The Numbers Are Staggering

On Sunday The Washington Times reported that with the signing of the new budget deal reached with Congress, by the time he leaves office President Obama will have increased to national debt to $20 trillion.

The article reports:

Mr. Obama’s spending agreement with Congress will suspend the nation’s debt limit and allow the Treasury to borrow another $1.5 trillion or so by the end of his presidency in 2017. Added to the current total national debt of more than $18.15 trillion, the red ink will likely be crowding the $20 trillion mark right around the time Mr. Obama leaves the White House.

When Mr. Obama took over in January 2009, the total national debt stood at $10.6 trillion. That means the debt will have very nearly doubled during his eight years in office, and there is much more debt ahead with the abandonment of “sequestration” spending caps enacted in 2011.

“Congress and the president have just agreed to undo one of the only successful fiscal restraint mechanisms in a generation,” said Pete Sepp, president of the National Taxpayers Union. “The progress on reducing spending and the deficit has just become much more problematic.”

Some budget analysts scoff at the claim made by the administration and by House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, that the budget agreement’s $112 billion in spending increases is fully funded by cuts elsewhere. Mr. Boehner left Congress last week.

This amount of debt is unsustainable.

I would also like to mention that the budget deal included taking $150 billion dollars from the Social Security Trust Fund (as if that ever existed) that working people continually pay into. (see rightwinggranny.com).

We need to elect people who will cut government spending–not increase it. Remember as you vote in your state’s primary election and next November that the debt we are incurring will be laid on your children and grandchildren. For their sake (as well as the sake of not becoming a third-world country), we need to rein in government spending as quickly as possible.

This Might Be Part Of The Problem

Hot Air posted an article today about Social Security Disability payments.

The article reports:

Social Security overpaid nearly half the people receiving disability benefits over the past decade, according to a government watchdog, raising questions about the management of the cash-strapped program.

In all, Social Security overpaid beneficiaries by nearly $17 billion, according to a 10-year study by the agency’s inspector general.

Many payments went to people who earned too much money to qualify for benefits, or to those no longer disabled. Payments also went to people who had died or were in prison.

Social Security was able to recoup about $8.1 billion, but it often took years to get the money back, the study said.

“Every dollar that goes to overpayments doesn’t help someone in need,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. “Given the present financial situation of the Social Security Disability Insurance trust fund, the program cannot sustain billions of dollars lost to waste.”

It is time to look into the management of Social Security. This sort of mistake would not be accepted in the private sector; there is no reason it should be accepted in government.

The article concludes:

Here’s an idea. One of the easier changes they could start with is to invest in more investigative resources using their massive government employee payroll and cut out the remaining waste and fraud. While doing their investigations, they could create some sort of code for those with obviously permanent disabilities and stop wasting time chasing them every couple of years. Between those two adjustments they could likely find more legitimate fraud and save money in the long run. We can save the battle over changes to the program until the wolves are truly at the door I suppose.

A Really Bad Idea–Both Politically and Practically

Yesterday, Bloomberg,com reported that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has released his plan to reform Social Security.

The article reports:

Christie, the 52-year-old Republican governor of New Jersey, called for phasing out retirement payments to those with more than $200,000 a year in other income and smaller reductions for those earning $80,000. Together, he said, the overhaul would save $1 trillion over a decade.

“It is about telling all Americans the truth — and without delay,” he said during a 40-minute speech at St. Anselm College in Manchester. “If you believe we should keep this promise, as I do, that all Americans should have access to the economic security these programs provide, then that costs money.”

Spelling out his plans in detail for the first time, Christie proposed:

— Raising the retirement age for Social Security to 69 from 67, for those born in 1960 or later;

— Raising the age to qualify for Medicare by one month per year until it reaches 67 from the current 65.

— Eliminating payroll taxes for seniors who remain in the workforce.

I have some major problems with this idea. Social Security is deducted from almost everyone’s paycheck from the time they begin work. Federal employees, active duty military (and Congress) are exempt. The money was supposed to be put in a lock box where it could accrue interest and grow to meet the increasing need. In 1965 (or so) that lock box disappeared and the money was used to fund the war in Vietnam and the Great Society programs. Since then it has been used to fund welfare and entitlement programs. Generally speaking, these entitlement programs do not have a work requirement and the people collecting the money do not have to do anything to earn the money they receive. In most states welfare recipients are not drug tested (most working people have to pass a drug test in order to get a job). Social Security is not the place to cut the federal budget–the people collecting it have paid money into it–it is not their fault the government chose to spend the money.

Recently my husband and I took a vacation to Iceland and Wales. In Wales I learned something about giving to people who may be in need. My husband and I volunteered in a restaurant run by a church. In America, it would be similar to a soup kitchen. However, there was something about the restaurant (which served dinner once a week) that impressed me. The meals were not free. There was a small charge for dinner and a somewhat limited menu to choose from. If someone came in who could not pay, they were given a free meal, but generally speaking, a diner paid something for his dinner. Somewhere along the line, we have taught a group of Americans that there is a free lunch. It is time for that to end. We are accomplishing nothing by denying benefits to those who have paid for them and giving benefits to those who are contributing nothing. That is the wrong message to send.

As an afterthought–does anyone really believe that once an income limit is set on receiving Social Security there will be no changes to that limit? Governor Christie’s plan has the potential of turning Social Security into a plan that everyone who works pays into but is only available to those making less than $50,000 a year in retirement. His plan will create another entitlement that everyone who is working pays into and everyone who is not working can collect from.

There Is Hope For Congress

On Wednesday, The Daily Signal posted an article about new rules the House of Representatives has passed which will impact Social Security. In recent years, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of people collecting Social Security disability payments.

See chart below:

17rominachart

Notice that the dramatic increase took place after welfare reform made it more difficult to collect welfare. Social Security disability has become the new welfare.

Anyway, the Social Security disability fund is expected to run out of money in 2016. The new rule prevents Congress from simply taking money out of the Social Security retirement fund and putting it  in the disability fund.

The article explains:

The new House rule would protect the retirement trust fund from being used as a piggy bank to shore up the disability trust fund. By this action, the House sets the stage for comprehensive Social Security reform that protects disabled Americans and seniors from indiscriminate benefit cuts and recognizes a responsibility for stewardship of taxpayer dollars.

Grab the popcorn, this is going to get interesting.