Tag Archives: budget deficit

Raising Debt Limit Pushes Voters to Frustration Limit

By Gary Palmer

While Republicans and Democrats have thus far accomplished nothing in regard to the debt limit, one thing they have succeeded in doing is raising the frustration limit for millions of Americans.

American voters are accustomed to political drama and gamesmanship in Washington and, for the most part, have largely ignored it at election time. The emergence of the Tea Party movement in April 2009 was the first evidence that voters were fed up enough to organize against the political establishment in both parties. This new level of frustration among voters was displayed by the impact of the Tea Party in the 2010 election.

So while Congress and President Obama have failed to do anything about the debt limit, recent polls indicate they have certainly succeeded in raising the public’s frustration limit to an all-time high. New polling data now indicates that deadlock over the debt limit and the failure to enact sensible cuts in government spending have turned public opinion against Obama, as well as the Democrats and the Republicans in Congress.

The Pew Research Center poll released on July 28th reported that only 41 percent of all registered voters say they want Obama to be re-elected, a ten-point drop since May. Among critical independent voters, there has been a steep drop-off in support for him, with only 31 percent supporting his reelection. In fact, among independent voters, a generic Republican candidate holds an eight-point advantage.

Public frustration is even worse when it comes to Congress.

According to a July 27th Gallup daily tracking poll, 41 percent approve of the way Obama has handled the negotiations to raise the federal debt limit, while only 31 percent approve of the way Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner has handled it and only 23 percent approve of Democrat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s efforts. In fact, the only good news for Republicans is that even at 48 percent, Boehner’s disapproval rate is lower than the 52 percent disapproval rating of the President and Harry Reid. Interestingly, only 36 percent of Democrats approve of Reid’s handling of the debt limit.

For most voters, there are two things on their minds-excessive government spending and jobs. The outcome of the debate over raising the debt limit affects both. If the debt limit is raised without spending cuts, the U.S. could see its AAA bond rating reduced. This will cost the federal government about $100 billion more in interest costs each year, plus it will also increase the interest costs for consumer credit and mortgages and inflict even more stress on our economy.

According to David Beers, Standard & Poor’s government credit ratings expert, there is a 50-50 chance of a downgrade in our bond rating if there is not a serious agreement on cutting spending. But Obama and the Democrats have thus far refused to agree to any debt limit increase that includes major spending cuts without a major tax increase along with the cuts. They want to add over a trillion dollars in taxes which will further undermine the ability of the economy to create new jobs.

In other words, the Democrats are holding the economy and the nation’s credit rating hostage until their demands for a massive tax increase are met. The problem for the Republicans is that they have been outmaneuvered and are in a lose-lose situation. If they don’t raise the debt limit, the economy will take a hit and the U.S. credit rating could be lowered. If they do raise the limit and don’t get substantial spending cuts in the deal, the economy and credit rating could still take a hit, and politically they will get hammered by their conservative base.

Thus, it appears that both parties and the President have put political gain ahead of what is best for the country despite potentially catastrophic consequences for the American people and even for the financial markets and economies of other nations. In the process, the unfavorable ratings for Obama and both the Democrats and Republicans in Congress are climbing higher by the day.

The truth is that this debacle is the fault of both parties. Both parties have recklessly spent not only our money, but borrowed money as well. And now the American people are reacting with a continuously level of frustration that may not reach its ceiling until the 2012 elections.

Politicians in both parties should take note that campaigning on the hope that voters are only slightly less fed up with your party than they are with the other party is not exactly something incumbent congressmen should hang their political hats on.

Gary Palmer is president of the Alabama Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit research and education organization dedicated to the preservation of free markets, limited government and strong families, which are indispensable to a prosperous society.

NIA Exposes Debt Ceiling Truth

National Inflation Association (NIA) hasn’t written about the whole debt ceiling issue over the past few weeks because in our minds it is completely irrelevant. Our elected representatives in Washington along with the mainstream media have been wasting thousands of hours of time and hundreds of millions of dollars debating a topic that has no meaning at all. The President, Senate, and House of Representatives are putting on a show to make it look like they care about cutting spending and balancing the budget. Except for a select few elected representatives like Ron Paul who care about protecting the U.S. Constitution and preserving what little purchasing power the U.S. dollar still has left, every other politician in Washington is putting on a complete charade in order to trick their constituents into believing there is a difference between the proposals from the Republicans and Democrats.

While our incompetent and corrupt mainstream media has been proclaiming there are major differences between the two bills proposed by House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, NIA believes John Boehner might as well be a Democrat and Harry Reid could easily pass himself off as a Republican. There are absolutely no meaningful fundamental differences between Boehner’s plan that was approved by the House of Representatives yesterday evening, before being killed by the Senate two short hours later, and Reid’s bill, which was just rejected by the House today in a pre-emptive vote before the Senate even had a chance to vote on it.

Both bills are estimated to reduce the U.S. budget deficit by approximately $900 billion over the next 10 years. Of the $900 billion only about $750 billion are actual discretionary spending cuts with the rest being an expected reduction in interest payments on the national debt as a result of either bill passing. When you have an unstable fiat currency that is rapidly losing its purchasing power and could collapse at any time, it is impossible to accurately project what our budget deficits will be 5 or 6 years from now, let alone 9 or 10 years from today. As far as the next two fiscal years are concerned, both proposed bills from Boehner and Reid are estimated to only cut spending by a total of about $70 billion in fiscal years 2012 and 2013 combined. Continue reading

How Union Busting Could Effect Xenia Community Schools

The so-called “union busting” efforts by state officials is a blessing in disguise. The fiscal conundrum faced by governors and state representatives has forced all of them to deal with public unions one way of another. In states like Wyoming, the Democrat governor convinced the union to cut pay and benefits in order to maintain a growing economy. In Indiana, the Republican governor eliminated collective bargaining that enabled government to become more efficient, provide services more effectively, and increase merit-based pay to public employees. This means both methods of controlling public finances work.

In Ohio, Republican lawmakers are seeking to implement similar fiscal policies as Indiana.

Union employees, Ted Strickland and other democrats claim an end to collective bargaining will harm the middle-class. Mary McCleary of The Buckeye Institute refutes their claim. In a recent article, she wrote:

“Contrary to the rhetoric these folks are spouting, eliminating collective bargaining for public sector employees actually does the opposite. It helps the middle class and protects our vulnerable populations. As it currently stands when there is not enough money to pay for all government employees in the system, workers get laid off. They lose their jobs. If a collective bargaining agreement weren’t in place, jobs could be saved. Everyone could take a small pay cut, and everyone would keep their jobs. Furthermore, when government workers are laid off, services are necessarily cut. Think about our schools where teachers are let go and programs are cut. The students suffer and all because the unions won’t make concessions. Contrary to what has been said, collective bargaining for government employees actually hurts the middle class.”

Last week, a manufacturer’s sales rep shared his experience with unions. He was an autoworker who made it to the highest position in the AEU. He sat at the bargaining tables with corporate executives. He made the big bucks and yet he quit. Why? Because all it was about was getting the biggest pay for himself and the union bosses. Union workers were never a part of real deal.

How does any of this apply to Xenia Schools?

School officials claim they have a budget deficit of $5 million. In order to make ends meet, they have to close two schools and lay-off around 70 teachers. What if all union employees including administrators, teachers, and support staff accepted a temporary pay and benefit cut for say three years? After all, wages, salaries and benefits make up the largest part of the budget. Because the school budget is about $60 million, a 10% cut would reduce costs by about $5 million. That would save 70 teaching positions.

Of course, it might mess up the plan to close two schools in order to get the “Tobacco Money” for building new schools, which plan is wrong for Xenia. The plan eventually to close Spring Hill is no more necessary because of a high water table any more than at Tecumseh. Besides, rebuilding Spring Hill without a basement would solve the previous flooding problem. A number of other schools do not have basements either.

Actually, Xenia needs at least one more neighborhood elementary school, not two less. Xenia lawyers could challenge the Ohio School Facilities Commission future projections of school building enrollements and its minimum enrollement requirement in court.

As in previous posts, education research proves small neighborhood schools provide better interactive learning environments than larger ones. Because small schools facilitate greater personal interaction, teachers and students enjoy learning more and consequently are more productive. (See my series titled Xenia Community Schools Rebuilding Plan I, II, III)

This blogger has a graduate level education in secondary education.

2010 K-12 Ohio Teacher Salary and Estimated Pensions, Searchable On-Line Database

The Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions released on ots website the 2010 K-12 salary and estimated pension data for all Ohio public school teachers. Unlike the data collected for previous years, the 2010 data includes salary and pension information for many superintendents, principals, and other administrative staff members. The pension data includes each teacher?s salary based on a 2,080-hour year (40 hour work-week, 52 week year) so users can properly evaluate teacher pay, as most teachers are contractually limited to working 1,350 hours per year.

In 2010, approximately 1,800 school employees earned over $100,000 per year. Due to increasing staffing costs, Ohio?s 613 public school districts are expected to face a $7.6 billion funding deficit by 2015, with personnel expenses consuming 96 percent of tax revenues. In the last election, citizens used the Teacher Salary Database to hold their school districts accountable for spending choices, citing that average teacher
salaries had grown at rates that, in many cases, far outpaced inflation. In addition to the new data, the website now contains a search counter which records the number of searches performed in the eight database tools (State Salary, Federal Salary, Higher Ed Salary, Teacher Salary, Local Salary, School
Data, County Data, and State Lobbyists). Since the website?s launch on April 30, 2010, visitors from 473 Ohio cities, the 49 other states, and 119 foreign countries have spent over 20,000 hours conducting almost 1.5 million data searches.

Buckeye Institute President Matt A. Mayer stated: “With so many school districts under financial duress, it is now even more important than ever that taxpayers know how school districts are spending their money. Instead of cutting staff positions, sports, bussing, and other programs, most school districts could balance their budgets without raising taxes through cutting staff compensation packages by a small percentage.”

The Teacher Salary data tool is available at www.buckeyeinstitute.org.

Why Deficit Reduction Is Necessary and Need Not Hurt the Poor

By Isabel V. Sawhill, Brookings Senior Fellow, Economic Studies

We need to reduce our long-term deficits. We cannot forever spend more than we collect in taxes. And if we continue on our current path we risk another economic crisis that is likely to produce even more unemployment than we have now.

To be sure, we should not cut the deficit right now—that would be very bad for the economy. We should combine stimulus now with legislative initiatives that gradually rein in spending and raise taxes once the economy has recovered.

But if we continue to ignore the huge accumulation of debt in our future, or assume it can be addressed without cutting domestic spending, it is the least advantaged who are likely to suffer the most.
Why do I say this?

First, if we have another economic crisis that produces high rates of unemployment for an extended period, social programs will do no more than temporarily reduce the harm inflicted on the least advantaged. The safety net is no substitute for a job and a growing economy. Deficits matter because, in the longer term, they undermine the economy’s ability to produce the jobs that are especially critical to moving people out of poverty and into the middle class.

Second, many progressives believe that we can solve our fiscal problems by cutting defense and raising taxes. Although I believe they are right to fight for both of these solutions, I do not think they will be sufficient. As I have argued in more detail elsewhere (see my debate with Greg Anrig in the September issue of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas), the numbers simply don’t add up unless taxes are raised across the board to unprecedented levels—and not just for the wealthy. This level of taxation is not only politically unfeasible but unfair to the many middle and working class families who are currently struggling and whose incomes were stagnating even before the recent downturn.

Third, any effort to protect Social Security and Medicare from future spending reductions – as many advocates are now arguing – will simply put more pressure on programs that serve the disadvantaged and their children. The rapid growth of spending on entitlements has already forced the Obama Administration to propose a freeze in non-security domestic spending.

In California, Governor Schwarzenegger has proposed an elimination of the state’s welfare-to-work program as well as most child care assistance for low-income families, a harbinger of what may happen at the national level as the budget squeeze plays out over the next decade or two. This should give pause to those who argue that we can’t touch health or retirement benefits for those over about age 55, since they won’t have time to adjust to the changes. There’s no such “adjustment time” permitted for single moms with a low-wage job who are suddenly forced to spend one third of their income on child care.

Those who care about protecting the less advantaged need to be willing to find savings in the largest and fastest growing portion of the federal budget—the big three entitlement programs: Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. In 2010, 71 percent of all revenues are devoted to just these three programs.
What kinds of changes should advocates for the poor support?

First, they should support reforms that leave the core commitments behind Social Security and Medicare intact and ensure that no one is left bereft of access to basic health care and a decent income in old age.

Second, they should support reforms that gradually trim benefits for the more affluent over time while protecting those at the bottom.

Third, they should support reforms that recognize that not all spending on health care improves health. Specifically, we need to move toward reimbursement rates for providers that are tied to evidence of effectiveness. The goal should be to improve health, not just access to health care. Thanks to the recent health care bill, health care itself is now nearly universal. But some estimates suggest that as much as a third of all health care spending does not improve health—an estimate that is further reinforced by the good health outcomes achieved in other advanced countries that spend far less than the U.S. on health care.

But the answer for those who care about low-income Americans is not to ignore deficit reduction. It’s to pursue sensible deficit reduction in a way that protects poor people now and ensures a more prosperous future for everyone.

This article was originally published by Brookings on October 18, 2010 at www.brookings.edu/opinions/2010/1018_deficit_reduction_sawhill.aspx

How About Reducing Some Bureaucracy?

By Marc Kilmer

Ohio is only a few months into the new fiscal year and the state is already facing a budget deficit. On one side are the governor and some of his legislative allies, proposing to close the deficit by raising taxes. On the other side are some legislators who want to close the deficit by consolidating government services. The idea of raising taxes in order to keep afloat a bloated state bureaucracy should be a nonstarter, but many in Columbus are choosing bureaucrats over taxpayers in this fight.

First, we need to be clear about something — Governor Strickland’s tax proposal is a tax increase, pure and simple. He wants to raise tax rates that have been in place since January. It’s not a “postponement” of a scheduled tax cut; it’s an increase in tax rates that are already in place. The governor wants to call it something other than a tax hike since he has loudly opposed raising taxes in the past, but there’s no avoiding the simple fact that his plan increases the state’s current income tax rates.

The governor says the only alternative to this tax hike is to cut education spending. Legislators should welcome the opportunity to examine just how well the state is spending taxpayers’ money on educating students. Student spending has steadily risen over the years but there is no evidence students are getting a better education. If they were so inclined, the governor and legislators could work together to seek more effective ways to fund education. But this probably won’t happen.

A good alternative to the false choice of cutting taxes or reducing education spending is the proposal to consolidate state government agencies. This would merely eliminate some redundant state agencies and departments and move their functions to another area of the government. It would not cut any government services. The projected $1 billion in savings would come from the staff reductions and savings on rent, equipment, and supplies.

Public employee unions claim the state government is already going through an “unprecedented downsizing.” It’s hard to see how this is true. In 1998, the state had 174,000 full-time and part-time employees. In 2008 that number had swelled to over 187,000. State taxpayers fund the salaries and benefits for all these workers. If the business of state government can be accomplished just as well with fewer workers, then legislators of both parties should embrace that goal.

Some object to this consolidation measure on grounds that it would not produce the savings projected or that these savings would not happen quickly enough to affect the current deficit. There is probably merit in both these claims. However, the fundamental reason to consolidate state government is not the monetary savings it will produce, but the reduction in unnecessary government bureaucracy. This would be a good idea even if it produced no savings to taxpayers. The fact that it will certainly save some money (and do so quickly depending on when the restructuring begins) makes it a great idea.

Saving taxpayer money is more than a function of just trimming government spending. State policymakers need to rethink how the state and local governments spend taxpayers’ money, which may mean restructuring state government, ending public sector unionization, reducing taxing districts, and other similar steps. Only through fundamental reform of how state and local governments operate can Ohio restore its economic strength. This state government reorganization proposal is a good first step.

Marc Kilmer is a policy analyst with the Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions, a research and educational institute located in Columbus, Ohio.