Tag: federal budget

Bare Cupboards

I loathe how Trump is interviewed. Reporters let him blather on, throwing blame for our current situation without clarifying facts. David Muir interviewed Trump on the news tonight. Trump claims to have come into the office with the cupboards bare — in a really bad position, with broken tests, blah blah blah. And Muir pushed back a little — it’s the third year of Trump’s presidency … if he knew there were massive gaps in our preparedness, shouldn’t he have filled them by now?

Which is a decent question, The Trump administration’s own budget request from Feb 2020 (i.e. the budget submitted after reasonable people realized this virus was going to be a problem) didn’t ask for any increase in funding for the strategic national stockpile.

But the line of questioning doesn’t address the omitted facts from Trump’s original claim. Firstly, Obama didn’t leave Trump a stockpile of functional SARS-CoV-2 tests because the virus had not been encountered in humans yet. There are probably millions of viruses we’ve not yet encountered, and Obama didn’t use his vast psychic powers to order the Time Force to travel into the future and bring back a few million tests (and, really, I think Obama was clever enough he’d probably have ordered them to travel farther into the future and bring back a vaccine and manufacturing instructions). That’s an outright silly assertion.

There were supplies that the national stockpile lacked. Why? The Obama administration asked for 65 million dollars to increase the stock. Didn’t get it. Equipment was used during the swine flu outbreak, and Obama wanted a 10% budget increase to replenish the supply. Didn’t get it. There was a Republican push to reduce budgets across the board — remember the tea party? The CDC had budget increases due to biosecurity concerns after 9/11, so they were an obvious target. The cut-budgets-or-sequestration debt ceiling debacle — with the predictable result that no agreement could be made on targeted budget cuts — farther reduced CDC funding. While it’s technically true that the Obama administration reduced funding for the CDC, there’s a lot of duress that’s glossed over. And it’s not like the Republicans were sidelined as a minority screaming about how we needed to spend this money.

Alas, to Trump’s benefit and the detriment of politics in general … there’s very little interest in diving into the details. Democrats assume Trump is some combination of incompetent and dishonest, Republicans assume Trump’s right and it’s all Obama’s fault.

Updated Federal Budget Distribution – 2019

Here’s the latest pie charts of how the federal government spends its money. Again, there’s discretionary spending — spending from appropriation bills and the full budget which includes spending for things like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid which vary depending on the number of recipients and how much each recipient is being paid. This doesn’t mean the non-discretionary components couldn’t be changed — there’s been discussion of means testing Social Security payments and Medicare eligibility — but these changes are generally considered politically untenable (would you vote for the guy who just reduced your SS cheque because you happened to have a pension or money saved in a retirement account?).

Here’s the full budget breakout, updated for 2019

And discretionary budget

The Federal Budget (aka there’s no such thing as a fiscal conservative)

The federal budget numbers for 2019 and 2020 are, of course, estimates … but it perplexes me how persistent the myth of the “tax and spend” Democrat and the “reduce government spending” Republican is. There’s no party shrinking the federal budget. Having a huge increase and then dropping back down to where you started isn’t much of a “decrease”. And outright increasing certainly isn’t a decrease.

If the difference is “tax and spend” and “just spend” … the fiscally conservative position should always be “don’t spend money you don’t have”.

Updated Federal Budget Distribution – 2018

Here’s the latest pie charts of how the federal government spends its money. Again, there’s discretionary spending — spending from appropriation bills and the full budget which includes spending for things like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid which vary depending on the number of recipients and how much each recipient is being paid. This doesn’t mean the non-discretionary components couldn’t be changed — there’s been discussion of means testing Social Security payments and Medicare eligibility — but these changes are generally considered politically untenable (would you vote for the guy who just reduced your SS cheque because you happened to have a pension or money saved in a retirement account?).

Here’s the full budget breakout, updated for 2018

And discretionary budget:

Updated Federal Budget Distribution – 2017

Here’s the latest pie charts of how the federal government spends its money. Again, there’s discretionary spending — spending from appropriation bills and the full budget which includes spending for things like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid which vary depending on the number of recipients and how much each recipient is being paid. This doesn’t mean the non-discretionary components couldn’t be changed — there’s been discussion of means testing Social Security payments and Medicare eligibility — but these changes are generally considered politically untenable (would you vote for the guy who just reduced your SS cheque because you happened to have a pension or money saved in a retirement account?).

Here’s the full budget breakout, updated for 2017

And the discretionary budget:

 

Updated Federal Budget Distribution – 2016

I’d published a breakout of the federal budget … and thought I’d update the pie charts with the 2016 budget numbers. Again, there’s discretionary spending — spending from appropriation bills and the full budget which includes spending for things like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid which vary depending on the number of recipients and how much each recipient is being paid. This doesn’t mean the non-discretionary components couldn’t be changed — there’s been discussion of means testing Social Security payments and Medicare eligibility — but these changes are generally considered politically untenable (would you vote for the guy who just reduced your SS cheque because you happened to have a pension or money saved in a retirement account?).

Here’s the full budget breakout, updated for 2016

And the discretionary budget

Federal Spending – And Opportunities For Savings

Whenever I hear debates about reducing the federal deficit, I think of the saying “penny wise and pound foolish”. It means making efforts to save pennies without watching the larger amounts — someone who drives a H2 fifty miles to work each day but foregoes a cup of coffee to save a buck.

We want to reduce the federal deficit; but we cannot touch military or social security and Medicare spending. And Medicare is 15% of that 28% for “Health And Human Services”. If we start our savings plan by declaring over 50% of our spending off-limits, we are either looking at HUGE cuts in the remaining not-quite 50% or we’re going to fail before we’ve even started.

We could abolish entire departments — say HUD, EPA, NASA, Education, and Labor — and eliminate all foreign aid and only reduce our total federal spending by 9%. Now 9% of 3.4 trillion dollars is still a lot of money (although an interesting academic experiment is to get a group of people together and discuss what you’ll cut in the federal budget. You may find yourself saying, with all seriousness, that we’re only looking at ten million dollars. It isn’t worth the time we’re taking to discuss it.).  But we could reduce Health & Human Services, Social Security, and Defense by 3% each and save the same 9%.

Looking at discretionary spending, the picture becomes even sillier. This means we’re ignoring obligatory payments like social security and Medicare. Defense and homeland security is 54% unto itself!

Whenever someone tells me they won’t cut entitlement programs and won’t touch military spending (or will increase it!), but they’re still going to balance the budget without raising taxes … I assume they are outright lying. Wishful thinking that incomes will increase and thus increase government revenue is sound budget planning. I know the Republicans dislike the CBO because they don’t include “revenue increases we think will happen” as income … but until you start to see those returns, I don’t think you can stake your financial solvency on them.