USA: The budget (a history)
This week on Facebook: Just before Christmas I commented on an article posted on Facebook [see Facebook — The Nation] — not something that I do very often as comments on the election that resulted in Donald Trump being nominated President of the USA and the outcome of the Brexit referendum are for the most part simply (to my mind) the ravings of the disaffected. In this case I did listen to the related podcast giving rise to the leader by Robert Reich: Why Republicans Are Wrong About Taxes, commenting that Robert Reich may well be wrong.
It would perhaps be gratuitous to think that my comment gave rise to the plethora of comments that followed and could have been gratifying if those comments had opened reasoned discussions on the article by Robert Reich. Instead, it seemed to me that that people simply chose to agree with Reich’s premise that Republicans Are Wrong About Taxes and that my post Social Media & Post Truth was somewhat prescient. I suspect that few — if any — listened to Reich, whatever position they took. The comments were, for the most part, those of people venting their spleen.
Vulgus ex veritate pauca, ex opinione multa æstimat. [The rabble estimate few things according to their real value, most things according to their prejudices.] — Cicero, Oratio Pro Quinto Roscio Comœdo.
I would add the caveat that those espousing the simple democracy of a mobile vulgus need to think very carefully about the protection that the written constitution of a republic affords them before they allow it to be undermined by the acts of short term progressive ideology.
What follows are 5 of what I thought were the most pertinent — and easy to understand — articles relating to the issue addressed by Robert Reich. They suggest to me that regardless of any political bias, the electorate is always swayed by the short term promises that the politicians they choose to elect make. There is no political advantage in a politician taking a longer view than the time span between elections or not indulging in pork barrel politics to satisfy the selfish whims of an electorate.
Monday 2/1/2017 A History of Surpluses and Deficits in the United States: In the last 69 years, the U.S government has managed to post 12 surpluses, with the most recent coming in 2001. The largest uninterrupted stretch of surpluses came between 1920 and 1930. This eventually came to an end after the government spent billions of dollars combating the Great Depression. The largest uninterrupted stretch of deficits came between 1970 and 1997. It’s hard to imagine that the United States will post a surplus anytime soon.
Tuesday 3/1/2017 Off Budget — A Little-Known Way Congress Takes From the Social Security Trust Fund: Calling the revenue off-budget didn’t really protect it. Instead, Congress worked with two budgets. The real budget was the unified, which included off-budget items like the Social Security tax revenue. The official budget was the on-budget, which didn’t include Social Security revenue. Instead, Congress ran a what looked like a deficit, but which was actually funded by Social Security. Payroll tax receipts that go into the Social Security Trust Fund are considered “off-budget”, but are nevertheless used as revenue in the unified budget.
Wednesday 4/1/2017 Federal Budget: Since World War II the federal budget deficit has risen almost continually, regardless of which political party has occupied the White House, and regardless of which party has held a majority of seats in the House of Representatives or Senate.
Thursday 5/1/2017 Was Andrew Jackson the only U.S. president to bring national debt to zero? A lot of presidents have presided over balanced budgets, which is when the government takes in more revenue than it spends, leading to no net borrowing in that year. But a balanced budget doesn’t necessarily mean no debt, because old debt can carry over from previous years. Jackson was, in fact, the only president to preside over a total elimination of all remaining debt while having a balanced budget. However, this wasn’t nearly as dramatic of an accomplishment as it would be today.
Friday 6/1/2017 States With the Fastest (and Slowest) Growing Economies: The economies of all but two states grew in 2015, some substantially more than others, and for a variety of reasons. California and Oregon each grew by 4.1%, more than any other state. Alaska and North Dakota contracted, while several states saw increases of less than 0.5%.
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