WASHINGTON-With the federal government projected to run $137 billion in deficits without counting the Social Security surplus over the next five years, so-called "unified" budget surpluses should not be used for either tax cuts or spending increases. That was the message of a letter sent to members of Congress today by the Concord Coalition, a nonpartisan budget watchdog group.
"As you consider how to cast your vote on various fiscal year-end proposals to spend the surplus, Concord cannot state often enough or with too much emphasis that this year's unified surplus-and the projected surpluses over the next ten years-consists entirely of Social Security's annual trust fund surpluses. Without dipping into funds earmarked for Social Security, there is no budget surplus to spend," writes Concord Coalition Executive Director Martha Phillips in the letter.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, from this year through the end of 2008 both the unified budget surplus and the Social Security system's surplus are projected to be nearly $1.6 trillion. In addition, the discretionary appropriations caps enacted in the 1997 balanced budget agreement call for reducing discretionary appropriations by nearly 10 percent after accounting for inflation between now and 2002.
"Concord is increasingly concerned that the election year temptation to use Social Security surpluses for other purposes will lead to a dangerous breakdown in fiscal discipline. The pay-as-you-go rules and discretionary spending caps have worked well for nearly a decade. They should not be suspended, eliminated, or violated on the mistaken assumption that they are no longer needed," writes Phillips.
The Concord Coalition is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization seeking to eliminate federal budget deficits and ensure Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are secure for all generations. Concord was founded in 1992 by the late former Senator Paul Tsongas (D-Mass.), former Senator Warren Rudman (R-N.H.), and former Secretary of Commerce Peter Peterson. Former Senator Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) was named a co-chair of the Coalition in 1997.