Monday, January 12, 1998

Week of 01/12/1998

Political Lotto
A Budget Surplus Is A Treat To Political Junkies
- by David Matthews 2

1998 may be off to a start, but in all appearances, 1999 may bring a windfall for politicians.

If all indications are true, the 1999 budget may see the first budget surplus in thirty years. A boost to not only the Clinton Administration for having to swallow the bitter budget pill, but also to the GOP Congress, who have tried to carry one of Ronald Reagan’s last unfulfilled campaign promises to fruition since taking power in 1995.

Now comes the hard question: what to do with that extra money.

Let’s be brutally honest here - the gods of Mount Legislation will look at any budget surplus like we would at sudden lotto winnings. Just another check for them to squander on their favorite pork project. You don’t think that Bill Clinton isn’t setting his sights on spending that money on his little faux "legacy"-building programs? Or how about some senators and reps in your own home state, who are eyeing that money for education programs so they can appease the dwindling number of American voters come election time? Remember, this IS an election year.

But there are two serious holes in the budget that still haven’t been filled yet. Holes that will continue to grow unabated. The first is the national debt. Remember that one? Yes, the US is in the red by TRILLIONS of dollars. We may balance the budget and stop the leak next year, or the year after that, but we still have a huge debt that needs to be paid off someday. Right now, it’s being stayed off by short-term treasury bonds on the market. Operative word being "short-term." Guess what will happen when the time comes to pay those bonds off? Say good-bye to that budget surplus!

The second hole that severely needs fixing in the federal budget is the country’s only legal Ponzi scheme - Social Security. Great program, if you like MLM games. Make no mistake, Social Security looked quit profitable when it first started… on paper. But then Congress stuck their money-grubbing, Imelda Marcos-spending, pork-laden hooves into the money long before the fund was large enough to be distributed. And like any political pork project, it was exploited to the fullest extent - going from specifically a supplemental retirement fund to an all-purpose social handout. And on top of it all, it was also used as a slush fund for federal funding so Congress can make it look like the deficit wasn’t as bad as it really was.

Well guess what? The well went dry. The current recipients claim they paid for their money, but the hard truth is the government doesn’t HAVE that money! It’s gone! It was spent years ago by folks like Robert Bird, Strom Thurmond, Edward Kennedy, Jesse Helms, and Bob Dole for their various pork-barrel projects. Like any Ponzi scheme, the current recipients are getting their money from the bulk of today’s taxpayers. And it’s a bulk that is growing older and older by the year. As they get older, they’ll want what they mistakenly believe to be their money that they invested in over the years. Guess what their reaction will be in 2005, when the Social Security fund dries up to the point where it can’t even pay its own employees? You think the panic in the Savings and Loan crisis was bad? You haven’t seen anything yet!

Even a mediocre budget surplus, properly invested, would go far in staving off that deadline. It may even buy enough time for those clods to devise a replacement system that bypasses Uncle Sam and his fifty spoiled brats.

But Republicans are looking at another use for the budget surplus - to give a tax cut. This, I believe, is another good use for the budget surplus. They don’t use all our money, they should give that money back to the taxpayers where it belongs. But only as long as we are talking about a legitimate tax cut, and not the usual bait-and-switch tax credit. Here’s a hint Bubba Clinton - giving the American people more of THEIR money back allows them to afford things such as child care or health care without having to rely on you and the Gods of Mount Legislation to provide it for them. Of course, a good percentage of the politicians never HAD to worry about those things.

But Big Government Clinton and his congressional cronies aren’t talking about tax cuts. No, no. At best, they want to give their usual offer of tax credits. A worthless IOU that can only be cashed in when the time comes for you to fill out your income tax paperwork. And it isn’t even going to every American, even though every taxpaying American has had to pay for the mess our elected representatives got us into.

Either way, make no mistake, that budget surplus will be gone long before it even sticks around in the treasury to collect interest. We may not even hear about a budget surplus come next year, or the year after that. And if that’s the case, we won’t even hear what happened to that surplus, at least not from Washington. And if we don’t, at least you’ll know why now.

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