Trillions In Federal Deficits – Who’s To Blame?

March 30, 2010

By John Newcomer:

Approval ratings for Congress is at an all time low. With our staggering federal deficits, owing debts our grand-kids will still be trying to pay off, it seems like everyone is blaming our elected officials for this fiscal mess. Well, guest columnist LeRoy Goldman has a different point of view. If you have the courage read on:

By Guest Columnist LeRoy Goldman:

moneyBack in the mid-seventies, when I worked in the Senate, there was growing concern about the increasing size of the federal deficit and the extent to which it was adding to the national debt. That concern led to the enactment of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974. At that time the Federal deficit was about $50 billion and the national debt was about $500 billion. Although the Budget Act has been in operation for 36 years, there is no doubt that it has been a colossal failure.

The projected Federal deficit this year is $2.9 trillion and the national debt will grow to $14.1 trillion. Even when one adjusts these numbers for inflation, it remains obvious that, as a nation, we are inexorably headed into fiscal and economic Armageddon – and soon.

If one digs into the Federal Budget, it doesn’t take long to determine that the main problem is what Washington calls MANDATORY SPENDING. At the present time MANDATORY SPENDING consumes about 60% of the entire Federal Budget. The four largest components of such spending are Social Security ($730 billion), Medicare ($500 billion), Medicaid ($300 billion), and interest payments on the national debt ($200 billion). According to the projections of the Obama Administration, debt payments will increase to about $840 billion a year by 2020. Medicare is projected to be in bankruptcy by 2017. Social Security is projected to be bankrupt not too long thereafter.

While most Americans have no detailed insight into the looming catastrophe, Washington has known about it for decades. Every President, every Treasury Secretary, and every member of Congress, all the way back to the Ford Administration in the seventies, has been clear about the magnitude and the inevitability of the coming crisis. Let’s give it the name that it deserves–a bipartisan conspiracy of denial.

All these politicians that we have elected to serve us have failed, and willfully so. It’s no wonder that today there is such a deep and growing sense of outrage and fury in the nation directed at the incumbents of both parties. There is a very real chance that the election this fall will be a bloodbath for incumbents of both parties. Readers of this space know that I think that will be a welcome outcome.

But, not so fast kemosabe. Such a bloodletting, while necessary, will deal only with a symptom of this problem–not the problem itself. Let’s pause and ask ourselves why it has been the case that all these politicians have refused to deal with a growing national calamity that they knew was coming? What were they all afraid of? The answer is obvious–us.

The hard fact of the matter is that the root of this problem is not the government. It’s you and me. We have allowed ourselves to become addicted to the ultimate free lunch, while we blame the politicians for not fixing it. Would you reelect a member of Congress who called for cuts in your, or your parent’s, Medicare and Social Security? No, you would not. And that’s why the politicians have kicked the can down the road for 35 years.

Well folks, we’re about out of road. Just ahead is the cliff. And we can’t blame Toyota for this stuck accelerator.

As Cassius said in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar: “the fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves”

LeRoy Goldman worked for the federal government from 1964-2001.