Why am I writing on the United States’ debt crisis? And what on Earth do I know about macro economics or the management of mega financial institutions? Truthfully, I feel that the debt crisis is a menacing-enough issue to write on; I feel that I know enough about this topic to write effectively on it, and I feel that it significantly affects every American citizen because all of our economic activity is somehow affected by Uncle Sam’s spending habits.
Let me put it simply: American citizens give money to the federal government (you know, taxes). The federal government then takes this money and spends it on programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, national defense, etc. The problem is that the government willfully spends more than it takes in—a LOT more. The government quickly spends all the money we give it, and when it needs more money, it simply spends what’s wanted anyway and writes a fat IOU to its creditors. Currently, this IOU is northward of fourteen trillion dollars. That’s right, the federal government has spent over fourteen TRILLION dollars it’s never had, adding an average of roughly four billion dollars a day (U.S. National Debt Clock). The government gets the majority of this borrowed money in the form of loans from other countries. We currently owe China about nine hundred billion dollars; Japan, eight hundred seventy-five billion; United Kingdom, four hundred seventy-five billion; everyone else, about a trillion more dollars (Factbox). If the government is unable to pay all of its debts to these creditors—which it hasn’t been able to—then these nations will grow evermore impatient and stop loaning us money—which they’ve already begun to do.So, the United States has a lot of debt, and we owe a lot of countries a lot of money. How do we solve this? One thing is certain: in order to bring down the national debt, the federal budget needs to be modified so that it significantly reduces the amount of money the federal government spends.
Here’s my proposal: liberate all nondiscretionary aspects of the United States’ federal budget so that Congress can have the means to solve the ongoing debt crisis, because Congress’ ability to draft policies and implement reforms based on the entire federal budget, and not merely the discretionary aspects, would grant Congress desperately-needed leeway in eliminating wasteful expenditures, bureaucratic redundancies, irrelevant departments, and unnecessary policies in order to help reduce the national debt and diminish America’s financial dependence on foreign countries, thereby providing a safer, more stable, and even thriving social and economic environment in which future American generations can be raised.
So, why would one want to liberate the nondiscretionary aspects of the federal budget? Ultimately, it would be to reduce the national debt, diminish our dependence on foreign countries, and provide a more stable economic environment in which millions of unborn Americans can be reared. Let’s get started.
BY WAY OF DEFINITION
By “liberate,” I mean “free up,” or “provide the means whereby the nondiscretionary aspects of the federal budget would no longer be nondiscretionary,” so that Congress would be able to make reforms to these items which are, at the present moment, unable to be modified (because of their nondiscretionary status). “Nondiscretionary aspects of the . . . budget” refers to the budget expenditures that, by law, must be allotted their set and predetermined amount of funds with which said expenditures are financed—the terms of these funds being legally exempt from adjustment or modification. “Wasteful expenditures, bureaucratic redundancies, irrelevant departments, and unnecessary policies” refers to any federal expenditure or regulation that adds to the national debt and significantly outweighs its intended benefits to American citizens. The specifics will be discussed later.
So, let’s get cutting!
FIRST THINGS FIRST—DISCRETIONARY ASPECTS
Presently, Congress can help solve the debt crisis by passing or not passing a variety of laws having to do with the debt crisis, making public statements regarding the debt crisis, encouraging American citizens to engage in grassroots movements regarding the debt crisis, etc. As far as the federal budget is concerned, Congress only has the ability to pass laws regarding reforms to the discretionary aspects of the federal budget. The majority of the federal budget is made up of nondiscretionary items, but as is presently the case, in accordance with United States law, these items are off-limits. Liberating them, or making them nondiscretionary, would greatly enhance Congress’ ability to try and solve the ongoing debt crisis because they would finally be able to make reforms to the ENTIRE budget “pie” not only a fraction of it.
Before we investigate the nondiscretionary aspects of the federal budget, let’s take a look at what we can modify from those items which are presently discretionary.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
NASA is an agency of the federal government that’s responsible for the nation’s space program and aeronautics/aerospace research. I know what you’re thinking—not NASA! Yes, yes NASA. For the sake of the citizens of the United States of America, NASA has to go, and even though it wouldn’t be a tremendous cut to the federal budget, it would still help bring down the national debt. NASA currently accounts from anywhere from one to four percent of federal discretionary spending (NASA), depending on the year. As beneficial as the investigation of outer space can be, it isn’t entirely relevant to every-day American citizens, and the funds that are allotted to this federal program can be redistributed in a much more efficient way.
Operation Iraqi Freedom
After almost ten years of fighting—and the majority of Americans agree—it’s time to wrap up the war in Iraq. Since March of 2003, the federal government has spent over eight hundred billion dollars on the war in Iraq (Iraq War Costs). Just this past year, President Obama approved over one hundred fifty billion dollars to be spent on the war in Iraq (The President’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2012). The majority of people on Earth are opposed to the war in Iraq and most Americans want the now almost ten-year war to be over. Ending the war in Iraq would save the United States a lot of American lives and a lot of federal funds that could be redistributed a lot more effectively.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
The Department of Agriculture is responsible for developing and executing federal policy on farming, agriculture, and food. What should be done with this department? Scrap it, because this department does nothing that state governments can’t do on their own. The Department of Agriculture currently account for four percent of the federal budget (Farmers). Eliminating this department would go a long way toward bringing down the national debt.
The United States Department of Education (ED)
Scrap it—the entire department. Again, let each individual state make the decisions regarding the education of their citizens because there is absolutely NO need to have three levels of education regulation—local, state, and federal—especially when the broader of the three, the federal, is completely inefficient and does nothing that the states can do on their own. The Department of Education currently makes up four percent of discretionary spending—about seventy billion dollars (U.S. Department of Education Budget Office). When compared to fourteen trillion dollars, seventy billion doesn’t seem like a significant cut, but the cuts have to start somewhere. The Department of Education is a redundant department because states are able to create and regulate their own education. Abolishing this department would save a lot of federal dollars and would ultimately improve the educational quality of American children, AND help lower the national debt.
So far I’ve only discussed a few cuts that can be made to the federal budget, but these cuts have only been made from its discretionary aspects. Should Congress be granted the liberty to make cuts to the nondiscretionary aspects of the federal budget, the following would fit said criteria:
Currently, the majority of American citizens are eligible to start collecting their Social Security funds at age sixty-two (About the Social Security Administration). Some manage to collect their earnings earlier, some choose to wait a few years and get more later, but the majority is still sixty-two. The Social Security program is the largest government program in the world and the single greatest expenditure in the federal budget, accounting for over 20% of the budget “pie” (Search FAQs). How does one start modifying Social Security so that our national debt isn’t constantly being driven up? When Social Security was established in the thirties, people could start collecting their benefits in their early sixties, even though the average death rate was in the late fifties (Deaths and Mortality). People were dying before they could even collect their benefits! Nowadays, however, people are living a lot longer, and the retirement age hasn’t been adjusting in proportion to the mortality rate. Here’s one solid method for solving this crisis: gradually increase the retirement age. Over a period of a couple decades, slowly scale back the retirement age so that people aren’t living twenty or thirty years into retirement. The current system puts a lot of strain on tax payers who have to help provide for these seniors. Adjusting the retirement age in a commonsensical way will go a long ways toward reforming this desperate program and helping to bring down the national debt. Another tactic is to means-test seniors who are collecting benefits—meaning, decide on a case-by-case basis on whom really needs the retirement funds and how much they really should be getting. If a lovely billionaire couple retires at age sixty-two, should they be receiving the same amount of money as an average middle-class senior couple? On the basis of principle, yes, but in order to save our crippling nation, reforms like means-testing have to be implemented so that our national debt can be brought down to stable levels.
Medicare and Medicaid
The same argument that I’ve made for Social Security goes for Medicare and Medicaid. Medicare is another insurance program administered by the federal government which provides health insurance coverage to people who are aged sixty-five and over; those who are under sixty-five and are permanently physically disabled or who have a congenital physical disability; or those who meet other special criteria. Medicaid is our federal health program for certain people and families with low incomes and resources.
Now, who would be against this specific reform to the federal budget? The bulk of the main nondiscretionary aspects of the federal budget are Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. I figure that most middle-aged/senior American citizens wouldn’t be exactly thrilled to have their hard-earned entitlements tampered with. These people say they deserve all of their entitlements, which is absolutely true, but in order to provide a fairer and more stable economic atmosphere in which future American generations can be reared in, a considerably significant compromise must be made between American citizens (the older generations, specifically) and the politicians who represent them. Ultimately, the senior American generations will have to decide whether or not they will help provide a safer economic atmosphere for their posterity by abstaining from voting out the senators and representatives who would pass the desperately-needed laws that would modify portions of these entitlement programs. It will also come down to brave senators and representatives who are willing to take the initiative and draft reforms to these entitlement programs, as representatives like Paul Ryan and others have already attempted to do (Ryan).
The United States is an extraordinary nation—a nation with honor, tradition, and divine endowment, but ever since its formation, certain policies and programs implemented by the federal government have gone a long way in diminishing and even crippling this stalwart country. The federal government has simply spent too much money on programs and agencies that are wasteful, redundant, irrelevant, or unnecessary. This spending-binge is damaging the economic atmosphere of this nation like no other financial crisis in history. It will be up to Congress to draft legislation and implement reforms based off of the entire federal budget—discretionary aspects and nondiscretionary aspects—in order to bring down our national debt and thereby ease the growing tension between our nation and our creditors.
My enthymeme formula: (Liberating all nondiscretionary aspects of the United States’ federal budget—A) (would greatly enhance—ATV) (Congress’ ability to solve the ongoing debt crisis—B) because (Congress’ ability to draft policies and implement reforms based on the entire federal budget, and not merely the discretionary aspects—A), (would grant—ATV) (Congress desperately-needed leeway in eliminating wasteful expenditures, bureaucratic redundancies, irrelevant departments, and unnecessary policies in order to help reduce the national debt and diminish America’s financial dependence on foreign countries, thereby providing a safer, more stable, and even thriving social and economic environment in which future American generations can be raised—C). Whatever is (Congress receiving desperately-needed leeway in eliminating wasteful expenditures, bureaucratic redundancies, irrelevant departments, and unnecessary policies in order to help reduce the national debt and diminish America’s financial dependence on foreign countries, thereby providing a safer, more stable, and even thriving social and economic environment in which future American generations can be raised—C) is also Congress’ ability to solve the ongoing debt crisis—B).
My audience: My audience is Sister Jill Larsen, President Barack Obama, and every member of the United States Congress (the House of Representatives and the Senate).