Have nothing to do with the [evil] things that people do, things that belong to the darkness. Instead, bring them out to the light... [For] when all things are brought out into the light, then their true nature is clearly revealed...

-Ephesians 5:11-13

Tag Archives: Deficit

The GOP Tax Reform Bill: Sausage-making on the Titanic

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Monday, November 6, 2017:

John Godfrey Saxe. Library of Congress descrip...

John Godfrey Saxe

The oldest attribution isn’t to Otto von Bismarck, the Iron Chancellor of Germany, but to an American poet, John Godfrey Saxe. Back in 1869, he said it best: “Laws, like sausages, cease to inspire in proportion as we know how they are made.”

Imagine, then, making sausages on the deck of the Titanic just after it hit an iceberg on the glassy sea of the North Atlantic in the early morning hours of April 15, 1912. The wonderful smells might have distracted the passengers from the reality that within two hours and forty minutes the unsinkable ship would disappear beneath the surface of the icy waters, taking 1,550 passengers with her.

That picture may be too dramatic for our purposes. But

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Combined Social Security Spending for 2017 Tops $1 Trillion for First time

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Friday, October 27, 2017: 

The Monthly Treasury Statement issued on Wednesday from the Social Security Administration showed that total spending for the three social welfare programs administered by the agency — the Old Age and Survivors Insurance program, the Disability Insurance program and the Supplemental Security Income program — topped $1 trillion for the first time in history in 2017.

The program first hit $600 billion in spending in 1997, and it took nine years to hit the next benchmark, $700 billion. From there it took between three and four years to hit subsequent $100 billion spending benchmarks. Accordingly, the agency estimates that it will spend $1.6 trillion in 2026. From there it will be just a few short years before all funds are exhausted.

Most sensible observers have been warning for years that the program is in dire jeopardy, with all manner of schemes being proposed to rescue it from oblivion:

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Treasury Department: $666 Billion Deficit; Sixth-highest in History

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, October 23, 2017:  

The federal government ran a deficit of $666 billion in 2017, reported the U.S. Treasury Department on Thursday, thanks mainly to increases in budget items that supposedly can’t be cut: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and interest on the national debt. In addition, military spending is due for substantial increases under the Trump administration.

Translation:

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Herb Stein, Meet Mick Mulvaney

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Monday, October 23, 2017: 

English: Official portrait of US Rep. Mick Mul...

Mick Mulvaney

University of Virginia professor Herbert Stein, the father of Ben Stein of Ferris Bueller fame, was known as a pragmatic conservative. But he is best known for his cryptic expression, “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.”

Mick Mulvaney’s hopeful outlook hasn’t yet been tarnished by his experience in Washington. Serving as a member of the House of Representatives from South Carolina prior to accepting the position of President Trump’s Director of Office of Management and Budget, Mulvaney really thinks, based on his public statements, that things really can go on forever. All that is needed is a little tweaking: “We need to grow our economy again and get our fiscal house in order. We can do that through smart spending restraint, tax reform, and cutting red tape.”

A closer look at the size of that fiscal deficit, however, reveals Mr. Mulvaney’s naiveté: on Thursday the Treasury Department announced that the deficit for the fiscal year that ended on September 30 was

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Latest Report: Crude Won’t See $60 a Barrel For at Least a Year

English: Flag of the Organization of Petroleum...

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Friday, October 13, 2017:

According to oil seers, there are two magic numbers: the five-year average of five billion barrels in crude-oil reserves held around the world in salt caverns, oil tankers, and oil storage tanks; and $60 for a barrel of oil, priced in London.

In January there were 318 million barrels of “surplus” crude above that five-year average, but by the end of September that number had dropped to “only” 170 million barrels of “surplus.” Oil traders saw the trend toward “balance” — that magical, mystical, and entirely theoretical moment when worldwide crude-oil inventories would hit that five billion barrel marker and thus be “balanced” — and started getting excited. Placing bets that oil prices would move higher as worldwide inventories continued to drop, they placed bullish bets in the futures market, which hit new highs in September.

But according to the monthly report issued by the International Energy Agency (EIA) on Thursday, that’s likely to be as good as it’s going to get:

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Tax Reform: The Sausage-Making Begins

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Friday, September 29, 2017:

Otto von Bismarck is credited, rightly or wrongly, with two famous quotes about laws and sausages: “Laws are like sausages. It’s better not to see them being made.” And “To retain respect for sausages and laws, one must not watch them in the making.”

One of the more insightful comments on the whole business in today’s Washington comes from the President’s son, Donald J. Trump, Jr., (shown above) who said:

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Tax-reform Plan Called “Tremendous” by Trump, “Fake Math” by Schumer

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Thursday, September 28, 2017:

In unveiling the tax reform “framework” cobbled together by the Trump administration, the House Ways and Means Committee, and the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday, President Trump called it “tremendous”: “This is a tremendous change, and the biggest winners will be the everyday American workers as jobs start pouring into our country, as companies start competing for American labor and as wages start going up [to] levels you haven’t seen in many years.”

On cue, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) expressed her concerns about deficits, perhaps for the first time in her political career:

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OPEC Leaving Its Options “Open” as Production Cuts Fail to Raise Oil Prices

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Friday, August 25, 2017:  

Even the subtitle was misleading: “JMMC Reports Positive Indications of Oil Market Rebalancing in Progress.” That is the subtitle of the report issued on Thursday by OPEC’s Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee, the toothless enforcement arm of OPEC.

OPEC is down to its last option: verbiage. The JMMC reported that everything is rosy:

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Another Nail in OPEC’s Coffin: Fracking Old Wells Dropping U.S. Breakeven Points Further

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, August 21, 2017:

Ed Morse, Citigroup’s head of commodity research, told a Bloomberg television audience last week that OPEC’s position “is not sustainable over a long period. In the end, the markets are going to win, and [the winner] is going to be shale. If we’re in a $40 to $45 world, we’ll have enough drilling to add to the [world’s] surplus.”

Morse is reiterating the mantra sung for years: OPEC has long since run out of options and has all but lost its monopoly influence over world crude oil prices. If it reduces supply, prices go up, making U.S. frackers more profitable and inviting more capital in to expand production. If it increases supply, the lower prices cut further into each member’s cash flow, forcing them to continue to deficit spend without gaining any advantage over the Americans.

The breakeven point for U.S. frackers has been estimated to be between $40 and $50 a barrel. On Friday U.S. crude oil closed at $49 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX – see floor photo above).

Now OPEC is faced with another challenge from the American oil industry:

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Debt Ceiling Debate Charade Begins, Again

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Wednesday, August 2, 2017:

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin warned Congress in a letter sent Friday that they had precious little time to raise the federal government’s debt ceiling before his department ran out of money. He even put a date on when that would happen if the ceiling wasn’t raised: “Based upon our available information, I believe that it is critical that Congress act to increase the nation’s borrowing authority by September 29.”

That’s the day before the end of the government’s fiscal year, and closely coincides with the moment when the Treasury will be unable to pay the government’s bills. The Treasury’s cash balances are expected to drop close to $25 billion in September, dangerously low when compared to the government’s budget of $4 trillion.

Mnuchin no doubt is referring to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report released in June that reminded citizens that

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Democrats and Fiscal Reality Present Roadblocks for Trump’s Budget

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Tuesday, August 1, 2017:

speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on Februar...

Deciding to move on following the failure of the Senate to pass the “skinny” ObamaCare repeal bill, the Trump administration announced on Monday its accelerated plans for passing its budget bill. According to Marc Short, President Trump’s director of legislative affairs, background work on the budget will take place in August in preparation for committee action in the House in September. Assuming little resistance there, Short hopes for a floor vote in October, a Senate vote in November, and the president’s signature on it immediately thereafter.

It’s good to dream big.

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Why Can’t ObamaCare be Repealed?

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Monday, July 31, 2017:

For more than six years Republicans have promised that, given the chance, they would repeal the odious, expensive, and unconstitutional healthcare takeover called ObamaCare. Seven times they have voted to repeal it, knowing that then-President Obama, its primary promulgator and author, would veto it.

But voters believed them and when Trump beat Democrat Hillary Clinton in November, it was going to be a shoo-in: full and total repeal at the top of the list. At least that’s what Rep. Mo Brooks, a Republican from Alabama, thought. So he prepared a bill: simple, straightforward, two sentences long:

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Trump Threatens to Cut Off Insurance Company Subsidies After ObamaCare Repeal Vote Fails

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, July 31, 2017:  

Sounding rather testy that the Senate didn’t give him what he wanted on Thursday, President Trump tweeted on Saturday morning that he would not only punish senators and their staffs but cut off the government funding of subsidies — estimated to be $8 billion — to hungry insurance companies. He tweeted: “After seven years of ‘talking’ Repeal & Replace, the people of our great country are still being forced to live with imploding ObamaCare!” He then tweeted the not-so-subtle threat:

If a new HealthCare bill is not approved quickly, BAILOUTS for Insurance Companies and BAILOUTS for Members of Congress will end very soon!

He added verbal insult to the potential financial injury:

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Trump’s Growth Target Reduced to 3 Percent

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, July 17, 2017:  

For Mick Mulvaney, President Donald Trump’s director of his Office of Management and Budget (OMB), reality is setting in. On the campaign trail Trump repeatedly promised four percent growth in the GDP (gross domestic product): “We’re bringing it from 1 percent up to 4 percent. And I actually think we can go higher than 4 percent. I think you can go to 5 percent or 6 percent.” (October, 2016). Later that month he doubled down during a speech to an audience in North Carolina: “I’m going to get us to 4 percent growth and create 25 million jobs over a 10-year period.”

Mulvaney’s editorial in the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday was unapologetic: “We are promoting MAGAnomics — and that means sustained 3 percent growth.” This new tag, which incorporates the acronym for “Make America Great Again,” is a play on “Reaganomics” from the 1980s:

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Will Mulvaney Have Any More Success with MAGAnomics than Stockman did with Reaganomics?

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Monday, July 17, 2017:

English: Official portrait of US Rep. Mick Mul...

Mick Mulvaney.

After serving in the House as a Republican representative from Michigan, David Stockman served as President Ronald Reagan’s OMB director from January 1981 until he quit 4½ years later in frustration. He got half of Reaganomics passed – the tax reduction part. He failed in getting the other half passed – the government spending cut part.

Mick Mulvaney is now Trump’s OMB Director after serving in the House as a Republican from South Carolina. And his job is likely to be as difficult and frustrating as was Stockman’s.

It’s far too soon to speculate about Mulvaney.

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CBO Raises Its Deficit, Debt Forecasts in Latest Revision

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Wednesday, July 5, 2017:  

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) just revised its January report with new data on spending, revenues, and economic growth. The revision isn’t good:

The projected rise in [annual] deficits would be the result of rapid growth in spending for federal retirement and health care programs targeted to older people, and to rising interest payments on the government’s debt, accompanied by only moderate growth in revenue collections.

In other words, the CBO simply doesn’t believe that President Trump’s plans to reduce regulation, cut taxes, and repeal ObamaCare will amount to much. Instead the government programs on autopilot — Social Security, Medicare, and especially debt service on the country’s $20 trillion national debt — will eat up nearly 80 percent of the government’s total budget in less than 10 years. Said the CBO:

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OPEC Continues its Descent into History as an Unlamented Footnote

Embed from Getty Images

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Monday, July 3, 2017: 

Two weeks ago, the world price of crude oil officially entered a bear market, down more than 21 percent from its high early in the year. OPEC’s plan appeared to be on track, taking enough production off the market to drive the price to $60 a barrel. That decline has enormous implications for the cartel’s members, as nearly all of them need the revenues to keep their welfare and warfare states fully funded. The decline must be especially painful for Saudi Arabia, the leader of the pack, which announced plans last year to sell part (estimated to be between five and ten percent) of its precious Saudi Aramco oil company. The company, thanks to deliberately opaque disclosures, was estimated to be worth, depending on the price of oil, between $2 trillion and $10 trillion.

That’s the operative word: “depending.” OPEC had big plans for the funds it hoped to raise, encapsulated as its “Vision 2030.” As Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, the nation’s Chairman of the Council of Economic and Development Affairs, wrote:

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Illinois Governor Gives Tax Increases to Placate Democrats Before Deadline

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Thursday, June 22, 2017: 

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner (shown), speaking briefly to a closed session at the state house on Tuesday night, urged “unity” in solving the state’s staggering and rapidly accelerating financial problems. Those present reported afterward that the governor declared, “Failure to act [on his budget proposal] is not an option. Failure to act may cause permanent damage to our state that will take years to overcome.”

The state has already suffered massive damage.

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Oil Expert Yardeni: OPEC Should Break Agreement, Produce All It Can

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Wednesday, June 21, 2017: 

In Dr. Ed’s Blog, Ed Yardeni, for 25 years one of the industry’s leading energy strategists, proposed on Wednesday that OPEC should consider going back to Plan A to fund members’ treasuries as Plan B clearly isn’t working:

Rather than [attempting to prop] up the price [of crude oil], maybe OPEC should sell as much of their oil as they can at lower prices to slow down the pace of technological innovation that may eventually put them out of business.

Plan A, it will be remembered,

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Gov’t Collects Record $240 Billion in May; Still Runs $88 Billion Deficit

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Friday, June 16, 2017:

English: Medicare and Medicaid as % GDP Explan...

Medicare and Medicaid as % GDP Explanation: Eventually, Medicare and Medicaid spending absorbs all federal tax revenue.

The U.S. Treasury announced on Thursday that the federal government collected more money in May than in any other month in history: $240.4 billion. In the same breath, it said that the government spent $328.8 billion, creating a deficit of $88.4 billion.

From a wage earner’s perspective, it meant that in May the average worker paid $1,572 in taxes but the government spent $2,149, making up the $577 difference by borrowing. Such deficit spending is making the S&P Global credit rating agency increasingly nervous.

Just a week earlier, the agency affirmed its best rating — A-1+ — for the government’s “short term” debt, which means, in its own parlance, that the federal government’s ability to pay its current bills is “strong.” But in the longer term, the agency is far less sanguine. While holding its current long-term rating at AA+ (one full notch below its best rating), it said it’s unable to give the United States its highest rating (AAA) because of “high general government debt, relatively short-term-oriented policymaking, and uncertainty about policy formulation” for the future. It explained what it meant about that “uncertainty”:

Some of the [Trump] Administration’s policy proposals appear at odds with policies of the traditional Republican leadership and historical base. That, coupled with lack of cohesion, not just across, but within parties, complicates the ability to effectively and proactively advance legislation in Congress, particularly on fiscal policy. Taken together, we don’t expect a meaningful expansion or reduction of the fiscal deficit over the forecast period.

And what does it say about what’s likely to happen over that “forecast period”?

The U.S.’s net general government debt burden (as a share of GDP) remains twice its 2007 level. While, in our view, debt to GDP should hold fairly steady over the next several years, we expect it to rise thereafter absent measures to raise additional revenue and/or cut nondiscretionary expenditures.

What does that phrase “next several years” mean? How much time before the government’s national debt explodes upward? Says S&P:

Although deficits have declined, net general government debt to GDP remains high at about 80% of GDP. Given our growth forecasts and our expectations that credit conditions will remain subdued, thus keeping real interest rates in check, we expect this ratio to hold fairly steady through 2020. At that point, it could deteriorate more sharply, partly as a result of demographic trends.

Translation: Deficit spending will remain “subdued” for three and a half years, and then Katy bar the door!

Here is where S&P bows out of the picture, giving way instead to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which completed the picture in its March report:

Federal debt held by the public, defined as the amount that the federal government borrows from financial markets, has ballooned over the last decade. In 2007, the year the recession began, debt held by the public represented 35 percent of GDP. Just five years later, federal debt held by the public has doubled to 70 percent and is projected to continue rising.

“Continue rising”? By how much? And by when? The CBO is blunt:

Debt has not seen a surge this large since the increase in federal spending during World War II, when debt exceeded 70 percent of GDP. The budget office projects that growing budget deficits will cause the debt to increase sharply over the next three decades, hitting 150 percent of GDP by 2047.

So, that ratio of government debt compared to the country’s economic ability to produce goods and services was 35 percent in 2007, is now 70 percent, and will soon be 150 percent.

And what’s the reason?

The majority of the rise in spending is largely the result of programs like Social Security and Medicare in addition to rising interest rates. For example, Social Security and major health care program spending represented 54 percent of all federal noninterest spending, an increase from the average of 37 percent it has been over the past 50 years.

It appears to be an unstoppable locomotive. Non-discretionary spending (spending already locked into place by past Congresses and fully expected to be received by its beneficiaries) is on autopilot. And interest rates now coming off historic lows are only going to increase those annual deficits into the future as far as the eye can see.

The CBO is about as close as one can get to a truly non-partisan federal agency — one that has no partisan political agenda and is considered by many as the most reliable forecaster of future economic events. So it’s not only willing to cover, analyze, and present its findings candidly, it’s also willing to tell the truth. It asked, rhetorically, “What might the consequences be if current laws remain unchanged?” It answered:

Large and growing federal debt over the coming decades would hurt the economy and constrain future budget policy. The amount of debt that is projected under the extended baseline would reduce national saving and income in the long term; increase the government’s interest costs, putting more pressure on the rest of the budget; limit lawmakers’ ability to respond to unforeseen events; and increase the likelihood of a fiscal crisis, an occurrence in which investors become unwilling to finance a government’s borrowing unless they are compensated with very high interest rates.

Which brings one to the ultimate rhetorical question: What happens when even those “very high interest rates” aren’t enough to compensate those investors for the risks they are taking by loaning their money to a government that increasingly isn’t able to pay its bills and must continue to borrow increasingly massive amounts to cover its deficits? What happens next?

Many of the articles on Light from the Right first appeared on either The New American or the McAlvany Intelligence Advisor.