A Timely Fiscal Warning

Submitted by jgordon on Tue, 05/16/2017 - 15:56

Lawmakers recently received a timely warning about the nation’s fiscal health from a particularly credible and persuasive source: Gene L. Dodaro, comptroller general of the United States and the head of the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The warning came as administration officials continued to work on President Trump’s tardy proposed 2018 budget, and as lawmakers have been considering substantial tax cuts and fundamental changes in the health care system.  

Health Care Primer

Submitted by jgordon on Thu, 05/11/2017 - 13:33

The United States health care system is larger than the gross domestic product of all but five other nations. Over the past several decades, health care costs have outpaced economic growth, inflation and personal incomes. One out of every six dollars of the nation’s annual production of goods and services is now devoted to health care. The implications of health care spending’s continued growth extend beyond traditional health care concerns, such as the availability and delivery of medical services; this growth is a major factor in national economic policy.

Discretionary Spending Primer

Submitted by jgordon on Thu, 05/11/2017 - 13:32

Federal spending falls into two basic categories: mandatory spending and discretionary spending. Programs such as Social Security and Medicare, for which benefits are awarded based on pre-determined formulas, are considered mandatory spending because once they are enacted they do not require annual congressional appropriations. Discretionary spending includes all programs for which funding is annually appropriated by Congress during the budget process.

Budget Process Primer

Submitted by jgordon on Thu, 05/11/2017 - 13:31

The official federal budget process was established in 1974 by the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act. The budget process begins in February, when the president is supposed to submit his plan to Congress after discussions with federal department and agency leaders about their needs. The president’s budget is simply a recommendation to the legislative branch, which under the Constitution has the “power of the purse" to make decisions about funding.

Taxes Primer

Submitted by jgordon on Thu, 05/11/2017 - 13:30

The United States tax system is inefficient, overly complex and does not raise enough revenue to keep pace with federal spending. The gap between tax revenue and federal spending is projected to get worse in the coming years due to the effects of our aging population and rising health care costs pushing up the cost of spending programs. Whatever disagreements there may be about the appropriate size of the federal government, the “correct” level of revenue is that which adequately covers the cost of government spending.

Almost Forgotten: The 2018 Budget Process

Submitted by jgordon on Tue, 05/09/2017 - 15:54

Amid all the debate in Washington on health care, taxes and other things, the congressional budget process for the coming year is already behind schedule and seems to have almost been forgotten.

Congress has yet to even consider a Fiscal 2018 budget resolution, despite a statutory deadline of April 15 for having one in place. The congressional budget committees are still reportedly weeks away from even getting down to business on preparation of a resolution.

GAO Suggests Steps to Improve Government Efficiency

Submitted by jgordon on Tue, 05/09/2017 - 15:52

Attacking waste is no panacea for the federal government’s fiscal problems. Those problems are simply too large, and in any case there are often political differences over whether a particular project is a waste or an important public service.

But a recent report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) is a reminder that there are still opportunities for significant savings and efficiency increases in many parts of the federal government.

Social Security Primer

Submitted by jgordon on Wed, 05/03/2017 - 10:57

Social Security is the largest program in the federal budget. It provides monthly income to over 60 million Americans -- most of whom depend on it as their largest source of retirement income. That spending is financed by a tax on worker wages. As the population ages, more people will become eligible for Social Security relative to the workers left in the workforce paying taxes.

Tax Cuts in Context: This Isn't 2001

Submitted by jgordon on Tue, 05/02/2017 - 15:48

Last week, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Gary Cohn, chairman of President Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers, unveiled a one-page document that laid out the administration’s priorities for tax reform. While a document with such little detail could hardly be considered a “tax reform plan,” it is nonetheless instructive to look at how tax changes along the lines of what the administration is seeking could impact the nation’s already-large deficits.

U.S. Congress Needs to Do Its Job

Submitted by jgordon on Sun, 04/30/2017 - 15:16

In a recent op-ed, Chase Hagaman, regional director of The Concord Coalition, and Alex Talcott, a member of Concord's New Hampshire advisory board, explain why Congress should wrap up the disappointing budget process of Fiscal 2017, removing the risk of a government shutdown and clearing the decks for work on next year’s budget. This article appeared in the Seacoast Sunday, the combined Sunday paper for the Portsmouth Herald and Foster's Daily Democrat in New Hampshire.