 16 contained none of those restrictions. It will keep government operations funded through Jan. 15. A new budget (or at least a new Continuing Resolution) will be needed by then to avoid another shutdown. It also raised the debt limit through Feb. 7.

For more, read the New York Times story.

Bill preventing government shutdown has corporate perks

2013-Mar-22

Congress has approved a temporary spending bill to avoid a federal government shutdown later this month and help diminish some of the impacts of the spending cuts from the "sequester." The bill will fund government activities for the next six months.

While the bill retained the sequester's $85 billion in spending cuts for this fiscal year, it gave the defense department and some other agencies the flexibility to cut specific programs rather than slashing their budgets across-the-board.

The Pentagon announced on March 21 that it will delay issuing furlough notices to civilian employees by two weeks while it evaluates the impact of the legislation.

The agriculture section of the bill prevented furloughs for thousands of meat inspectors by transferring $55 million from other agriculture programs.

A series of riders also were added to the bill.

o The Farmer Assurance Provision requires the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to override any court decision that would prohibit the planting and sale of crops from genetically modified seeds, if requested to by the corporation involved. This rider was added anonymously. For more on this, read the RT News story or this New York Daily News story.

o Another rider rescinded two regulations that provided transparency, disclosure and investment protections for farmers in their contracts with poultry companies.

o The bill also made permanent four gun-rights provisions, including one banning any federal rule requiring gun dealers to conduct physical inventories to determine whether firearms have been lost or stolen. For more on the gun provisions, read the New York Times story.

Meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration on Friday listed 149 air traffic control facilities at small airports around the country that will close starting early next month as part of the sequester cuts.

The bill was HR-933, Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act.

Ryan budget would cut taxes for wealthy, services for poor

2013-Mar-12By: Rob Dennis

Rep. Paul Ryan unveiled a budget plan Tuesday that would cut taxes, increase defense spending, and slash social programs.

Ryan, who chairs the House Budget Committee, proposed cutting spending by $4.6 trillion over the next decade and lowering the highest tax rate to 25 percent.

Nearly 70 percent of the cuts would come from health care programs.

The budget would:

o Repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act - President Barack Obama's 2010 healthcare reform law - (read Lobby99's description of the law).

o Cut $700 billion from Medicare - the national health insurance program for those 65 years old and older. The plan would change Medicare to give seniors the option to purchase private insurance through an exchange and pay for it with federal vouchers. The changes would begin in 2024 for workers born in 1959 or later.

o Cut Medicaid - which provides health care to those with low incomes - by $756 billion.

o Cut almost $1 trillion from programs including farm subsidies, food stamps, student loans, and federal worker pensions, though the budget doesn't provide details about those cuts.

o Cut the federal work force by 10 percent over two years.

o Return $500 billion to defense spending cut as part of the "sequester."

In addition, the highest marginal tax rate - which was raised in January from 35 percent to 39.6 percent on income greater than $400,000 - would be lowered to 25 percent. The maximum corporate tax rate would be lowered from 35 percent to 25 percent.

Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray will release a separate budget proposal this week. Her plan reportedly seeks to replace the "sequester" with $1.85 trillion in savings, evenly divided between spending cuts and the elimination of some tax breaks. You can see the differences in the two plans in this Washington Post chart.

For more, read the story in The Hill.

To read the complete budget plan submitted by Ryan, click here

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