Why We So Badly Need New People in Congress

 

I am a candidate for the U.S. Senate in the May 15 Republican Primary against the incumbent Deb Fischer because she is ignoring our enormous and out-of-control national debt. In fact she has voted twice recently to make our debt even worse than it already is.  I am referring to both the new tax law which, in spite of its good individual features, raises our debt by $1 trillion over the next decade and also the 2018 budget agreement which increases the debt by a similar amount.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that this year’s budget deficit will be over $800 billion and next year’s at $981 billion, almost back to the trillion dollar level seen for four years after the Great Recession.
The likewise nonpartisan think tank, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, concludes that over half of next year’s huge deficit is the direct result of legislation passed since 2015 and signed by President’s Obama and Trump, as shown in the chart.


In more detail:

  • The largest contribution to next year’s deficit, $230 billion, is from the December 2017 tax bill.
  • The next largest contribution is $190 billion from the 2018 Bipartisan Budget Act.
  • But the 2015 doc fix and tax extender bills also add $100 billion to the 2019 deficit.

As CRFB says, “It is no longer enough for Congress to ‘do no harm’ in the near term and ensure solvency of entitlement programs over the long term. Fixing our debt will now require reversing the harm which has already been done with tax cuts and spending increases.”

Conclusion. Historically the Republicans have been the party of fiscal responsibility. But now the GOP is completely in charge and annual deficits are increasing rapidly.  Is it not very clear that big changes are needed in who represents us in Washington?

The National Debt and Medicare Spending

 

I am a candidate in the May 15 Nebraska Republican Primary for U.S. Senate, against the incumbent Deb Fischer because she is totally ignoring our enormous and out-of-control national debt. In fact she has just recently voted twice to make it worse than it already is.
The major driver of our debt is the entitlement programs, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.  Social Security is self-funded from the payroll tax and can be shored up long term with some relatively simple adjustments such as raising the income cap on which the payroll tax is levied and/or SLOWLY raising the eligibility age for full benefits.  Medicaid costs can be controlled by block-granting it to the states with a fixed contribution from the federal government.


But Medicare will be much harder to reform because it is the most expensive entitlement program of all.  The above chart shows that a couple with average wages reaching age 65 in 2015 can expect to receive Medicare benefits that exceed what they put in by $357,000.  This subsidy will only increase in the years ahead.
The American Enterprise Institute’s James Capretta has recently described one possible way to get Medicare costs under control.  In outline:

  • Combine hospitalization (Part A), outpatient services (Part B) and drugs (Part D) into a single combined insurance product.
  • Offer community-rated premiums for beneficiaries, meaning that premiums would not depend on age or health status.
  • A small, universal entitlement benefit would be paid to all enrollees set to cover about 20% of today’s benefit and equal to about $2600. The Medicare payroll tax of 2.9% would pay for this universal benefit.
  • Additional financial support would be based on lifetime earnings, with the lowest quartile receiving substantial additional support which would be phased out for middle- and upper-middle class retirees.
  • Retirees would purchase private insurance plans which could be in the form of high-deductible catastrophic insurance combined with health savings accounts.

Conclusion.  “The reform of Medicare outlined above is a plan to substitute higher premiums from the middle and upper classes for the large general-fund subsidies taxpayers now provide to Medicare to finance the majority of Part B and Part D costs.  The end goal is a self-financing Medicare program.”

Why Millennials Should Be Interested in my Candidacy for U.S. Senate

 

From a reader of my campaign website:

I am a young voter, that was not of age during the presidential election, so I am doing my research to make sure I help make a wise voting decision for our state. I understand that your main focus is the debt, and I have read up on your other issues as well, but I wanted to ask you what makes you stand out from the other candidates. I have concluded that democratic candidate Ms. Jane Raybould and you have very similar stances on issues. So, I guess my question would be what can you do for our state that other candidates haven’t brought up. I am looking forward to hearing back from you.

Here is my answer to a young, open-minded, first-time voter:

I am an unconventional candidate because I am a fiscal conservative and a social moderate, specifically:

  • The national debt, now 78% of GDP (for the public part on which we pay interest), is the highest since right after WWII, and is predicted by the Congressional Budget Office to keep getting steadily worse without major changes in current policy such as curtailing the growth of entitlement spending.  This is by far the greatest long term problem facing our country. If we don’t address it, we will inevitably have a new and very severe fiscal crisis in the near future, as soon as interest rates return to normal (and higher) historical levels. Basically, we are in a deep hole, nonchalantly digging it deeper and deeper, when we need to devote all of our efforts to climbing out.
  • Social issues such as abortion policy, gun rights and immigration reform are highly contentious but do not fundamentally threaten our prosperous and stable way of life.  I am confident that the political process will eventually achieve an acceptable resolution of these social issues. I am far less confident that normal politics will get us out of our debt bind.

Conclusion. What distinguishes me from all of the other candidates in this race, Democratic, Libertarian or Republican, is my strong insistence that we must focus on solving our out-of-control debt problem. Otherwise the future of our country is at great risk.  Millennials will suffer most from inaction.

Why America is Going Broke

 

I am a candidate in the May 15 Nebraska Republican Primary for the U.S. Senate because the incumbent, Deb Fischer, is ignoring our enormous and out-of-control national debt. In fact she recently voted twice to make it worse.
The new tax law, in spite of its good individual features, increases our debt by $1 trillion over the next ten years, even after new growth is taken into account.  The new budget agreement increases spending by hundreds of billions of dollars.  Fischer voted for both of these measures.

The Hoover Institution analyst, John Cogan, summarizes our dire fiscal situation in the above chart which compares three major categories of federal spending since 1950: defense, entitlements and all other.  Entitlement spending is steadily increasing.  The other two categories have stabilized at about 3.5% of GDP each.
The Manhattan Institute scholar, Brian Riedl, explains why this situation is so serious that it is already an emergency:

  • Between 2008 and 2030, 74 million baby boomers, will retire into Social Security and Medicare, at the rate of 10,000 per day.
  • Today’s typical couple has paid $140,000 into Medicare and will receive $420,000 in benefits, largely because physician and drug benefits are not prefunded with payroll taxes (only hospitalization is). Social Security recipients also come out way ahead.
  • The demographic challenge is much worsened by rising healthcare costs.
  • The imbalance is so large that something has to give. Doubling the top tax rates of 35% and 37% to 70% and 74% (I.e. taxing the rich) would only cover 1/5 of the long term shortfall in revenue. An increase in inflation (purposeful or not) will not dilute away our debt. Social Security and Medicare benefits are also tied to inflation. Faster inflation would also increase interest rates and therefore interest payments on our rapidly growing debt.
  • Restructuring cannot wait. Every year of delay sees 4 million more baby boomers retire and get locked into benefits which will be difficult to alter. “Reality will soon fall like an anvil on Generation X and Millennials as they find themselves on the wrong side of the largest generational wealth transfer in world history.”

Conclusion. A severe form of fiscal cancer is gradually creeping over the body politic. We ignore it at our grave peril.

Why Our National Debt Is a Very Serious Problem for All Americans, but Especially the Poor

 

Congress has just postponed the debt ceiling until December 8 but at least they didn’t repeal it.  It is crucial to retain regular and explicit debt ceilings as a reminder of the urgency of putting our debt on a downward course (as a percentage of GDP).
As a reminder:

  • The debt now stands at 77% of GDP (for the public part on which we pay interest), the highest it has been since right after WWII. The $15 trillion public debt right now is essentially “free” money because interest rates are so low. But interest rates will inevitably return to more normal, and higher, historical levels and, when this happens, interest payments on the debt will skyrocket.
  • The entitlement programs of Social Security. Medicare and Medicaid are the drivers of our debt problem because their costs are increasing so rapidly. Medicaid costs the federal government almost $400 billion per year. Medicare costs the federal government $400 billion per year more than it receives in FICA taxes and premiums paid.

The attached chart demonstrates the scope and urgency of the problem.  By 2032, just fifteen years from now, all federal tax revenues will be required to pay for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and interest payments on the debt. This means that all of ordinary discretionary spending: on defense, various government operations and social welfare programs will be paid for entirely from new deficit spending and, in the process, will almost inevitably suffer huge cutbacks.  The lower-income and poor people, who are the most reliant on government programs to get by, will be the most adversely affected.

Conclusion. Such a dreary scenario of drastically tightened government spending does not have to occur. It can be avoided by immediately starting to make sensible curtailments, not actual spending cuts, all along the line.  Do our national leaders have the common sense and fortitude to do this?

Follow me on Twitter 
Follow me on Facebook 

 

 

Why Entitlement Spending Is So Difficult to Control

 

The readers of this blog know that my favorite topic is our very large national debt, now 77% of GDP (for the public part on which we pay interest) and predicted by the Congressional Budget Office to keep steadily getting worse, without major changes in current policy.


It is also well documented (see chart)  that our entitlement programs of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are the drivers of the huge annual budget deficits which make the accumulated debt so much worse and worse.
The economist John Cogan has an informative interview in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal explaining why entitlement spending is so difficult to control. First of all, according to Mr. Cogan, only three modern presidents have made any effort to control entitlement spending:

  • FDR who persuaded Congress to repeal unjustified disability entitlements to 400,000 WWI, Philippine War and Boxer Rebellion veterans.
  • Ronald Reagan “slowed the growth of entitlements like no other president ever had.”
  • Bill Clinton’s welfare-reform plan not only reduced welfare’s burden on taxpayers but also benefitted the recipients, whom the old program had been harming.

 

Mr. Cogan identified three necessary political conditions for any entitlement reform. They are:

  • Presidential leadership “without which there has never been a significant reduction in an entitlement.”
  • Significant agreement among the general public and the elected representatives that there’s a problem.
  • Bipartisan consensus on the solution for correcting the problem.

Conclusion.  Think about it.  This is a quite a gloomy assessment.  Nothing will get done on the primary reason for our huge debt problem without both presidential leadership and bipartisan political support. When is this going to happen?

Follow me on Twitter 
Follow me on Facebook 

How Donald Trump Could Redeem Himself

 

From a reader of my blog:
I think he is too flawed, self-centered and sociopathic to accomplish much. I believe that tax reform will become tax cuts for the wealthy (no inheritance tax, etc.) and dealing with budget deficits will not happen. I know you think Trump will be contained by the conservative members of Congress. The Republicans seem unwilling to confront him or speak out as long as his base continues to be very loyal. I think he is so wounded now that it will be hard to accomplish much.


Granted that Donald Trump is hopelessly ensnared in controversy and incapable of changing his ways, he still has many opportunities to do something positive. For example regarding our extremely serious debt problem, he could focus on:

  • Coming up with a budget that reduces the debt path. No one expects the budget to be balanced in one year. Last year’s Republican plan would have taken ten years to get the job done. The important thing is to clearly move in this direction.
  • Focusing healthcare reform on cost control. Give the Democrats credit for expanding healthcare access with the Affordable Care Act. But now focus on reining in the cost of healthcare in America.

  • Enacting fiscally responsible tax reform. Most people agree that the tax code is a complicated mess and, especially, that the corporate tax rate is too high. There are many ways to achieve lower tax rates and simplification in a revenue neutral way.
  • Stop digging the debt hole deeper by just adding new initiatives. There will always be attractive new programs which are worth pursuing. But in adding them to the federal budget, other programs which are no longer effective need to be phased out.
  • Reforming entitlements such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. These are the big drivers of national debt. Without entitlement reform, all other efforts to restrain federal spending will be insufficient.

Conclusion. There is nothing easy about pursuing the above agenda. Implementing it will be highly controversial with lots of vociferous opposition.  It will take strong leadership to push it through.  But it represents a huge opportunity for a controversial president to do something worthwhile.

Follow me on Twitter
Follow me on Facebook