Aug 13 2014

The spending cure

Published by at 7:41 am under Trahant

trahant MARK
TRAHANT

 
Austerity

I’ve spent the past couple of months listening to political candidates in a variety of formats. I like most of them as people, but I am struck by how thin our political discourse can be.

Consider the federal purse. Politicians are quick to zoom in and focus on specific programs they’d like to trim. Cut the budget. Easy. Case closed. But what’s missing from that simple narrative is math.

Where is the real savings? What’s the cost right now and over the next few decades?

Three issues that jump out at me are higher education, immigration and health care.

A recent study by Goldman Sachs found that young people carrying huge student loans are purchasing fewer homes. As noted by The Washington Post’s Wonkblog: “Only a small share of young adults — 6.6 percent — are borrowing sums that exceed $50,000. But they carry a disproportionate share of the debt.”

And it’s not just fewer houses being purchased — it’s less buying of everything. This next generation is burdened with more than $1 trillion in student loans; the very same cohort we expect to pay for my generation’s retirement.

According to Pew Social Trends: The Millennial generation is “entering adulthood with record levels of student debt: Two-thirds of recent bachelor’s degree recipients have outstanding student loans, with an average debt of about $27,000. Two decades ago, only half of recent graduates had college debt, and the average was $15,000.”

So cuts in higher education “save” money — unless you look at the entire economic picture. The case should be made by citizens about why it’s sometimes smarter for the federal government to spend more money, not less, on key priorities. Educating the next generation, the one that’s going to pay all the bills, ought to be one of those areas where spending more now might save us all money down the road.

The economic impact of immigration is just the opposite. The same folks who would cut federal budgets want the federal government to spend even more money to secure the borders. But we are already spending record amounts. The federal government spends more on border enforcement than it does on the combined budgets of the FBI, DEA, Secret Service, US Marshals Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Money is not going to “solve” the border issue.

But what might? Demographic reality. The Economist notes that the “number of 15-24-year-olds in Mexico and El Salvador will start declining between 2015 and 2020. Since illegal crossers tend to be young men, this will surely ease the pressure on the border. And over the next 40 years fertility rates in both countries are forecast to drop below America’s.”

Now let’s go straight to the bottom line here. The Congressional Budget Office projects the current immigration reform bill in the Senate would save some $135 billion during the first decade of implementation, including more money for border enforcement. Taxpayers would save an additional $685 billon between now and 2023 because of increased revenue.

OF COURSE, the easiest way to balance the budget is to press ahead with health care reform. The federal government’s three Medicare, Medicaid, and Children’s health total some 22 percent of the federal budget in 2013. This is where real savings can be found. But that means subscribing to the notion that the Affordable Care Act is a start — and an idea that is moving in the right direction. “The recent slowdown in health care cost growth and the new projections offer encouraging signs that these savings are achievable, if challenging,” according to Paul Van de Water, senior fellow, from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

There is nothing wrong with debating the size of government, how much is spent on border enforcement, or even the cost of higher education. But it would be a lot better discussion if we could move beyond slogans and look at the complete ledger with more of the pluses and minuses listed. Then to do that we’d have to start by acknowledging — and agreeing — that the budget deficit is declining. The latest figures from the Treasury report a $94 billion deficit in July 2014, down by $3 billion from just a year ago. And most budgets project the deficit to shrink for at least the next decade.

Mark Trahant holds the Atwood Chair at the University of Alaska Anchorage. He is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. For up-to-the-minute posts, download the freeTrahant Reports app for your smart phone or tablet.

Share on Facebook

Comments Off

Comments are closed at this time.

Share on Facebook

 


A truly down-home ad for Oregon Senator Merkley.

 

Back in Print! Frank Church was one of the leading figures in Idaho history, and one of the most important U.S. senators of the last century. From wilderness to Vietnam to investigating the CIA, Church led on a host of difficult issues. This, the one serious biography of Church originally published in 1994, is back in print by Ridenbaugh Press.
Fighting the Odds: The Life of Senator Frank Church. LeRoy Ashby and Rod Gramer; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 800 pages. Softcover. $24.95.
See the FIGHTING THE ODDS page.


 
JOURNEY WEST

by Stephen Hartgen
The personal story of the well-known editor, publisher and state legislator's travel west from Maine to Idaho. A well-written account for anyone interested in Idaho, journalism or politics.
JOURNEY WEST: A memoir of journalism and politics, by Stephen Hartgen; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, here or at Amazon.com (softcover)

 

 

NEW EDITIONS is the story of the Northwest's 226 general-circulation newspapers and where your newspaper is headed.
New Editions: The Northwest's Newspapers as They Were, Are and Will Be. Steve Bagwell and Randy Stapilus; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 324 pages. Softcover. (e-book ahead). $16.95.
See the NEW EDITIONS page.

How many copies?

 
THE OREGON POLITICAL
FIELD GUIDE 2014

The Field Guide is the reference for the year on Oregon politics - the people, the districts, the votes, the issues. Compiled by a long-time Northwest political writer and a Salem Statesman-Journal political reporter.
OREGON POLITICAL FIELD GUIDE 2014, by Randy Stapilus and Hannah Hoffman; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, available right here or through Amazon.com (softcover)

 
 
THE IDAHO POLITICAL
FIELD GUIDE 2014

by Randy Stapilus and Marty Trillhaase is the reference for the year on Idaho Politics - the people, the districts, the votes, the issues. Written by two of Idaho's most veteran politcal observers.
IDAHO POLITICAL FIELD GUIDE 2014, by Randy Stapilus and Marty Trillhaase; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, available right here or through Amazon.com (softcover)

 
 
without compromise
WITHOUT COMPROMISE is the story of the Idaho State Police, from barely-functioning motor vehicles and hardly-there roads to computer and biotechnology. Kelly Kast has spent years researching the history and interviewing scores of current and former state police, and has emerged with a detailed and engrossing story of Idaho.
WITHOUT COMPROMISE page.

 

Diamondfield
How many copies?
The Old West saw few murder trials more spectacular or misunderstood than of "Diamondfield" Jack Davis. After years of brushes with the noose, Davis was pardoned - though many continued to believe him guilty. Max Black has spent years researching the Diamondfield saga and found startling new evidence never before uncovered - including the weapon and one of the bullets involved in the crime, and important documents - and now sets out the definitive story. Here too is Black's story - how he found key elements, presumed lost forever, of a fabulous Old West story.
See the DIAMONDFIELD page for more.
 

Medimont Reflections Chris Carlson's Medimont Reflections is a followup on his biography of former Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus. This one expands the view, bringing in Carlson's take on Idaho politics, the Northwest energy planning council, environmental issues and much more. The Idaho Statesman: "a pull-back-the-curtain account of his 40 years as a player in public life in Idaho." Available here: $15.95 plus shipping.
See the Medimont Reflections page  
 
Idaho 100 NOW IN KINDLE
 
Idaho 100, about the 100 most influential people ever in Idaho, by Randy Stapilus and Martin Peterson is now available. This is the book about to become the talk of the state - who really made Idaho the way it is? NOW AN E-BOOK AVAILABLE THROUGH KINDLE for just $2.99. Or, only $15.95 plus shipping.
 

Idaho 100 by Randy Stapilus and Martin Peterson. Order the Kindle at Amazon.com. For the print edition, order here or at Amazon.


 

    Top-Story-graphic-300x200_topstory8
    Monday mornings on KLIX-AM

    watergates

    ORDER IT HERE or on Amazon.com

    More about this book by Randy Stapilus

    Water rights and water wars: They’re not just a western movie any more. The Water Gates reviews water supplies, uses and rights to use water in all 50 states.242 pages, available from Ridenbaugh Press, $15.95

    intermediary

    ORDER IT HERE or on Amazon.com

    More about this book by Lin Tull Cannell

    At a time when Americans were only exploring what are now western states, William Craig tried to broker peace between native Nez Perces and newcomers from the East. 15 years in the making, this is one of the most dramatic stories of early Northwest history. 242 pages, available from Ridenbaugh Press, $15.95

    Upstream

    ORDER HERE or Amazon.com

    The Snake River Basin Adjudication is one of the largest water adjudications the United States has ever seen, and it may be the most successful. Here's how it happened, from the pages of the SRBA Digest, for 16 years the independent source.

    Paradox Politics

    ORDER HERE or Amazon.com

    After 21 years, a 2nd edition. If you're interested in Idaho politics and never read the original, now's the time. If you've read the original, here's view from now.


    Governing Idaho:
    Politics, People and Power

    by James Weatherby
    and Randy Stapilus
    Caxton Press
    order here

    Outlaw Tales
    of Idaho

    by Randy Stapilus
    Globe-Pequot Press
    order here

    It Happened in Idaho
    by Randy Stapilus
    Globe-Pequot Press
    order here

    Camping Idaho
    by Randy Stapilus
    Globe-Pequot Press
    order here