Another View - Charles Lane: Your money is being spent by dead people
In practice, however, Congress and the President have almost no such fiscal latitude. The vast majority of anticipated tax proceeds, roughly 80 percent at present, are already committed to be spent — on programs such as Social Security and Medicare and in interest on the national debt — before the House and Senate convene each January.
Rather, the point is to restore a long-term balance between spending and revenue so that the federal government can invest in new priorities without further indebting an already dangerously indebted country.
A government that lives within its means would be freer to stimulate the economy during recessions or to devote more resources to the needs of poor children — as opposed to maintaining the current consumption of older middle- and upper-middle-class voters, which is the unstated but actual purpose of the status quo.
As the intellectually sterile election campaigns currently underway show, however, few politicians, if any, have figured out how to express Steuerle’s combination of realism and optimism and sell it to voters. The future might belong to the one who finally does.
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