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A Guided Tour of the Federal Budget Crisis

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Find out everything you need to know about the looming federal debt crisis…and how it could affect your own personal finances. Scott Bittle and Jean Johnson of Public Agenda Online are co-authors of Where Does the Money Go?: Your Guided Tour to the Federal Budget Crisis.

Guests:

Scott Bittle and Jean Johnson

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Comments [13]

Glenn from Manhattan

The US or at least the colonies for example during the French and Indian War, used to have a special war tax which had to be approved before we went to war. If the people didn't want to pay for it, we didn't have it.

Now, instead of going back to zero each year in determining what we want to spend, there is an ongoing 'business' as I mentioned, that the politicians and lobbyists perpetuate of keeping the federal government an entity that has no relation to, by, of or for the people.

Feb. 19 2008 01:14 PM
Hamden from New York

I felt that the author's discussion of military spending was disingenuous. They mentioned that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan "only" cost $600 billion, while the debt had increased over $2 trillion over the same time -- implying that defense spending is a small part of the problem.

But that $600 billion for the wars is on top of annual military spending in the $300 to $400 billion range. Over 7 years, that's over $2 trillion -- not including the war costs, which would top out at more than the entire deficits of those years.

We borrowed $2 trillion from China, Japan and the UK over 7 years to fund our routine, bloated military budgets -- including exotic new weapons systems, star wars, expanding bases in obscure countries, black budgets and the proverbial but perenial ludicrously expensed toilet seats and screwdrivers.

Back at the end of the cold war, some retired generals and admirals were arguing that we could well live with a military budget in the $50 billion range, and instead we are, year in, year out, given a non-negotiable military budget ten times that -- and if peace breaks out, as it did in the early 90s, you can be sure that a convenient war (such as Iraq) will be found.

Feb. 19 2008 01:03 PM
chestine from NY

Europeans don't have big defense budgets, they pay gargantuan VAT on everything - I don't know how they afford life and do as well as they do, what their debt levels are at the personal level...

Feb. 19 2008 12:58 PM
John from Staten Island

David Walker - Comptroller General of the US was interviewed on 60 Minutes in July 2007 about the same topic. Maybe he can be interviewed on WNYC

Feb. 19 2008 12:47 PM
Patience

I just had to chime in again to reject your guests' premise that the problem is that there is no "bipartisan" consensus about fixing the federal budget. We had a good four years of one-party control of Congress and the White House which did nothing to make the budget more sustainable and, indeed, made it worse. If one party is unwilling to make the budget numbers work when it controls the whole process, what good would "bipartisanship" do?

Feb. 19 2008 12:42 PM
Chris O from New York

These authors seem to be of the "fair and objective" school of journalism that holds the Flat Earth Society and the Round Earth Society deserve equal time and respect.

Feb. 19 2008 12:38 PM
Glenn from Manhattan

The entitlement that goes along with the arrogance in the federal budget, is like New York City basing its budget on tourist income - its letting someone else pay for our government. The people let the government be something that serves itself when the people don't have to pay for it themselves.

The Japanese, Chinese and British finance out debt so we don't have to.

Feb. 19 2008 12:37 PM
Jean Bond from Upper Manhattan

This discussion is infuriating. First, No discussion of what should be our society's priorities. Second, repeatedly the American people have indicated on public opinion polls that they favor a single-payer national health care system. Yet, people like Leonard's guests -- and, it seems, Leonard himself -- dare not utter those words. It's disgraceful.

Feb. 19 2008 12:36 PM
Aga

Leonard, your guests are not addressing your question.comment? HOW DID EUROPE DO IT?
Americans must switch to universal health care and understand that the state has responsibility to care for its citizens. Untill that happens, they deserve what is coming to them: poverty, economic crisis, class stratification.

Feb. 19 2008 12:31 PM
Patience

Isn't it the case that Medicare is actually much cheaper and better at controlling health care costs than the private sector? The fact that Medicare costs are expected to increase is related to the size of the baby boom, not necessarily to health care costs themselves.

Also, the reason why there wasn't too much debate about the cost of the Medicare prescription drug plan was that Bush administration officials cooked the books to make it look cheaper than it actually would be.

Feb. 19 2008 12:29 PM
Ross from NYC

Would the legalization of drugs help solve this problem.

Feb. 19 2008 12:20 PM
Glenn from Manhattan

Jean Johnson just asked a question, "Is there something that makes us continue this debt?"

Answer, as I said above, the arrogance.

Feb. 19 2008 12:19 PM
Glenn from Manhattan

There is something self-agrandizing and morally corrupt in spending more than one (or a government) has. Borrowing money because one (or a government) can, does not make it right. Nobility (the government) in feudal times who took loans they didn't have to pay back from businessmen, because they felt the arrogance of being able to do so, and could cut the creditors favors back.

One will do different (wrong) things when one is in debt. Benjamin Franklin said 'Rather go to bed hungry than to rise in debt' - speaks of how painful it is to stop spending - but that life in debt is worse.

A government is just a bunch of morally corrupt people continuing what an individual or family does with borrowing. The reason elected officials keep approving deficit budgets is that they are all motivated to get their pet projects included so they can get re-elected and keep their lobbyist friends happy. Then the government becomes something permanent that lives for itself, and not for the people.

Feb. 19 2008 10:20 AM

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