WASHINGTON--Despite claims the country is wiping away 30 years of red ink, the national debt continues to grow. While politicians of both parties take credit for a budget "surplus," the national debt has grown by over $110 billion ($110,639,535,002.46) so far in fiscal year 1998. With one day remaining in the fiscal year, this year's debt will be greater than last year's, continuing a streak that dates back to 1960.
"The growing national debt is an unwelcome guest at today's surplus party," said Concord Coalition National Policy Director Robert L. Bixby. "But, politicians who energetically boast about surpluses today will have a difficult time explaining to their constituents in a few years why they need to raise the debt limit."
Many people understandably wonder how the national debt can continue to increase when the government claims to be running a surplus. The answer lies in the fact that most politicians are referring to the "unified" budget, which lumps together all revenue and all spending from both federal funds and trust funds--like Social Security.
The projections of "unified" budget surpluses assume continued borrowing in excess of $100 billion annually from the Social Security and other federal trust funds. Social Security's surpluses have been credited to the program's trust fund and the money has been loaned back to the Treasury to help defray the costs of other government spending. For as long as this practice continues, the national debt will rise--even as the President and Congress take credit for creating a new era of budget surpluses.
"Concord continues to emphasize that without using funds earmarked for Social Security, there is no budget surplus," said Bixby. "It is inconsistent for Congress to say that Social Security is 'off-budget' while at the same time using the Social Security surplus to pay for tax cuts or new spending."
The Concord Coalition is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization seeking to eliminate federal budget deficits and ensure that 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.
THE BOTTOM LINE
|The National Debt on September 29, 1998:||$5,523,785,546,399.80|
|The National Debt on September 30, 1997:||$5,413,146,011,397.34|
|FY 1998 National Debt Increase To Date:||$110,639,535,002.46|