Tag Archives: budget deficit

Senate GOP makes yet another run at the ACA

Here we go … again!

U.S. Senate Republicans have come up with a scheme to pay for the big tax cut they’re trying to enact that involves the Affordable Care Act. They want to repeal the individual mandate portion of the ACA, which they say will save more than $300 billion over the next decade.

The savings would be used to pay for the tax cuts being pitched for many wealthy Americans.

This is so very maddening, in my ever-so-humble view.

Congress trying again to repeal ACA

Congress has been unable to repeal the ACA and replace it. The president has been unable push his Republican pals across the finish line. They have tried and failed since long before Donald Trump took office as president of the United States.

Now comes this bit of Senate trickery: attach the individual mandate repeal to a tax cut they say would jumpstart the economy. Moreover, is anyone on Capitol Hill or the White House worried any longer about the national debt and our annual budget deficit, which economists say are going to explode under the GOP tax cut?

I want to make a couple of points.

One is that the economy is rocking along just fine. The U.S. Labor Department announced earlier this month that non-farm payrolls jumped by 260,000 jobs in October; the unemployment rate is at its lowest rate in 17 years. Not bad, man!

Two, enrollment for the ACA is moving along at a brisk pace. Hundreds of thousands more Americans signed up for insurance when open enrollment began at the beginning of the month, despite the president’s efforts to undermine the ACA.

I remain totally opposed to any wholesale repeal of the ACA. I continue to insist that it can be improved. It can be made more affordable. 

Removing the individual mandate — which requires Americans to purchase health insurance or face a penalty — is certain to do one thing: It will toss millions of Americans off the rolls of the insured.

How is that supposed to help?

Remember when deficits mattered to GOP?

Donald J. Trump’s tax “reform” plan appears to be a prescription for doing something that used to be anathema to Republicans.

It will blow apart the national budget deficit.

I recall a day when deficits actually mattered to Republicans. The GOP spent a lot of political energy and capital during the eight years of Barack Obama’s presidency to lambaste the president for expanding the national debt, even though the annual budget deficit was cut by two-thirds during Obama’s two terms.

Flashing back to 1980, I want to recall how Ronald Reagan managed to be elected president. He and his fellow Republicans tore congressional Democrats — and President Carter — to pieces because they were running deficits that exceeded $40 billion annually.

Forty billion dollars!

Don’t you wish that were the case today?

Well, deficits no longer seem to matter. Republicans have joined their Democratic colleagues as political spendthrifts. Trump is going to cut taxes for his fellow wealthy Americans; his administration calls it the greatest tax cut in history. The spending will go on. The deficits are likely to soar. Won’t that pile more money onto our national debt?

Where is the outrage over that?

‘Mess’? Mr. President, you inherited a ‘mess’?

Barack Hussein Obama doesn’t need me to defend him.

Aww, what the heck. I’ll do so anyway.

His successor as president of the United States told us Tuesday night once again that he inherited a “mess” when he took office a little more than a month ago.

Donald J. Trump’s assertion came during his speech to a joint session of Congress. He talked about 94 million Americans no longer looking for work and about how the economic recovery is the slowest in 60-plus years.

He blamed President Obama’s economic policies.


I’ll stipulate up front that the economic recovery isn’t as robust as most of us would like.

But …

The economy isn’t a “mess,” as Trump said it is. You want a “mess”? Consider what Obama inherited when he took office in 2009: Employers were shucking jobs at 700,000 per month; the stock market plummeted, costing trillions of dollars in wealth; the auto industry was failing; banks were failing; the economy was heading straight into the crapper, man!

Eight years later, where do we stand? The Dow Jones Industrial Average virtually tripled in wealth; the jobless rate has been cut in half; we’ve had 80 consecutive months of job growth; the auto industry has been revived; bank closures have all but stopped.

Oh, the 94 million figure Trump cited about those who are no longer seeking employment? That number includes retirees and students. It’s a phony statistic.

The debt? Sure, it’s high. I wish it were less than it is, too. Why did we accrue such debt? Because the economic stimulus package Congress approved shortly after Obama took office required the infusion of public money to shore up an economy on the verge of total collapse.

I’ll add — for the umpteenth time — this point as well: The annual federal budget deficit has been cut by nearly two-thirds during the past eight years.

A mess, Mr. President? No, sir. You did not “inherit a mess.” Stop repeating that outright lie!

What? The U.S. economy is stronger than we thought

There goes — maybe — another argument that Donald J. Trump used so effectively to be elected president of the United States.

He griped for months that the U.S. economy was growing at an anemic pace. We had to do better and, by golly, he was going to bring jobs back; he is going to return those jobs that had fled to China and Mexico.

Then the U.S. Commerce Department shoots a hole in that argument. It said today the U.S. economy grew at a fairly robust 3.5 percent annual growth rate in the third quarter of 2016.

Hmmm. Interesting, if you ask me.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average has tripled in value during the Obama administration; joblessness has been cut in half; we’ve had 81 consecutive months of non-farm job growth; the annual federal budget deficit has been cut by two-thirds.


OK, it won’t mean the entire year that’s about to pass into history has been pulled out of the economic ditch. The first half of 2016 produced pretty slim growth.

But the third quarter is demonstrating the distinct possibility that the economy is in better shape than Trump and his legions of doom had been saying.

Might the president-elect and his team been spouting just more campaign rhetoric?

Right-wrong track polls tell only part of story


One of my social media friends thinks I spend too much time blogging about Donald J. Trump.

I heard him. So I think I’ll shift gears for a moment or two.

Those polls that measure whether Americans think we’re heading on the right or wrong track puzzle me. Take a look at the latest RealClearPolitics average of polls on that subject.


What these averages don’t necessarily say up front is whether Americans want the nation’s directly to veer sharply to the right or sharply to the left.

I generally pay little attention to these polls.

The RCP average says there’s a 30-plus percentage variance, meaning that about one-third more Americans think the country is heading on the “wrong track.”

No one has ever polled me on the subject. If one were to ask me, I’d say we’re doing just fine. I heard the U.S. Labor Department jobs report this morning and learned we added 161,000 non-farm jobs in October; the jobless rate declined to 4.9 percent; wages went up.

Is that a wrong track indicator regarding the economy?

I don’t think so.

Foreign policy issues? Well, we haven’t been hit by a major terror attack since 9/11. We keep killing terrorists around the world. Our alliances seem solid.

Federal budget policy? The deficit has been cut by one-third during the past eight years. Is it still too great? Yes. It’s heading in the “right direction.”

I’m digressing.

Right track-wrong track polls tell only part of the story.

Hillary finds a worthwhile task for Bill


I have been waiting to hear this bit of news. I’ve been curious about what might lie ahead for the next presidential spouse.

Hillary Rodham Clinton says she’s got a job for her husband if she’s elected the next president of the United States this November.

She intends to put the 42nd president in charge of “revitalizing the economy.”


Bill Clinton presided over an economic revival during his time as president. From 1993 until 2001, President Clinton — working with a Congress controlled by men and women who belonged to the other party — did what once was deemed impossible. The government reached a balanced federal budget. Indeed, it operated with a substantial surplus by the time Bill Clinton’s two terms had come to an end.

If there is one singular positive legacy from the Bill Clinton presidency, it is that the nation enjoyed tremendous economic health.

It came unraveled not long after Bill Clinton left office. Terrorists hit us hard, we went to war, the new president — George W. Bush — didn’t propose a way to pay for that struggle. The deficit ballooned.

Now, with another election coming on quickly, the former president is poised to give the next president a constructive hand in shoring up the economic recovery that most observers say remains unsteady.

“He’s got more ideas a minute than anybody I know,” Clinton said of her husband.

Great. Let’s put them to work.

Oh wait. First, Hillary Clinton’s got to get elected.


Why aren’t we cheering this news?


I am a lousy psychoanalyst.

I’m not educated in it. I’m not an expert at anything, truth be told. I just try to observe my surroundings and keep myself somewhat centered.

Still, I am inclined to believe that human beings are drawn more readily to negativity than they are to positive news.

That might explain the contents of this link:


The writer suggests that Americans don’t know that the budget deficit is shrinking at a greater rate under the Obama administration than at any time in recent history.

Why don’t Americans know this? Why aren’t they cheering the news?

I think it’s because the naysayers have won the argument. How is that? Because human beings are drawn to their message.

Hey, I can relate to it. The TV Guide we get at our house has a “Cheers and Jeers” section in the back of the magazine. I am drawn instinctively to the “Jeers” the magazine gives before I read the “Cheers.” Do you know what I mean here?

Deficit spending used to be Republicans’ major bogeyman. They pilloried Democratic politicians in 1980 because the federal budget deficit exceeded $40 billion annually. Oh, to have a deficit that small these days.

The deficit exceeded $1 trillion when Barack Obama took office in January 2009. It’s now down to less than half that amount. Remember when we actually balanced the budget during the administration of another Democrat, Bill Clinton? A failed Republican president candidate this year, John Kasich, played a big role in making that happen, but he never was able to parlay that positive record into votes among GOP base voters … who are too enthralled by the negativity being sold by Donald J. Trump.

The negativity proponents are winning the national argument about the federal budget deficit.

It’s not the essence of their message. It’s that they’re outshouting those who know the truth, which is that it is shrinking.

How, then, do we get past humans’ instinct to embrace news that angers them?

What will president say about his tenure


President Obama vows a different kind of State of the Union speech.

Such events usually involve a lengthy laundry list of policy proposals. Frankly, they bore the daylights out of me.

I prefer loftier rhetoric for these events.

What might the president say? The pessimists have laid down their marker. The country is going to hell; we’re in danger of being attacked; the economic recovery isn’t as good as it should be; most Americans think we’re heading along the “wrong track.”

My hunch is that Barack Obama is going to sound significantly more optimistic. To wit:

  • We’ve added millions of new jobs over the past seven years.
  • Joblessness has been cut in half.
  • The budget deficit, which was more than $1 trillion annually when Obama took office, has been cut by more than half.
  • Automakers, the housing industry and financial institutions are back.
  • Stocks are way up (the recent correction notwithstanding).
  • We’re still the most powerful nation on Earth . . . by a long shot.
  • We haven’t been attacked by a terrorist group.
I’m not naïve to think there are no problems. Yes, the Middle East remains a powder keg. Then again, when has it not been?
Barack Obama will have much on which to hang his hat by the time he leaves office.
But he’s not going to assuage the critics. Not for a second.

What’s happened to the budget deficit?


Remember the federal budget deficit?

Do you also remember how Republicans used to rail against it and how Democrats used to ignore it? Republicans said the deficit would keep growing and would bankrupt the nation. Democrats insisted that the government needed to “invest” public money on public projects.

Flash back to the 1980 presidential campaign.

  • GOP nominee Ronald Reagan’s campaign ran TV ads that parodied House Speaker Tip O’Neill and the Democrats in Congress as wasteful spenders. President Carter oversaw a deficit that “ballooned” to about $40 billion.

Reagan won the election in a landslide.

What happened then? President Reagan fought for tax cuts and exploded defense spending. The result: the federal deficit effectively tripled.

Let’s move ahead to the 1992 election.

  • Democratic nominee Bill Clinton ran against President George H.W. Bush, proclaiming “It’s the economy, stupid.” The nation was struggling through a recession. Clinton won the election. Then the Republicans took control of Congress after the 1994 mid-term election.

What happened after that? The Democratic president, working with the Republican-led Congress, balanced the budget. Clinton left the White House in 2001 and the budget was running a hefty surplus.

  • Republican George W. Bush was elected in 2000. Then came the 9/11 terrorist attacks. President Bush pushed through more tax cuts, but then took the nation to war against terror groups overseas. The result of that effort? The deficit returned and exceeded $1 trillion annually.

But the argument evolved into something else. It didn’t matter that the deficit was exploding, the president and his allies contended, because it constituted a minuscule portion of the Gross Domestic Product. Didn’t the vice president at the time say, “Deficits don’t matter”?

Well, I guess they did.

  • OK, now we come to the 2008 election. The economy has tanked. Financial institutions are going under. The housing market has crashed. So has the auto industry. The deficit was exploding.

Democrat Barack Obama won the election. He got Congress to kick in billions of dollars to jump-start the economy and bail out some of the leading industries.

What happened then? The economy began to recover. The jobless rate, which zoomed to 10 percent, began inching its way back down. Today it stands at 5.1 percent.

Oh, the deficit? It’s been cut by two-thirds.

It’s still too great. It’s a long way from the surplus delivered by President Clinton and his friends in the GOP-controlled Congress.

However, the traditional argument delivered by Republicans that deficits are bad and that Democrats are to blame for spending us into oblivion no longer is relevant.

Just think: The presidential campaign that’s unfolding before us has been called one that defies all conventional wisdom.

I believe the history of the federal budget deficit suggests conventional wisdom got tossed aside long ago.


Here’s what Gov. Kasich didn’t say

TAMPA, FL - AUGUST 28:  Ohio Gov. John Kasich speaks during the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on August 28, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. Today is the first full session of the RNC after the start was delayed due to Tropical Storm Isaac.  (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Ohio Gov. John Kasich deserves the credit he sought during the Republican presidential debate for helping bring about a balanced federal budget back in the 1990s.

He spoke about his work — as chairman of the U.S. House Budget Committee — in helping erase the chronic deficits that plagued the budget for previous decades.

However, Kasich left out an important element in that good work. It was that he was able — along with House Speaker (and fellow Republican) Newt Gingrich — to work with a Democratic president, Bill Clinton in crafting a budget that balanced and, in fact, produced surpluses. (Full disclosure: One of my sons brought this tidbit to my attention. So, I’m running with it in this blog.)

Oh yeah! I almost forgot. The former president is married to the Democrats’ current frontrunner for the 2016 Democratic nomination, someone against whom Kasich would face were he to win the GOP nod next summer.

Of course, any mention of bipartisanship — which is one of Kasich’s many strengths — doesn’t play well to a primary crowd starving for the red-meat rhetoric the candidates in both political parties are serving up to their respective bases.

Accordingly, Gov. Kasich wasn’t about to mention that those budget surpluses disappeared almost immediately after another Republican, George W. Bush, took office in 2001; we suffered the horrendous attack on 9/11, went to war with the terrorists — and then the government cut taxes at the same time.

I just thought it was important to add some context to what we heard on that debate stage in Cleveland.