Human Events Blog

A Black Friday of debt

On Black Friday, while shoppers were still digesting their big Thanksgiving meals, the voracious federal government scarfed down second, third, and fourth helpings of debt.  According to CNS News, the U.S. Treasury borrowed a hair over $24 billion on the day after Thanksgiving, adding $211.69 to the debt load on every American household in a single day.  That means Barack Obama has now personally added $49,432.73 of debt to every household during his Presidency.

This is all just business as usual for our debt-fueled big-spending central government, whose liabilities are the only “unsustainable” resource that liberals don’t even pretend to care about, except as leverage for demanding tax increases.  The only thing special about last Friday is that the Treasury took the previous day off.  But that whopping single-day total is worth remembering as the next “debt ceiling” Muppet show ramps up in Washington.  As with the 2011 “budget showdown,” a great deal of balloon juice will be pumped about deficit reduction, but those cold, hard national debt totals will keep growing.  The only real topics of discussion are how fast the debt will grow… and how rapidly the private sector will shrink, as the government seizes more of its wealth.

The 2012 budget deficit worked out to $1.1 trillion, which was hailed as a great achievement in such venues as the New York Timesbecause the previous year’s deficit was $1.3 trillion.  $1.1 trillion was the lowest deficit since 2008.  Yay!

But that feat of deficit reduction works out to $200 billion for the year… or about $563 million per day, if you count out Thanksgiving and the other federal holidays.  The government borrowed over 42 times as much on Black Friday.  Average that $1.1 trillion deficit for 2012 across the entire federal working year, and you’ve got the national debt increasing by over $3 billion every day, five and a half times as much as daily value of that mighty 2012 deficit reduction.  And the national debt grew by over$1.1 trillion during the lean year of 2012, after all.  Celebrating this dubious “achievement” is like celebrating a glutton who leaves one uneaten donut in the box and calls it “dieting.”

And quite a bit of that reduced 2012 deficit came from increased revenue, not decreased spending.  According to a summary chart prepared by the Heritage Foundation, spending was reduced from $3.666 trillion to 3.563 trillion, a reduction of $103 billion.  Meanwhile, federal revenues increased from $2.344 trillion to 2.435 trillion, or $91 billion.  It’s almost a fifty-fifty split between spending restraint and increased income, which you’d never guess from listening to the endless Democrat wailing about how the Evil Rich aren’t “paying their fair share.”

How about that awful “sequestration” package of automatic cuts?  Well, for one thing, they’re not “cuts” at all, any more than any proposal of President Obama’s would involve actual reductions in federal spending.  Sequestration is a set of reduced spending increases.  The total effect is $1.2 trillion… over ten years.  That’s about $338 million per working day, or 1.5 percent of the sum borrowed by the Treasury on Black Friday.  These draconian, world-shaking “cuts” amount to pennies on the freshly-printed debt dollar.

Even conservative media outlets fall prey to the false language of deficit reduction, which is deployed with such enthusiasm by Washington that it’s difficult for any budgetary discussion to resist viral infection.  This is from an article in the Washington Free Beacon yesterday about the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, and his efforts to stiffen the spines of GOP leaders:

A top Republican is insisting that party leaders retain more than $2 trillion in spending cuts agreed to in last year’s budget agreement as negotiations over the so-called fiscal cliff heat up.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.), ranking member on the Senate Budget Committee, sent a letter to Republican and Democratic leaders last week urging them not to exceed the spending caps outlined in the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011, legislation passed last year following a showdown over the federal debt ceiling.

Those caps were intended to slow the rate of spending growth over the next decade and reduce the federal deficit by $2.1 trillion, which is equal to the amount by which Congress agreed to raise the debt limit.

Sessions is concerned that the caps could be scuttled in an attempt to negotiate a deal to avoid going over the “fiscal cliff,” the term used to describe more than $600 billion in automatic spending cuts and tax increases scheduled to occur on Jan. 1, 2013.

Okay, so Sessions wants the leadership to “retain more than $2 trillion in spending cuts”… no, wait, they’re “spending caps,” not cuts.  They don’t cut anything; they were “intended to slow the rate of spending growth over the next decade.”  The goal was to reduce the growth of spending by the same amount Congress agreed to increase the national debt.  In other words, Big Government would reduce its speed from 100 miles per hour to 50 as it approach the real cliff, which is not the same thing as the “fiscal cliff” Democrats and their media allies got voters so worked up about.  The phony fiscal cliff is just the same old Democrat demand for tax increases wrapped in language stolen from the people who really are serious about avoiding federal insolvency and collapse.  And somehow the Republicans begin this discussion by fighting a desperate battle to merely hang on to the weak spending caps they managed to “win” last time!

Conservatives need to change the terms of these discussions in order to marshal public support.  No wonder so many people think of the national debt as a meaningless, abstract number, so much less relevant to their lives than those bankable, spendable benefit checks and food stamps.  We can’t even talk about the debt without tumbling down the rabbit hole into Wonderland, where reductions in the rate of growth are “cuts,” and the only thing that ever really gets reduced is the income of private citizens and their business enterprises.  Here’s an idea for Senator Sessions to take to the GOP leadership: let’s have the budget deal of 2012 include a legal requirement for all members of Congress and the Administration to use the word “cut” to refer only to an absolute reduction in spending, where less money is spent than the year before.  Everything else must be properly described as a reduction in the rate of spending growth.  Call it the “Black Friday Rule.”

 

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