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$13 Billion Here, $13 billion There . . . .

If you need an example of how deeply embedded the spending culture of Washington is, just consider the administration’s latest proposal.

A recent Fox News Poll reveals that more than three-quarters of Americans think the national debt is so high that it endangers the future of the country. Even 65 percent of Democrats agree with that. The majority has some powerful facts on their side. Fiscal year 2009, which ended on September 30th, had an official (translation: phony bookkeeping) budget deficit of $1.42 trillion, equal to ten percent of the economy. But the national debt actually increased by $1.80 trillion, which is over twelve percent of GDP. You have to go back to World War II to find such figures. The Congressional Budget Office expects the debt to double over the next five years and possibly triple over the next ten, even if the proposed health-care reform doesn’t add to it (which is about as likely as the sun rising in the west tomorrow morning).

The one bright spot in these dismal figures is that, because there was a slight deflation in fiscal 2009, no cost-of-living increase is needed this year for Social Security recipients to have their real income remain constant. Indeed, because of the deflation, they are better off today than they were a year ago, as cost-of-living adjustments only ratchet up, not down.

So how has the administration handled this rare piece of fiscal good news? It has suggested sending everyone on Social Security a check for $250 to compensate them for there being no cost-of-living increase. That would add another $13 billion to the national debt. To be sure, that is a mere bagatelle compared to the rate at which the national debt is increasing. It rose by twice $13 billion just in the first 15 days of this month. But, to update Senator Everett Dirksen’s famous dictum, $13 billion here, $13 billion there, and the first thing you know is you’re talking about real money.

The fact that the Social Security cost-of-living increase this year would be negligible if not nonexistent has been obvious for months. It would not have taken a PR genius to present this as the good news it is and note that it helps reduce the growth of the national debt. It’s amazing how well people react when you tell them the truth.

Instead, the Obama administration has proposed sending seniors their grandchildren’s money.



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